2017 Local Food Look-Ahead Part One
In the spring of 2004 I purchased a parody guide called, The Hipster Handbook. Having no sense of satire, or place in the world, I spent months pouring over each section learning, aping, ‘cool.’ While ironically watching World Series of Poker on ESPN the announcer describe a jerk-off dressed in full rockabilly as a ‘hipster.’ The scales fell from my eyes. Hipsters weren’t “cool,” not “it,” “hep” or “deck.” Cool was a commodity, just like authenticity is now, and the best can only be one step ahead of the market.
Of course this awakening didn’t stop me from trying to fit in, name drop or reference esoterica, it only made me curb my enthusiasm after the event. After a few years my self-imposed guilt trip was becoming a burden. If everyone thinks you’re jejune, let them. Once you realize everything is derivative of something better, the world spring anew.
With that meandering introduction behind us, I would like to present you, the patient reader, with some trends/new restaurants/interesting cities for 2017 that friends were kind enough to share. These are wonderful, open cities full of people that act on their vibrant dreams. While I haven’t been able to visit most of them myself, I have been able to ask some friends/chummy internet acquaintances around the country what they think of their local.
The cities to be highlighted are as follow. Part One: Portland, District of Columbia, Memphis, Oxford, Chicago. Part Two: Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, New York. Part Three: a few bits about Minneapolis, LA, Lansing, Hanoi, Berlin and Florence. If you feel your city has been mis/underrepresented please comment below and enlighten us.
Saul Mutchnick writes:
Inner SE Industrial area is home to a ton of incredible places [I may get exact names of neighborhoods wrong, but that’s me being one of the people ruining Portland]. Kachka, Rum Club, Hair of the Dog and also the somehow super-underrated Trifecta, which is in the Ken’s Artisan [Pizza, Bread] family and focuses on live fire in various forms. They have one of the best beverage programs in town, too, with an ambitious cocktail program (housemade Drambuie for a Rusty Nail) and a wine list that’s got pretty reasonable markups and a bunch of cool stuff from the Loire. Of the other three places I mentioned, Kachka has enough accolades but still delivers tons of excitement and joy when I go and Rum Club/HotD are both fantastic places to drink.
I also spend way too much time on the eastside eating Vietnamese food, which may or may not be of interest to your readers. All the best grocers (both Viet and other Asian specialties) seem to be on 82nd Ave, as are most of the restaurants of note. That said, the thing that I’ve been obsessed with the most since moving is the 10A, dry (sauced, not in a broth), at MeKha noodles. It’s a Vietnamese interpretation of a Cambodian noodle dish, available “soup or without soup”. You get a bunch of condiments (a curryish paste, garlic in vinegar, peppers in fish sauce, chilli oil) and can mix them into the sauced noodles to season to taste. I moved here from DC and never had this dish there, despite eating my way around the Eden center pretty well.
Finally, there’s a great film/indie theater scene here. Hollywood Theater is a great place to watch a movie (and drink great, reasonably priced, beer) and Cinema 21 has a ton of very small run movies that rotate through quickly. Laurelhurst is a solid option as well, with good beer by the pitcher.
District of Columbia (Colloquially known as D.C.)
Saul also writes:
Etto continues to be underrated, mostly because it doesn’t conform to a lot of typical ‘neopolitan pizza place’ rules. They mill their own flour, which comes out darker than a standard ’00’/white flour and their pizzas are both elegant and a touch rustic because of that flour (they also make, hands down, the best bread in the city–which you can get to go on slow nights). The marinara is life changingly excellent in its simplicity. Also they have some of the best small plates in the city, most of which are salad-y in their construction and kept room temperature. It’s a total industry restaurant (their list is almost entirely Sicily/Beaujolais) and somehow manages to get hated on by a decent number of people because the food is deliberately un-showy and uses a lot of humble ingredients in simple preparations. (2Amys, a half-sister restaurant, makes great pizza but better small plates [than their pizza] under their wine bar menu. Similar aesthetic to Etto’s salads and things).
Right Proper Brewing is making some of the best beers in the country, but they don’t bottle and they don’t make 8% abv IPA’s (usually) so they fly a bit under the radar. They make a lot of mixed fermentation farmhouse beer and a lot of low-alc old world style beer, all of which are good, several of which are genius (eg, Comrade, a ~3% abv anti-Imperial stout, which is a miracle of beer engineering in it’s mouthfeel and flavor). They opened a new production facility in the summer (with a few Rousseau wooden upright fermenters for mixed ferments), so hopefully they’ll be available outside of the district soon.
Also anyone visiting DC needs to eat Ethiopian food, but Zenebech Injera lost their lease recently, so I don’t have any recommendations other than Dukem, which is horribly overrated.
If you asked me where to go in 2017 in Chicago, I would point you to the Murder’s Row on Randolph in the West Loop. When I asked Steve Morgan at Formento’s he repositioned that pointer:
I love the neighborhoods of Chicago. While Logan square and West town have been exciting for a while they continue to improve with more restaurants/shops opening and expanding the edges. The street that seems to be offering the most exciting options is not Randolph in the west loop but Armitage (west of western). With opening in the last few years of Table, Donkey and Stick, Osteria Langhe, Dos Urban Cantina, and now Giant, I am more apt then ever to send people there. In Avondale you have Parachute which is arguably my favorite restaurant in Chicago. Avondale also has Honey Butter Fried Chicken and more resturants on the way. Edgewater just got one of the most exciting wine bar/bistro concepts of the year in income tax bar. Then I head to Argyle St. for Vietnamese food or Peking duck whenever I miss my years living in NYC’s Chinatown
Cecilia Watson Writes:
Although I haven’t lived there for a while, my hometown Memphis is still one of my favorite places to eat: every time I go home there are hip new restaurants that have sprung up, but more importantly there are dives that look the same and make their biscuits or country ham or greens or BBQ quails or cobbler exactly the same way they did when I was I was a child— or when my parents were children, for that matter.
Memphis is also an easy drive away from another super food city, Oxford Mississippi. I drive down there more often for the terrific bookstore in the center of town (Square Books) than for the food, but hot damn do they have some great food there. And the drive itself is one of my favorites for accidental, often one-off food finds: my advice to anyone traveling by car in the South is that if you see a roadside stand— the more ramshackle the better— stop! You want to eat whatever they’re selling, be it baked goods or berries or home-canned vegetables. If you see someone cooking something on an oil drum with a cardboard sign up showing a price written in magic marker, pull over like there’s a State Trooper’s lights in your mirror. It’s like food trucks but without the trucks or the hipsters.