Say Nice Things 2024

Say Nice Things About Portland… Again!

It’s time to take Portland back from the buttholes. Here’s how.

Portland’s Cutest Creatures

Let’s say nice things about the city’s most adorable critters!

Why I (Still) Love Portland

A former Portlander returns to survey the city’s damage—and rebirth.

Say Nice Things FUN PAGE: Can You Find Time-othy the Chrono Goblin?

Time-othy the Chrono Goblin is causing trouble in Portland's past, present, and future... so find the little fucker, QUICK!!

Say Nice Things About… Biking in Portland

Things have changed since the early 2000s (not to mention 1896), but biking in Portland is still magical.

(Portland Chefs) Say Nice Things About… Portland Chefs

Portland’s premier restaurant and cart owners hype up the local food and chefs they love!

Say Nice Things About Local Drag Artists (Proudly Representing Portland All Year Long)

You might not know these performers (yet), but these drag artists consistently embody Portland’s strange and timeless beauty.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Themed Bookstores!

Whether you’re into sci-fi, romance, or weirdness, Portland has a bookstore for YOU!

The Evolution of Sleater-Kinney

Indie rockers reflect on 30 years as a band, and why they still call Portland home.

AfroVillage Does the Real Work on Portland’s Homeless Crisis

Founder LaQuida Landford shows up for Oregon’s most vulnerable ‘round the clock.

[Welcome to our second annual "SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT PORTLAND" issue! Read it online here, or if you like physical, paper-y things, you can find it in more than 50 locations all around the city!—eds]

Community over competition is a phrase you hear a lot if you spend time in the Portland restaurant scene. 

For the most part, it seems to be true. Like any industry, there is some hot goss and some seriously spilled tea, but chefs are always willing to gas up their own. We reached out to five of Portland’s premier restaurant and cart owners–Earl Ninsom (Hat Yai, Langbaan, Yaowarat, etc), Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon, Canard), Alkebulan Moroski (Dirty Lettuce), Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton (Ox), and Peter Cho (Han Oak, Toki, Jeju)–and asked them who they’d most like to say nice things about. 

Earl Ninsom Loves Kaede

Earl Ninsom has the most impressive collection of restaurants in town (he’s behind Hat Yai, Eem, Langbaan, Yaowarat, Paadee, and Phuket Cafe), so he knows quality. Ninsom was an early ambassador for Kaede (8268 SE 13th), a tiny sushi restaurant in Sellwood that opened in late 2022 and seats only parties of one or two, with husband and wife team Shinji and Izumi Uehara making sushi and izakaya dishes meticulously. 

“Their quality exceeds the size of their restaurant,” says Ninsom, who usually goes alone and dines at the counter. “Dishes from the hot kitchen from Chef Izumi look simple but are very, very well done. I really enjoyed the chilled eggplant, chawanmushi, dessert—and even the miso soup is way above the standard I get elsewhere. The way Chef Shinji treats both rice temperature and flavor, and seasoning the fish is always very thoughtful.” 

Ninsom recommends getting two orders of the fatty chutoro tuna and Shinji’s signature nigiri of tuna marinated in soy and jalapeno. (This is also my favorite restaurant of the moment; we try to go once a month for our hit of fish.)

Gabriel Rucker Loves Dimo’s Apizza

Gabriel Rucker, whose Le Pigeon and Canard have long set the standard for both Portland fine dining and flavor inventiveness, doesn’t get to eat out much on his down time. That being said, he’s willing to take a stand on what he calls the “incendiary topic” of pizza in Portland. 

Dimo’s Apizza (701 E Burnside), which is right down Burnside from his restaurants, is the perfect place to grab a staff meal or a pie on the way home to his family. Rucker likes Dimo’s spicy salami and pepperoni pie, and said a recent order of a wild mushroom pizza was excellent, as the mushrooms were “kind of crispy and got this great texture.” 

“Not only is their pizza great, in the summer they have a large patio you can hang on, and they’re such good neighbors,” Rucker says of the New Haven-style spot. “We’re not in competition with each other, we’re here to build each other up. Any neighborhood needs good people right now.”

Torri presents Mirisata’s Pineapple Upside-Down Butter Cake. (Courtesy Mirisata)

Alkebulan Moroski Loves Mirisata and Mia’s African Kitchen

Dirty Lettuce makes delicious Southern food, full stop. The fact that those savory greens and crispy fried chicken are all vegan is just a lovely bonus. Moroski says that his favorite place to swap meals with is Mirisata (2420 SE Belmont), the vegan Sri Lankan restaurant famous for its rice and curry. 

“I think a huge strength they have is they’re working within a cuisine that is already heavily plant based,” says Moroski, who loves the coconutty pol roti and lentil dahl. “They’re introducing something people are unfamiliar with, and to have it be vegan on top of it, and have it actually work? They’re killing it over there.”

Moroski also wanted to shout out Mia’s African Kitchen (6935 NE Glisan), which is in his neighborhood. “There are a lot of vegan options, the owner is super sweet and she’s always in there,” he says. “It’s a phenomenal flavorful little spot.” Mia’s is open in the mornings too, when the owner hand roasts coffee beans in a pan for customers, he said. “That’s home homestyle,” Moroski says, laughing.

Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton Loves En Vida, Street Disco, and Swiss Hibiscus

Everyone’s favorite Argentine-inspired, Pacific Northwest-at-heart wood fired restaurant, Ox, just celebrated its 10th anniversary. And after a decade as co-chef and owner with her husband Greg Denton, Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton says she still sees Portland drawing talent and enthusiasm to its culinary scene. 

Catch the couple at their neighborhood haunt, En Vida (1303 NE Fremont), where she says they over-order so they have left overs to take home. 

Their order: “Cornmeal masa empanadas, a green salad, and their fried yuca with cilantro aïoli. Then we might get the feijoada, the vaca frita, or the moqueca, or maybe their Cubano sandwich.” And if it’s brunch, Quiñónez Denton says they serve her favorite dish in the city: an arepa eggs benedict with the “most delicious” ají-spiked hollandaise.

Quiñónez Denton also had nothing but good to say about Street Disco, the natural wine and endlessly reinventing restaurant at 4144 SE 60th. “I love the balance of creativity and technique here,” she says. “The dishes at Street Disco are playful and yet executed with finesse. The food is fresh, bright, and boldly seasoned, and the service is also very friendly and knowledgeable.”

Finally, Swiss Hibiscus (4950 NE 14th), run by a Swiss-Hawaiian chef and her partner, is a long standing favorite. “We especially enjoy coming here when the weather’s cold and dreary because those Alpine dishes are so comforting,” Quiñónez Denton says. “The escargot in garlic butter is a classic that’s made even better by adding an order of the sautéed mushroom in garlic butter to the mix. The green salad is dressed with an addictive creamy vinaigrette, and the pork and chicken schnitzels are both great, especially when served with a side of the spaetzle.” She recommends ending with a cup of “extra decadent” hot chocolate when available.

Nam Vang noodle soup from MEKHA. (Courtesy MEKHA)

Peter Cho Loves Phở Mehka, Annam VL, and Sammich

Mornings mean noodle soups for Peter Cho and his wife and business partner, Sun Park. 

The couple behind Han Oak, Jeju, and Toki are creatures of soup habit. Bún bò Huế and phở at Mekha (6846 NE Sandy) or any of the rotating soups at the new Annam VL (3336 SE Belmont) are what’s for breakfast.

“They’re always consistent, and we’re kind of creatures of habit,” Cho says. “We don’t check out new stuff, we just go to our spots. It’s always delicious. It’s crave-worthy. In the morning, it’s cold, and we’re like ‘Let’s get noodles.’ And it’s one or the other at this point.”

For lunch, Cho says he’s probably spent more money at Sammich (2137 E. Burnside) than any other restaurant in Portland. Owner Melissa McMillan and Cho are longtime buds, so he grabs any of the “amazing” sandwiches, and talks shop. “It’s as much a great meal as it is a restaurant therapy session or catching up on what’s going on with Mel,” he says.