Aggregating the Top-Rated Restaurants in the City of Roses

Premise

When I started putting together the data for this post, my idea was to quantify the research I use for selecting places to eat.  I tend to do the same kind of information gathering when traveling, but since I’m most familiar with the food scene in Portland, Oregon (where I currently live), I decided to start there.  This way I could also confirm or deny whether my findings back up my own personal experience.

I am often asked for restaurant recommendations because I’ve eaten at so many of them.  Recognizing that not everyone gets to go out and try all these places like I do, one of my goals was to compile a priority list that others can use.

Sources

The sources I tend to use are predominantly local newspapers or publications, Eater (a Vox site), Zagat, and sometimes word of mouth, if I can get it.  Unfortunately, friend recommendations are difficult to quantify even though they usually carry a significant weight.  It’s easier to take someone’s opinion you trust over a critic or stranger, but alas, we cannot get catered, personal information for everyone, so we go to Yelp and Trip Advisor for anecdotal rankings.  Finally, I also added what I’m calling prestige points.  If a chef has either been nominated or won a James Beard Award, been on Top Chef, or has a dish on their menu that is considered an iconic dish of Portland (for example, Ike’s Fish Sauce Wings at Pok Pok), that restaurant gets more favorable consideration.  To summarize, these are the sources:

Location

By quadrant, the top 5 and 11 of the top 15 are in Southeast.  If you took the average location of the top 10, you would end up around SE Belmont and SE 21st Avenue.  The average moves closer to the center (NE 17th and E Burnside) if you’re taking the top 20.

The Cream of the Crop

According to my aggregate, here are the top 10 restaurants:

  1. Le Pigeon: French-inspired, 35-seat spot that Bon Appetit called “the restaurant that put Portland on the national culinary map.” 
  2. Kachka: This homage to Russian cuisine includes dumplings, pickled vegetables, smoked fish, and vodka flights.
  3. Castagna: A seasonal fine dining restaurant serving modernist, Michelin star quality tasting menus.
  4. Coquine: A neighboorhood restaurant in Mt Tabor that’s warm and inviting environment pair well with its incredible food.
  5. Langbaan: Behind a bookshelf in the back of Paadee, this tiny restaurant serves themed fine Thai cuisine in a tasting menu format.
  6. Nodoguro: Reservation-only omakase restaurant serving outstanding fish as well as creative dishes like uni risotto.
  7. Ox: An Argentine-style restaurant serving excellent steaks, short ribs and sausages among delectable meats.
  8. Restaurant St Jack: French bistro that brings the flavors of Lyon to Northwest Portland.
  9. Pok Pok: Bold and authentic Thai cooking that includes flavors not often found in America, it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Portland.
  10. Ataula: Serving Barcelona-style tapas, this place serves a modern take on traditional flavors.

These ten restaurants represent the varying range of culinary styles available in this town, from French-inspired to Russian to fine Thai dining to Argentinian meats to tapas.  All with great ingredients executed at a high level.  However, one thing that doesn’t show up here is cheap eats.  With the exception of Hat Yai, these are some of the most expensive restaurants in town.  It makes sense that these don’t necessarily make it to the top as taste is subjective and tends to be more subjective on the lower end.  Both Nong’s Khao Man Gai and Rose VL are in the top twenty, and honestly, they both deserve to be on any visitor’s list of Portland spots.  We like to go to both often.

I’ve graphed the top rated restaurants according to my aggregate.  The size of the circle represents the restaurant’s score.  The color is the quadrant of the city.

Additional Work

In the near future, I’d like to dive deeper into analyzing this data.  It could tell us what Portland is lacking as far as availability or in media coverage.  A lot of times, the top restaurants have big press releases, while other restaurants may not.  Likely, there are a ton of great undiscovered gems out there.  I would like to add a greater analysis of meals under $15 as well.  This will make a more well-rounded itinerary for foodie adventure planning.


1 Comment

David Keyes · August 9, 2018 at 5:22 pm

How did you do the analysis? Any chance it’s on GitHub?

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