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Best Evers: Ken Aaron, Photographer

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 | 12:54 PM

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Editor’s Note: While we’re in Portland over the next few weeks, we wanted to bring some local flavor to the blog by asking writers who live in the area to contribute Hotpot-style city guides: recommendations on where to eat, where to shop, where to hang. Below, locally based writer Geoff Kleinman sits down with Ken Aaron to discuss Ken’s Portland Best Evers. Be sure to join the conversation in the comments below.

In addition to rating and reviewing businesses on Hotpot, you can give your 10 favorite businesses a Best Ever award. With thousands of businesses to rate and review, and only 10 Best Evers, it can often be tough narrowing down which 10 represent the absolute best of the best. We thought it would be fun to talk to a few prominent Portlanders to see what businesses they're giving their Best Ever awards to and why.

Up next in this ongoing series is Ken Aaron, photographer and co-founder of Neighborhood Notes, the thorough, smart source for neighborhood news and events in Portland. We asked Ken to give us his 10 Portland Hotpot Best Evers. In addition to naming his favorites, Ken gives some great insider tips:

Lincoln Restaurant 
Lincoln is a lot like Michelle Obama. It exudes warmth, charm and a little sparkle. It’s everything we love—an ever-changing menu that features local, seasonal ingredients; attentive service and pleasant atmosphere—without all the fuss. Jenn Louis and David Welch are the perfect hosts for an everyday nosh or special occasion.

  • Local Love: Lincoln purchases micro-crops from The Side Yard, a small-scale urban farm in northeast Portland.
  • Tip: Give Lincoln’s commuter corridor happy hour a spin. A bike corral is right outside the restaurant, and you can eat more onion rings if you get there by bike.

Little Green Grocer 
Every neighborhood needs a corner shop like this one. Scott Lekovish is a real mix master. He handpicks an inventory of healthy everyday grocery, excellent and affordable wines, prepared foods, and a whole host of local, sustainable goods. LGG caters, too! Best of all, Scott’s constantly introducing his customers to tastier, healthier food options. We love that.

  • Local Love: LGG partners with Portland Pedal Power to deliver groceries by bike!
  • Tip: Sample one of “America’s best pies” at LGG. Random Order pies offered by the slice and by special order.

Ecru Modern Stationer
This bright, cheery store is hard not to love. And hang out in for hours. Owner LeAnn Dolan curates an amazing array of greeting cards, boxed notes, stationery, pens and gift-y goodness for every budget.

  • Local Love: Ecru offers a nice selection of paper goods from locals like Red Bat Press and Studio Olivine.
  • Tip: LeAnn is a gift-wrapping machine. Just sayin’.

Cellar Door Coffee Roasters
Andrea and Jeremy Adams offer some of the best fair trade, organic micro-roasts in town. Their Peru FTO has a rich chocolate flavor with hints of caramel and a luscious feel on the palate. It’s a rich, smooth cup of coffee that’s truly one of the best parts of waking up. We’re addicted.

  • Local Love: Cellar Door powers their shop with electricity from renewable sources, and even designed a more efficient way to process the exhaust from their roaster. If that’s not neighborly, what is?
  • Tip: Try House Spirits Distillery’s coffee liqueur, featuring coffee roasted by Cellar Door.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai
What can you say about a food cart where you eat nearly every week? That it’s damn tasty, yo. The seemingly simple poached chicken and rice are put into another orbit with the addition of a fermented soybean sauce infused with garlic, ginger and chilis. It’s sour, spicy and salty goodness with just a hint of sweetness. Perfection!

  • Local Love: Nong’s proudly serves Draper Valley chicken, and sources ingredients locally as often as possible.
  • Tip: Get there early! Often sold out by 1 p.m. 

Back to Eden Bakery
We were goners after our first bite of pumpkin whoopee pie. Then came the peanut butter fudge, cheesecake and assorted other sweets that we now crave. This charming vegan (and often, gluten-free) bakery has turned us on to a whole new way of eating—and we love it!

  • Local Love: The bakery serves pour-over coffee from Cellar Door.
  • Tip: Get Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss by the scoop in three flavors: Naked Coconut, Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Island.

Debbe Hamada’s smile is infectious. So is the need to shop her immaculately displayed boutique of personal accessories, art and other objects of desire—much of it local and sustainable. All of it drool worthy. We love learning about the artists and products via well-written notes around the shop.

  • Local Love: Ogle ceramics by Laura Cooke, jewelry by Tasi Designs and artwork by Rachel Austin.
  • Tip: Be sure to pick Debbe’s brain about the neighborhood. She’s a fountain of info.

Salvage Works
Preston Browning offers one of the most interesting shopping experiences in Portland. His inventory is an ever-changing mix of architectural salvage, custom furniture and vintage home parts. It also features an eclectic assortment of vintage home accessories, collectibles, upcycled goods, beehives and chicken coop kits. The doll head planters are almost as awesome as the bedpan collection. Almost.

  • Local Love: Be sure to ask Preston to point out the locally made goods.  Everything from artwork to jewelry to furniture!
  • Tip: Visit Salvage Works during Kenton’s Third Thursday art walk. Preston makes awesome snacks. 

Nuvrei Pastries
The aroma of fresh baked pastries will lure you into Nuvrei's modest basement shop, but it’s the croissants, scones, cookies and tarts that will keep you coming back. Marius Pop creates buttery, rich French pastries that are impossible to resist. Case in point: the almond chocolate croissants. I'm eating one now.

  • Local Love: Find Nuvrei pastries at Stumptown Coffee, Cloud Seven Cafe, Barista and other (lucky) coffee shops around town.
  • Tip: Love French macaroons? Nuvrei has them every Saturday.

According to Billy Wilson, making coffee is only about 5% of what being a barista really is.  "You can show anyone how to make coffee," he says, "but the brilliance comes from the knowledge of knowing and tasting coffee...developing your palate." Barista is the only coffee program in town that offers single cup brewing and multiple roasters side by side. Great coffee, no attitude.

  • Local Love: Portland fave Stumptown Coffee is always available. Other local micro-roasters are in the rotation, too.
  • Tip: Be sure to ask which coffee is best suited for the drink you’d like.

Which businesses will you give your 10 Best Evers to?

Posted by Geoff Kleinman. Geoff is the editor of, a national blog helping people figure out what to drink, and, helping people figure out what to do in Portland.


gary said...

Love Veritable Quandray in downtown Portland!