10 best foodie spots in Portland, Ore.

Julian Smith, Special for USA TODAY

At first glance, this 30-seat place looks like one more dark, candlelit bar with two turntables and thrift-store decoration. But Expatriate goes well beyond its six nightly cocktails, as creative and expertly mixed as they are. Local celeb chef Naomi Pomeroy has created a fantastic menu of spicy Asian-inspired bites like shrimp toast, crab rangoon, and a Chinese sausage "corn dog" that will dispel all memories of County Fair abominations forever.

Expatriate PDX--between the explicit and the implicit


Have you been to Expatriate yet? If not, what in the world have you been waiting for?

Expatriate is located in Northeast Portland, 5424 NE 30th Avenue, across the street from Cocotte, Beast, and Yakuza. (Beast diva Naomi Pomeroy is Webster’s significant other and had sizable input into some of the touches at Expatriate.) There’s no sign on the handsome period building, and little of note outside to indicate what’s inside. But it’s well worth going in.

Kyle Linden Webster, one of the most consistently creative bartenders in Portland, finished his reign at the outstanding St. Jack’s bar and opened his own place. It’s very much a reflection of his philosophy and style: cool, cerebral and seemingly detached on the surface but roiling with dynamic tension underneath.

Webster is quiet, reserved, laconic---until you touch on a topic near and dear to his heart, like music (he’s a DJ, and has two turntables at the bar with an eclectic selection of vinyl that will instantly change the tone and tenor of the room); or literature (he’s a voracious and quite sophisticated reader); or his travels in some of the more exotic countries of Asia; or his fiercely held views on the necessity of precise balance in any cocktail he makes.

Webster’s Expatriate Bar is a reflection of all that. If all you require is a clean, quiet, fashionably dim place to sip your beverage and chat with friends, Expatriate will be that place for you. If you aspire to more, and want to pleasantly engage your mind on music, travel, art, exotic cuisine or even philosophy, Expatriate will be that place as well. From the precisely selected color of the midnight blue walls, to the almost cloistered isolation of the curly maple wood booths along the side of the room, to the welcome and inviting polished mahogany bar with the colorful Chinese salvage piece in a brilliant array of lacquered red and gold, Expatriate is an intriguing appeal to all the senses.

Don’t be surprised if you think you see an older man in a rumpled linen suit, pale and somehow British, huddled in a back booth talking to a quiet American in hushed but despairing tone. Or a boisterous, brawny, bearded man at the corner of the bar disclaiming with definitive arrogance about bullfighting or gin. It’s that kind of place, where you might see ghosts of expatriates from different times and different worlds.

What you will definitely see is a list of incredibly inviting and devilishly delicious cocktails, from tweaked revivals of classic pre-Prohibition potables to modern invocations of exotic flavors to startling combinations of ingredients that you’ve never thought of but will likely not forget.

Perhaps the foundation cocktail on the list that has become an instant standard, the Shanghai, provides the best insight into Webster’s style and approach. The original inspiration came from a pre-Prohibition cocktail, which Webster tweaked to become one of the standout cocktails of St. Jack’s, then tweaked yet again to conform to the nature of Expatriate. It’s a testament to absolute balance in a cocktail, with the choice of fine ingredients and perfect combination of those ingredients creating a “modern classic.”

The Shanghai is composed of Appleton V/X Jamaican Rum (the V/X signifies the rum is blended from 5 to 10 year old casks), Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao (one of the most astonishing “new-old” spirits to debut in recent years, a dry and spicy version of the usually overly sweet and bland triple secs in the market), fresh limes, real Grenadine (fresh pomegranate syrup), and Kübler Swiss Absinthe. Trust me: it’s exquisite. You really do have to try it for yourself.

Consider as well the fascinating Mood Indigo (gin, cognac, violet liqueur, Aveze Gentiane liqueur, Cocchi Americano, and del Maguey Mezcal! Or Habitué (Irish whiskey, Sardinian Myrtle liqueurMandarine Napoleon Curaçao and Noilly Prat Dry French vermouth.) Finally, consider a crowd-pleasing Expatriate favorite, the No. 8, an intoxicating (in all senses of that word) blend of Pierre Ferrand Original 1840 Cognac, rye whiskey, Dolin Génépy des Alpes, a bittersweet elixir from the French Alpine slopes, Cocchi sweet vermouth from Italy, and Regan’s No. 6 Orange Bitters.

Fact is, there’s not a single entry on the cocktail list that fails to intrigue the adventurous drinker. Which, of course, requires multiple visits to Expatriate to complete the challenge.

There is also a short but exceptionally well selected list of sake, wine and beer available.

A word about the food: no standard blah bar snacks here. You will not be bored. The Expatriate kitchen puts out a startling array of Drinking Snacks of mostly pan-Asian delights, from Dungeness Crab Rangoon to a Burmese fermented tea leaf and papaya salad, to Brussels sprouts that will force you to forever change your mind about Brussels sprouts.

Perhaps the best summation of what Expatriate is comes from their website: It’s in that spirit, in the balance between the implicit and explicit, that Expatriate works as a whole, as a place for drinking and eating other than the sum of its parts.

So, to repeat: Have you been to Expatriate yet? If not, what in the world have you been waiting for?

    Bread & Brew: Expatriate drinks, food display stamps from far-off lands

    Written by Anne Marie DiStefano, Portland Tribune

    A new bar co-owned by Naomi Pomeroy and Kyle Webster certainly deserves special attention.

    Pomeroy is one of the best chefs in Portland, and she’s been keeping herself fairly exclusively at Beast, where meals require a serious commitment — even brunch is a multicourse event. And Webster was formerly head bartender at St. Jack, where a lot of people fell in love with his floral, intricate concoctions. It turns out that one of them was Pomeroy: The two recently married.

    Their co-venture is called Expatriate, evoking international romance that takes on an Eastern flavor as soon as you step in the door. There’s a warm scent of curry in the air. A showy moon gate from a Chinese restaurant is repurposed for a back bar. The cocktails have names to match: the Pegu Club, the Shanghai, the Habitué.

    The menu takes the idea further. The description of the Pegu Club claims that “traces of ghosts remain from its origin at the edges of the British Raj (at the officers’ club of the same name in what the colonials then called Rangoon, lower Burma).” The drink itself is extremely citrusy, as if to ward off scurvy.

    A cocktail called Ornament and Crime is more balanced. A base of good bourbon is bittered up with the Czech digestive Becherovka, freshened with lemon and sweetened with palm sugar, for a grown-up version of a whiskey sour. It’s got a solid structure that’s built for the long term — in other words, it doesn’t lose its appeal as the ice melts.

    A more unusual drink is the Queen Elizabeth, which mixes dry vermouth with Benedictine. It’s a collision of herbs and liquor that creates an almost savory flavor, with lime as an intermediary. This cocktail goes very well with some cute little tea sandwiches — crusts removed — which are called James Beard’s onion and butter sandwich. Apparently Beard had the inspiration that thinly sliced onions have more crunch and more punch than the traditional cucumber.

    The Anglophile angle stops here. The rest of the menu is Asian, with ingredients ranging across the map from China to Thailand to Korea to India — and to Trader Vic’s, for an upscale version of crab Rangoon made with Oregon Dungeness crab. Actually the crab inside the crisp wonton packets could have been a bit more tender, but the surrounding curry was fantastic, vivid with lime and basil and chili, and crunchy with dried peas and crisped maitake mushrooms.

    In general, I am opposed to gourmet corn dogs, and Expatriate’s version didn’t do anything to make me change my mind. Mild Chinese sausage is wrapped around a stick, blanketed in sweet breading, and served with a dish of head-clearing hot mustard. Boring — but the french fries totally make up for it.

    They have that perfect crisp-and-tender texture that comes from being fried for precisely the right amount of time, at precisely the right temperature, and they glow with spices. This is why the room smells like curry. They are served with three condiments: a curry ketchup, a sumac ranch, and, best of the three, a cool green cilantro-raita aioli.

    All this care and detail requires money. Your bar tab can accelerate quickly as you sit in a shadowy corner, or on the most comfortable bar stools of all time.

    There are votives and tall red candles flickering everywhere. The walls are black, and the ceiling is unfinished. Books are strategically strewn about, with appropriate titles like “Lost Horizon,” “Burning Desire!” and the definitive Kingsley Amis “On Drink.” But it’s too dark to read.

    That’s the thing — at times this bar is too stylish to be practical. There’s no sign outside: You just have to know. The music is exclusively on vinyl, with turntables built right into the bar. On some nights, the staff plays records, and on others there’s a DJ crammed in behind the bar along with two servers and a bartender. The elaborate drinks take time to mix, requiring the bartender to shake and stir at top pace. So you’d feel like a jerk if you took the menu’s suggestion to “inquire for additional information concerning” aged rums, whiskies, and “unusual and delicious liqueurs.”

    It’s a little cramped and hectic, and likely to become more so. With its pedigree and its compelling narrative, Expatriate is intriguing — and with a name like that, you can hardly blame it for being somewhat rootless and aloof.

    5 p.m. to midnight daily, 5424 N.E. 30th Ave., no phone, expatriatepdx.com, drinks $10, food $4-$13

    We Eat All of the Asian-Accented Bar Snacks at Expatriate in Portland, OR

    Story by Jamie Feldmar, Serious Eats


    At her highly regarded Portland restaurant Beast, chef Naomi Pomeroy is known for a sophisticated French-accented prix fixe menu that changes by the week. But when Pomeroy and her cocktail maestro husband, Kyle Linden Webster, took over the bar space across the street from Beast, they looked beyond Europe for menu inspiration, traveling to Southeast Asia this winter to research the colorful flavors of Thailand and Burma (Pomeroy has also clocked considerable mileage in India). So while the appropriately-named Expatriate focuses primarily on cocktails (check them out here), there's also a full menu of South Asian-inflected "drinking snacks" to pair with the beverages.

    The flavors are not for the timid—this is tongue-busting fare; spicy, salty, sweet, and sour, sometimes all at once—but even deep-fried dishes (of which there are several) are shot through with a fresh crunch of raw herbs or pickled vegetables. It takes a skilled hand to keep all of those loud flavors in check, and while the food at Expatriate is bold, it's still balanced. Nothing here is presented as particularly traditional, and it's not meant to be. These are just well-crafted, highly craveable bar bites that pair well with the long, late nights that Expatriate is preternaturally conducive to.

    An impartial review of the food is tricky for me since I'm friendly with the couple, so instead I took it upon myself to order every single thing on the menu (hey, it's called research) and ask the chef to walk me through the creation of each dish. Check it all out in the slideshow.

    About the author: Jamie Feldmar is a noodle aficionado, barbecue lover, and the managing editor of Serious Eats. You can follow her on Twitter at @jfeldmar.