And the Willamette Week restaurant of the year is ...

And the Willamette Week restaurant of the year is ...

Our friends and news partners at Willamette Week have the enviable task of judging some of Portland’s best restaurants and picking their favorites. On Wednesday their much-anticipated restaurant guide will hit newsstands.

Be sure to pick up the guide and check out their website for much more on Wednesday, but in the meantime WW shared a sneak peak at their prestigious awards to whet your appetite.

Most Adventurous: Castagna

While Castagna has been around for more than a decade, they have a new executive chef at the helm.

Willamette Week says that Chef Justin Woodward is making some of the most adventurous food you’ll find in town. His specialty is getting creative with whatever ingredients are in season.

His herbs also come from the restaurant’s own garden.

“I really like to let the product come in and let the product show its way to the plate,” Woodward said. “What we do, there’s so much passion behind it, so when it’s recognized it feels great.”

Best Restaurant – Runner up: Ava Gene’s

Ava Gene’s in Southeast Portland serves Italian fare, but the WW critics loved that they could order six courses and not see a single tomato.

The pasta dishes are made to order and feature local, seasonal ingredients.

The restaurant is so personal for owner Duane Sorenson that he named it after his 11-year-old daughter.

“I’m really proud to have lived in this neighborhood, for my children to have grown up in this neighborhood and continue to give to this neighborhood something special,” Sorenson said. “I’m really proud of it and I’m going to continue to do it.”

If Sorenson’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he already firmly established himself in Portland lore when he founded Stumptown Coffee Roasters. He also owns The  Woodsman Tavern and Roman Candle Baking Company.

Best Restaurant: Roe

Don’t be ashamed if you haven’t heard of Roe before just now.

The Southeast Division Street restaurant isn’t particularly easy to find. The restaurant is tucked away behind a nondescript door in the back of Chef Trent Pierce’s other restaurant, Block and Tackle.

Pierce doesn’t let diners out front steal a view of the tiny Roe in the back. There isn’t even a menu to peruse.

“We tried to fly under the radar as long as possible,” Pierce told KATU. “That way we could get the people looking for this kind of restaurant in here.”

Even Roe’s tiny size was deliberate. Pierce and his sous-chef Patrick Schultz like to talk with diners as they serve up seafood like marlin and octopus.

“I’m happy cooking the food, being able to see the guest, their reaction when we give them the dish,” Pierce said.

The intimate interaction has been one of Roe’s strongest characteristics, but don’t blame us or Willamette Week if you have trouble getting a table.

“We were only open a couple months and soon we just started getting busier and busier and busier,” Pierce said. “We had no press at all. It was all word of mouth.”

Despite the growing popularity, Pierce said he has no plans to expand Roe. 

More: Willamette Week food section