Why Is This so Good? Alan Richman’s Portland Food Scene Article Exudes Excellence

By: Rachel Davidson

I never would have guessed that GQ magazine would produce such amazing food articles. Yet, here I am amazed at the brilliance of Alan Richman.

Richman is a food and travel-contributing writer for GQ magazine. With an array of awards under his belt, Alan Richman produces quality food writing over and over again. His article “Cloudy With A Chance Of Stinging-Nettle Flan and Tomato Coulis” stood out to me particularly well because of Richman’s rich and thorough description of the Portland food scene.

food writing

Alan Richman’s GQ Article

In his article he tells a story of the evolution of Portland’s food culture. Along with pointing out distinct restaurants, Richman describes Portland’s growth as “America’s most fascinating gastronomic city”.

First, the lead stood out to me. It caught my attention and made me want to read more. After a quick analysis of various decades and cities in America, including Portland, Richman gives a quote that captivates the entire feel of the article. His introduction is clear and concise while laying out the organization for the rest of the article.

“Back then nearly every American city had shape an enduring identity. New York was about restaurants and Los Angeles about film, but nobody had any idea what to make of Portland, Oregon.”

Within the first page, he describes Portland perfectly, quoting restaurant chefs and outlining the culture. He des so by giving a description of a unique couple dining in Portland restaurant Gravy, writing that they are “somewhere between hipster and hootenanny”. What makes this article so good is that he is not only analyzing the food scene but the culture of Portland as well, which Richman argues started a while back. Richman has a clear understanding of the cultivation of Portland’s food scene growth and progression-so the reader is getting the full history.

“From that foundation(Cheap rent in Portland) evolved what might be the most affordable upscale urban economy in America. It certainly offers the most pleasure for the price.”

Allan Richman has won numerous awards including the James Beard Journalism Award.


What also makes this article so good is the in-depth research and history of Portland as a whole. Richman provides an abundant amount of examples of Portland restaurants and food carts to demonstrate the livelihood of its community, from Voodoo Doughnuts to the small vegan restaurant with topless waiters.

“Portland wants to be a small town, but it’s really a big restaurant”

Instead of just reviewing one restaurant (which can be done well take for example this amusingly harsh restaurant review of Guy Fieri’s New Restaurant) he includes many mini-reviews of restaurants that represent a wide variety of what Portland has to offer.

Next, Richman’s use of quotations are exceptional; which are from a variety of sources. Quoting Karen Brooks, restaurant critic from the Oregonian “you’re not in Portland to be blown away by the food. You’re here to participate in a state of mind.” With all of the technical elements, this article is both exciting and amusing because of Richman’s wit and writing style. What could be a very boring topic about the type of food and evolution of Portland’s restaurants is lifted to a thrilling historical journey.

“Our waiter was a shuffling symbol of Portland service. He wore a lumberjack jacket…and brought food and drink at the speed of an animated corpse. He poured nothing, removed nothing, and seemed confused by the concept of napkins.”

Quick little reminders of the uniqueness of Portland is emphasized through details like the one below  demonstrates the cleverness of his writing, yet doesn’t feel harsh.

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