Life is hard. Even when the weather is great, and things are generally good, it’s still hard. One thing that provides enormous comfort day in and day out is being with people who make you feel normal. You know the ones I’m talking about- the ones that you accept help from, the ones you’re willing to admit that you don’t know something to, the ones that you know love you even thoughthey see exactly who you are…those people.

We’re very familiar with what this kind of belonging or kinship looks and feels like in our personal lives, but recently I’ve noticed that there is some version of this that happens for me out in the world too- where I go shopping for things, where I spend my free time, and where I go out to eat in the precious moments that I’m not in my own restaurant. I gravitate to the places that feel good.

If there is something about Cyril’s that feels like this to you- comfortable, encouraging, familiar- then I’ve got two additional places for you to add to your Portland dining roster because they feel like kindred culinary spirits to me. Of course we kind of want to keep you all to ourselves but…we also know better than to keep awesome things a secret.

Seastar Bakery & Handsome Pizza This is a place with a hearth at its center in more ways than one. Wood fired bread and pastry by day, pizzas by night. Did I think Portland needed another pizza place or bakery? Not until I met the four dreamboats behind this operation.

They’ve only been open for 7 days so if you want to wait for the frenzy to settle that’s understandable but I encourage you to go not ony for the garam mazala zucchini bread, the pizza croissants, or the pizza itself but for the big-heartedness that the whole place exudes.

Verdigris restaurant. I didn’t know this little jewel of a restaurant existed until last week when friends suggested it for dinner. Our experience there was one of the best restaurant experiences I’ve had in Portland since moving here in 2008.

Why? Verdigris achieves something that is very hard to do- it feels special, but not overly so (I feel like I could go there spontaneously on a weeknight or for my wedding anniversary), the food is elevated and recognizable (and delicious), the service is warm and engaged but not distracting- plus the people working there seemed to be enjoying themselves which may be the most enticing thing of all. AND go there soon because they are offering an incredible deal- 3 courses for $30 (wine pairings are an additional $15 and worth much, much more)