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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
9.0
7.0
$25
Pizza
Casual restaurant

Hours
Tue–Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm

Features Good wines, kid-friendly, outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Not accepted

www.kensartisan.com

Southeast Portland
304 SE 28th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 517-9951
Ken’s Artisan Pizza
A pizzeria with one foot in Naples and the other in Portland

Ken’s Artisan Pizza is the very definition of neighborhood-friendly. This corner space has huge windows that open up to the street, so that the outdoor and indoor diners are barely separated. It’s always bustling, with people lined up waiting for a table at 6:30pm on a Wednesday. Some tables in the back are away from the buzz, but in a lonely way—the bar is better. The walls are bare, and the sole source of décor is exposed wood beams and wooden tables.

Everyone is drawn by Neapolitan-style pizza wood-fired in a brick oven at such high heat that it imparts a firm crust with deep char. The tomato sauce is naturally sweet, with circles of cheese that are well integrated and don’t slip and slide off as you lift each slice. The pizza also somehow manages to avoid sogginess. When a margherita is ordered with arugula, it comes with a huge mound of greenery on top, just thrown on when the pizza is done cooking; this may rub some people the wrong way, but it’s done in Italy like this because arugula loses its spicy kick when it’s cooked even briefly. The tables have little bowls of coarse salt and chili flakes.

There are also delicious lamb pita sandwiches and a smoked trout salad, which is a good way to start. For a pizza joint, this is a very ambitious wine list. We love that there are nine rosés—it certainly puts finer restaurants to shame in this regard, and rosé is one of the better wines to have with pizza, if you must have wine. There are also some surprising apparitions like a $75 Alsatian Riesling. Italophiles favor beer, though, and there are four on draft.

The fact that the beams overhead were salvaged from the old Big Dipper roller coaster ride at Jantzen Beach is just plain cool. There are pictures of the ride in the back of the restaurant. It’s this kind of sentimentality, perhaps, that makes these people take the time and effort to learn how to make pizza the way the Italians do—and to source nine different rosés for the list. And it’s why Ken’s is one of Portland’s favorite pizzerias.

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