Jenn Louis is a serious player. By that I mean that not only is she executive chef and co-owner (with her husband, David Welch) of NoPo restaurant Lincoln and catering company Culinary Artistry, the two-time James Beard “Best Chef: Northwest” semifinalist (this year, and last year) will soon be stretching the duo’s dominion into Southeast. According to Louis, their new drink-and-eatery, Sunshine Tavern, is slated to open at 3103 SE Division St “April 19, unless…” The cuisine concept is “basic” tavern food, such as pizza, burgers, fried chicken, fries, wings, etc., albeit it with the gourmet flavor flourishes we comfort-loving and poor but picky Portlanders have all come to expect.
Here, just as we face another onslaught of rain, Louis gives us a glimpse of Sunshine.
1) So, what’s the big idea behind Sunshine?
We care about food and service and environment. Our goal was to create a place to relax, a place that is not inventive, nor challenging. A place that is not too serious… somewhere between a dive bar, a diner, and a fine dining bar. We wanted the great comforts of something low-key, but with the quality ingredients Portlanders love. As for the name, well, everyone loves sunshine, right? But, the inspirational “Sunshine” was my brother’s childhood pet, a green and yellow parakeet.
2) Can you give us a sneak-peek at a few of Sunshine’s twists on “tavern” fare?
The fried chicken has a crunchy, ripple-y dredge on it that David calls the “fozzie dredge” because he thinks it looks like Fozzie Bear’s fur. It will come with a yeasted semolina waffle, butter, and local honey. Options on the burgers will include a big slab of roasted tesa (cured pork belly) or chicken liver mousse—pair that with a glass of sparkling! Our fries will be house-made, with the option of getting them as pork-sausage gravy cheese fries, and our wings will come with honey-mustard sauce. And the monte cristo is delicious: ham, turkey, and Swiss on brioche, fried, with marionberry jam and a fried egg. We’ll also have an in-house soft-serve ice cream machine—Chad Draizin of Fifty Licks is helping with the recipe.
3) Lincoln is known for its cocktails—what’s on tap booze-wise at Sunshine?
It’s all David’s doing. We’ll have cocktails, wine, eight taps, and a good bottle list, including 22 varieties of 22 oz bottles, such as Long Brewing IPA, Rogue ales, and Heater Allen ales. And, of course, a good selection of bourbon—that will keep me happy. Sunshine will also sport a slushie-style margarita machine.
4) How’s about the décor/vibe you’re shootin’ for?
Comfortable, relaxed, and modern. This project has been really fun—lots of handmade metal-work, the bar-top is made from reclaimed bowling alley lanes, and dismantled barn wood will be installed in several areas around the dining room. Plus, we’re installing a 14-foot shuffleboard table and video games: Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac Man, and Galaga (my favorite).
5) Where else in town do you like to go if you actually have a moment to breathe?
David and I tend to lay low; we try to spend as much time with our three kitties as we can during our time off. But we do eat a lot of dumpling soup at Chen’s Good Taste (18 NW 4th Ave) in Chinatown and drink a lot of Ristretto Roaster’s coffee. And I love the bar at little bird!
Sunshine Tavern’s Hours-to-be: Sun-Thurs, 5-10pm; Fri & Sat 5-11pm
Prices: $5-$12 starters & $9-$15 sandwiches/entrées