Portland certainly knows how to open hotel restaurants with a twist. We've got the lauded Clyde Common at the base of the Ace Hotel's epicenter of hip, the mid-century marvel of the Driftwood Room at the Hotel DeLuxe, and Asian sensation Departure Restaurant crowning the stylish Nines Hotel, so many gastro travelers can get a glimpse of our buzzy food scene without leaving the building they slept in.
Leave it to James Beard Award-winning Vitaly Paley to see an opportunity for another PDX-style hotel venture and turn it into the most hotly anticipated opening of the fall. Nestled on the street level of Southwest Broadway's artsy Hotel Lucia, Imperial hits all the major notes of Portland's hot spots. Open kitchen complete with wood-fire grill? Check. Bonafide cocktail program? Naturally. Quirky decor? Got 'em (ahem, bike chain chandeliers). Local sourcing with a focus on comfort food? Done and done.
But where Paley's New Place goes beyond the status quo is with an upscale attitude that's part steak house, part high-roller's lounge: a throwback to the glory days when Broadway was Portland's Main Street, home to oxen auctions, ladies in furs, and men who made their money in sawdust. From the dark and masculine interior with exposed brick and concrete, to the large portions offering up a sense of abundance and good times, Imperial invites diners to sit back, order a drink, and be satisfied that these are, in fact, Portland's glory days (again).
Glimpses of Oregon's early years are everywhere: a towering painting of a stately lumber worker amidst a sea of stumps, slices of logs supporting dishes of rustic vegetable sides, a set of horns standing guard over a private dining room. Yes, there are modern elements mixed in (tattoo-inspired wallpaper and a fair amount of stainless steel accents), but the overall effect is decidedly historical.
Paley and executive chef Ben Bettinger (formerly of Beaker & Flask and Paley's Place's early days) collaborated to create a menu that echoes these early Pacific Northwest hallmarks. Imperial boasts breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus (it is a hotel resto, afterall) and the new-old-fashioned fare ranges from roubust steaks topped with chanterelles and garlic herb butter to sophisticated salads for lovers of greens who lunch.
Breakfast (starting at 6:30 am on weekdays) means "Old World" hot cereal with dried fruit streusel topping, semolina corn cakes, coddled eggs in spicy tomato sauce, and Matzo Brei in addition to a bevy of a la carte options like glazed ham or bacon rashers.
For the midday meal, diners can choose from an extensive selection of salads (like the kale salad topped with sunflower seed brittle or grilled romaine with feta and salsa verde), sandwiches (like an excellent reuben or one with Carman Ranch flat-iron steak), and a few starters and sides (think raw oysters or plum-glazed carrots).
Come dinner time, try the rotisserie chicken with tarragon aioli, fried rabbit with watermelon rind pickles, or an oyster stuffed quail with grilled stone fruit. Whatever you do, get a side of the Parker House Rolls and an order of Duck Meatballs. Just trust me on this one.
Check out my slideshow from opening night, and head in yourself to be treated royally...and bring your appetite. If you end up eating or drinking more than you anticipated, there's likely an available room just an elevator's ride away.
410 SW Broadway