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Grilled skirt steak with cauliflower gratin and sauteéd spinach

Even here in Portland, a stronghold of casual dining, food can become exhausting, showmanship trumping flavor and gimmicks overshadowing enjoyment. But in September, when Megan Henzel opened her 43-seat Roost on the corner of SE 14th Avenue and Belmont Street, the Klamath Falls native took a very deliberate step in a different direction.

After working at high-end East Coast restaurants and jet-setting as a personal chef to celebrity clients, Henzel was primed for a return to minimalism.

Decorated with only strips of wooden coat pegs on spare white walls, and furnished in black and blond woods, Roost recalls classic British brasseries of yore; places where simple, well-prepared food and pleasant company take center stage. In this quiet, unadorned setting, Henzel showcases an old-school, New England style of comfort food, but with modern touches and the flavorful boost of Pacific Northwest ingredients.

Starters are a must. Brussels sprouts are deep-fried to a satisfying, salty crisp, sealing in a burst of flavor, and cauliflower fritters arrive with a lovely golden coating, paired with a luscious mustard cream. Anchored by comforting classics, entrées rotate with the seasons and Henzel’s whims. Pork stew is a highlight—tender, falling-apart meat with carrots, mushrooms, and braised giant beans in a shallow pool of mustardy broth. Skirt steak is grilled to a perfect medium-rare, dressed with a boisterous red wine sauce, and paired with a creamy cauliflower and potato gratin. Ironically, the menu’s flashiest item is the “burger”: braised beef, shredded and wrapped in caul fat, is seared and served on an open-faced bun with watercress, aioli, horseradish sauce, and a braising jus on the side—a kind of playful, high-end sloppy joe that forces diners to get messy. “I wanted to make seriously good food,” says Henzel, “but not serious food.”

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