Like it or not, Portland is a city famous for its no-reservation policies. We asked Greg Denton, executive chef at the always-packed Ox on NE MLK to explain why his and other Portland restaurants will only take your name if its on a wait list.
- Walk-ins keep seats full: “It’s all about the size of your restaurant and how central your location is." Denton explains. "With less than 70 seats, any number of ‘no-shows’ are a disaster for us. On the other hand, if you are an out-of-the-way destination without foot traffic, or big enough to handle no-shows and still take walk-ins, the rules don’t apply.”
- Restaurants can turn more tables: “People who make reservations tend to stay longer, that means slower turnaround.”
- No Reservations policies are very Portland: “I think Portlanders like the freedom to casually walk into places and sit down. If you take reservations you suddenly look a little bit elitist…people are sensitive to that.”
For those of us who can’t spend four hours waiting with our hungry, hyperactive children, or don’t feel like leaving that hot date up to chance, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite restaurants that do take reservations.
1. Apizza Scholls: Some of Portland’s longest lines form out the door of SE Hawthorne’s “pizza Nazis.” You’ll still encounter a three-topping cap, limited dough supply, and drab interior, but with a new reservation policy you are guaranteed a slice of their char-speckled, East Coast wonders. 4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-233-1286
2. Firehouse: As reservation-friendly as they are family-friendly, this Northeast neighborhood institution is happy to save you and your crowd a table in their wood-smoke-scented dining room. 711 NE Dekum St; 503-954-1702
3. Olympic Provisions NW: Tucked away in the Northwest industrial district, Olympic Provision’s second outpost is one of our favorite reservation-taking date spots. What’s hotter than a giant red rotisserie with self-basting chickens? 1632 NW Thurman St; 503-894-8136
4. Laurelhurst Market: Don’t show up at Portland’s undisputed indie steakhouse without a reservation. Their coveted cuts of local meat, coddled seasonal vegetables and soul-warming barbecue are great for families, dates, and parents—if you remember to call ahead. 3155 E Burnside St; 503-206-3097
5. St Jack: This sexy Francophile bouchon is packed to the brim on weekends with flirty couples and serious offal-lovers inhaling blood sausage and macaroni gratin. Like the bouchons of Lyon, this converted three-roomed 1890 house can get very intimate without scheduling ahead of time. 2039 SE Clinton St; 503-360-1281
6. Portobello Vegan Trattoria: Better phone in your dine time to avoid hour-plus waits at this Southeast temple to down-home vegan fare that even your Italian nonna would be happy to inhale. The kitchen may offer big-time taste, but the small-scale space fills up every night. 1125 SE Division St; 503-754-5993
7. Beaker & Flask: There aren’t many bars in town that accept reservations, given their fast-paced, booze-driven nature. But at Beaker & Flask, an icon of Portland cocktail craft, the cuisine and a seat at the table are taken just as seriously as the beverage program. 727 SE Washington St; 503-235-8180
8. Ava Gene's: The hottest restaurant of the year from Stumptown owner Duane Sorenson is also one of the only uber-hyped restaurants to accept reservations. Do we detect a shift in Portland’s no reservations paradigm? 3377 SE Division St; 971-229-0571