The history of Portland restaurants once ran through Wildwood, which ended its 20-year run on Northwest 21st Avenue in 2014. Founding chef Cory Schreiber hailed from Oregon’s famed Dan & Louis Oyster Bar clan. At Wildwood he paid homage to James Beard—and the native foods the bon vivant loved—eventually winning a coveted Beard award himself. Schreiber also hired kitchen talent that would go on to spread his locavore message across the city. After his departure in the mid-2000s, an enthusiastic Wildwood team worked valiantly to keep the flame burning (and the good beer flowing) before moving on to their own projects, including Besaw’s nearby.
And then ... nothing. Wildwood stood vacant. Rumors swirled for years about the empty space. (Among them, plans for a Rite Aid on the spot. People were mortified.) Now, Eat Beat has learned, a deal has been struck at last: Summer and Patrick Triato, owners of Southeast’s popular event space Union/Pine, have inked a five-year lease for the Wildwood space. Come November, the couple hopes to unveil a new design, and a two-pronged plan: up front, in what was once Wildwood’s wood-clad bar, a 40-seat restaurant-bar dubbed Bar West, open daily 4 p.m. to midnight. In back, the former dining room/private party room will become “West,” a multi-use space available for everything from weddings to classes. Both projects will share Wildwood’s well-stocked kitchen, with its signature wood-fired pizza oven and tandoor oven.
Helming the Bar West kitchen is Lucian Prellwitz, who will soon wrap up his post as chef de cuisine at Beast. He’ll share kitchen duties with his wife, Morgan Deeks. A sneak peek at a still-in-the-works menu shows an appealing list of comfort staples, dishes you might have found on Northwest Portland’s “Restaurant Row” 15 years ago.
On the list so far: chicken liver mousse and brandied plums on wood-oven toast; sherried Brie fondue; and tandoor oven beets with local feta and brown butter. There are also plans for smoked steelhead and spaghetti alla chitarra (square-shaped pasta), seen up the street decades ago at famed Zefiro. And, of course, a hazelnut-chocolate torte. The menu may be just what these chaotic times call for.
According to Summer, she asked the chefs to draft their dream menu as a kind of “try-out” for the job. They delivered it, she said, in a blink. “They didn’t have to think about it,” she says. “They knew what they wanted, what they’re trained to make. I told them, ‘Get out there and play and experiment. Have fun.’”
The new space is already under construction. According to general manager Jillian Porten, the new look will be lighter, with more plants and greenery. Some of Wildwood’s signature Doug Fir details will be salvaged. But the weird, wavy dining room ceiling? In a word: GONE.
Stay tuned for more details as they come.