Ro Tam’s leap from Sellwood coffee shop/think tank to North Portland coffee lounge/breakfast joint/cocktail bar is now complete. Well, sort of. In mid-May, Tam quietly opened the doors at 4003 N Williams. Curious neighbors poured in, and a squad of baristas and waiters stared at a new payment system, blurting things like, “Where’s the button for the eggs?” Liquor bottles had yet to make their entrance on the bar shelves, and Tam, the calm, driven, mastermind of Either/Or’s ingenious coffee mocktails, homemade sodas, and bottled Tanglewood Chai, seemed unusually ruffled. She had that look: please do not write about us right now.
Now, it’s official. Either/Or’s grand opening is May 31. (Hours: 7 a.m–midnight Sun–Thu and 7 a.m.–1 a.m. Fri–Sat.) Far from Sellwood’s vintage vibe, the new branch of Either/Or sports a soul lounge look: cushy nip-and-tuck banquettes, spacious bar chairs, a dark and moody nook, and, of course, a chandelier. The plan is to build out a DJ booth (by opening day, Tam hopes) for house spins. Expect to see her behind the turntable.
Also new: a chef and a sommelier. Tam has recruited Ian Wilson and Tyler Hauptman, the food and wine team behind the former “Cascadia-meets-Scandinavia” restaurant Fenrir. An early, simple favorite from Wilson: the poached egg platter, niftily served on pedestals in its shell, tops cracked for easy spooning, and sided by Little T Bakery toast and cheese.
“Ian will definitely be putting his (Scandinavian) flair on it once we get everything fully going,” says Tam. “But the menu will be a mixture of food we like. I always lean towards Asian dishes, so for sure some Tam wonton noodle soup during the colder months. Since we will be a bar in the evening, expect to see some classic drunk foods as well as healthy options.”
I’ve been a longtime fan of Either/Or; Tam is one of the city’s most promising talents. With a new space and resources, this will be one of Portland’s places to watch in 2018.
With a full kitchen by her side, she’ll continue her ingenious coffee mocktails (flips, negronis, and mint juleps are past favorites), while tapping a new arsenal of ingredients. Meanwhile, Either/Or’s new cocktail menu will also be a collaborative effort between kitchen and bar. Says Tam: “We'll be sharing ingredients from the cafe side of things, like boozy Tanglewood Chai slushies!" Sign us up.