The dining room at Dame

Dame has not had an easy go of things. In summer 2017, co-owner Dana Frank stepped away to build her dream wine bar, Bar Norman, less than a year after Dame opened. That left owner Jane Smith without the star sommelier who had built the promising Killingsworth spot up as an ambitious natural wine haven. A few months prior to Frank's exit, Dame’s opening chef, Eli Dahlin (formerly at Seattle’s Walrus and the Carpenter), departed the kitchen. It never fully recovered in the following years. 

But now Smith is making a major effort to right the ship. In the past year, she’s hosted several prominent chef pop-ups, including previews of Bhuna, Malka, and Yonder. Starting tomorrow, she’s making that model permanent: instead of having its own chef and menu, Dame will now hold “chef residencies,” seven days a week, for Portland’s young talent—many of whom are simply waiting on the glacial process of building and permitting their own spaces. “It’s kind of a mother restaurant,” explains Smith. “Nurturing chefs and concepts and working together.”

Sunday-Wednesday will be the domain of Patrick McKee, a long-time Paley’s Place alum who most recently ran the kitchen at now-closed Perlot. His restaurant concept, Estes, is a nod to his Italian-American mother, who raised McKee on Sunday suppers of lasagna, beef tongue, and Frank Sinatra. An early menu shows a simple mashup of Italian-Pacific Northwest cooking—Brussels sprouts with Calabrian ricotta, lemon preserve, and grana Padano to “Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs.”  

Patrick McKee

Thursday through Sunday will belong to Pasture, a whole animal butchery-focused eatery from Kei Ohdera and John Schaible (formerly of Farm Spirit and Blue Hill at Stone Barns). The plan is to source grass-fed, sustainably-raised, retired dairy cows from places like Mike Trent Farms in Tillamook and Carman Ranch in Eastern Oregon. A wide range of preparations—from capicola with flax cracker, fermented carrot, and carrot mustard to a burger with Japanese milk bread, cabbage, and garlic—will showcase the duo’s happy cow-centric ideologies.

Also in the works: a daytime sandwich counter and butcher shop from Pasture to accompany Dame’s back room bottle shop. Plus, a possible Sunday brunch from McKee. 

Smith says there’s no real expiration date for her chefs-in-residence— “three, six, twelve months...I wouldn’t want to put pressure on them.”

“Solely operating a fine dining space was never my goal,” explains Smith. “I’d like to have a more democratic, or socialist way of opening a restaurant and not just serve one segment of the population.”

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