Good Eats

Elegant Elephant

May 19, 2009 Published in the April 2005 issue of Portland Monthly

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What do Lucy Brennan, giant pachyderms and a retractable roof have in common? No, Major League Baseball isn’t coming to Portland. Rather, an uptown fixture with satellite shops around town is establishing a new, expanded flagship location in the space formerly occupied by Il Fornaio.

“We’re trying to create a dining atmosphere that’s elegant, but at the same time casual,” says Elaine Tanzer, owner of Elephants Deli. “We have a whole new antipasto spread that people can order the way they order our salads to go home, but they can also get a nice dinner or lunch.”

Keeping intact a large round space at the front of the new location to entice patrons to dine in-house, Elephants is spreading its familiar take-out shop throughout the large back of the room. A wood-burning stove left by the prior occupants bakes up fresh pizzas, and a private room in the back (with that retractable roof) allows ample space for garden parties in any season.

Elephants’ most refined addition, however, is a simple bar with a cocktail menu designed by Portland’s most inventive mixologist, Lucy Brennan of Mint and 820 fame. “The new space has a very European bistro café feel,” says Brennan. “It’s totally new to Portland, so I wanted to incorporate that into the drinks.” Brennan’s drink list purées a wide range of tastes while keeping things uncomplicated.

Packing everything up into its trunk for a move down the road may be just the thing an elephant needs to reinvent itself. With shopping, dining and drinking, the new Elephants Deli is a veritable three-ring circus. But don’t fret that you might lose your old favorites. Elephants hasn’t forgotten what got them here.