First Impressions

Little Bird’s Landing

Le Pigeon’s bistro spin-off blends Paris and indie Portland with some low-flying food.

By Karen Brooks December 8, 2010


The DIY decor has been replaced by tush-friendly lipstick-red banquettes, teeny bird portals, and big antlers over a sign reading “The Kitchen.” Instead of an edgy party vibe, you’ll find urban romance perfumed with Northwest noir, Charlie Parker, and marrow butter. The food is more familiar—if not still richer than Paul Allen—and the vaunted burgers are now available day and night.

Little Bird, the anticipated spin-off of Le Pigeon, is now open and flying in its own direction. The atmospheric skies are bigger here, the mood more open and accessible. And the food is more nested in true French bistro traditions than the radical take-off that defines its famed bad-boy big brother.

Then again, Little Bird is anything but prissy. From the sizable menu, appetizers run to the likes of fried beef tongue, frog legs, and potted duck livers with duck gelee and pickled plums. Not to mention a soul-warming leek gratin with head-snapping chunks of garlic and whole escargot buried in its creamy depths.

Le Pigeon’s brilliant chef-owner Gabriel Rucker and his long-time kitchen hand Eric Von Kley also are sending forth a steak with marrow-butter fries, a rabbit blanquette, and a swoony coq au vin that plumbs the depths of savory, with flavor-saturated chicken on the bone, bacon-roasted mushrooms, and toast smeared with chicken liver pate.

Side dishes not to miss: a rough-and-tumble creamed chard, full of chew and garlic and hot chilies, and pommes lyonnaise—sliced up potatoes baked to a brown-spotted glory with pungent raclette cheese.

Rucker’s Little Bird partner, Andy Fortgang (Le Pigeon’s manager and savvy sommelier), has assembled another French-intensive wine list worth exploring, with more than a dozen wines by the glass, $7–13. His wife Lauren Fortgang, fresh from Paley’s Place, has come out of the gate with an eight mini-scoop sampler of sorbets and ice creams, a bay-leaf-scented crème brulee, and a pretty fantastic chocolate financier—somewhere between a macaroon and a chocolate chip cookie, sided by suave ice cream and pebbled with praline.

Dinner prices run around $10–13 for apps, $16–25 for entrees, and $10–12 for burgers, depending on extras. A smaller version of the dinner menu appears at lunch, including ham and cheese on baguette and a lovely butter lettuce salad chunked with Roquefort.

So far, so chic. This is a place to explore.

Address: 219 SW Sixth Ave
Hours: 12 a.m.–12 p.m. Mon–Fri, 5 p.m.–12 p.m. Sat–Sun

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