Tasty N Alder: The Tasty Details

John Gorham’s new downtown brunch-meets-steakhouse concept will unroll plenty of surprises, including cult Portland chef Morgan Brownlow.

By Karen Brooks January 16, 2013

If 2012 was The Year of Ox, the meaty Eastside breakout, 2013 looks like The Year of the Bull. John Gorham keeps his finger firmly placed on Portland’s food pulse. The rest of the world will soon catch up.

Gorham’s Tasty N Sons redefined the breakfast genre with spicy ethnic stews and cast-iron Southern Cooking. How good is it? Tweeted hard-to-please James Beard Foundation VP Mitchell Davis last week: “I don't say things like this lightly. These may be the best biscuits I've ever had.” Meanwhile, Gorham’s Toro Bravo Cookbook: The Making, Breaking and Riding of a Bull lands this fall from literary powerhouse McSweeney’s. Think the lines at Toro Bravo are long now?

Now comes another project from the man with the golden Portland food touch: Tasty N Alder, at 580 SW 12th Avenue. Think brunch meets steakhouse and a million flavors, surprises, and comforts in between. Opening date: brunch, February 6; dinner, February 20.

Eat Beat gleaned first tasty details to get the ball rolling:

Bombshell alert! Morgan Brownlow is in the house: Few chefs have generated as much talk, hope, confusion, and admiration. The gifted chef helped vault Portland on the food map 10 years ago at the Ripe Supper Club and Clarklewis. He trained with San Francisco salami god Paul Bertolli and makes pasta that could humiliate a grandmother. But he’s also erratic. A few years ago, he opened a Northeast Portland breakfast spot, drawing wows and a cult following overnight. Then, poof, he was gone.

If Tasty ropes him down, it could be major. He’ll be manning the stoves, grills, and pasta pots at night while collaborating on ideas with Gorham and chef Kyle Prewitt. For several months, Brownlow has quietly been working with Gorham on Tasty’s and Toro’s impressive new charcuterie and salami expansion.

The vibe: Warehouse-y, reasonable prices, the sense of a party every night. “I’m bringing the Eastside vibe to downtown.” Smart move.

Breakfast: Don’t think Tasty N Sons, the clone. Signature addictions like the Burmese red pork stew and Israeli Shakshuka are staying at the mothership. Downtown will unleash Korean and Mexican inspirations (bibimbap with pork belly, eggs, cowboy beans, local tortillas) to match hush puppies, orange marmalade muffins, and a core of Tasty N Sons regulars like corn cakes with steak ’n’ eggs. This is a John Gorham joint: eclectic will rule the day.

Dinner, with a side of milkshake cocktails a la Pulp Fiction: Gorham’s steakhouse concept roams a world of big tastes, surprises, and wide-ranging influences. That means categories like “brunch for dinner,” “boards” (burgers, charcuterie, house-smoked trout), and “steaks,” with a handful of heavy hitters nightly. And, of course, Brownlow’s homemade cavatelli with sugo, his signature at Clarklewis. German beers figure large as do milkshake cocktails—Brandy Alexanders, grasshoppers, and pink ladies whirling at the bar.
A key to Gorham’s success: Wedding a handcrafted ethos and big flavors to portion generosity with good value. If he pulls that off downtown, expect a big win.

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