Old Salt's Ambitious Marketplace

The minds behind Grain & Gristle launch a food bazaar in the Cully neighborhood.

By Benjamin Tepler October 1, 2013 Published in the October 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

Roasted half chicken with peas, carrots, wheatberries, and buttery pie crust at Old Salt Marketplace

Image: Allison Jones

Old Salt Marketplace is Portland’s Circus Maximus for food lovers. On the corner of NE Alberta Street and 42nd Avenue, the city’s next great microrestaurant complex of food-focused storefronts squeezes into 6,000 square feet of bare wooden beams. There’s even a farmers market outside on Thursdays. It’s an ambitious undertaking in a neighborhood short on culinary delights. 

Behind the experimental ecosystem are Ben Meyer, Marcus Hoover, and brewmaster Alex Ganum, co-owners of the casual American eatery Grain & Gristle, along with general manager Tray Satterfield. Inside the building, three discrete businesses share rent and resources. The first is Old Salt proper, the building’s inner sanctum, containing a restaurant, meat shop, and takeout deli. In another corner, the Good Keuken culinary school teaches novices to wrangle the unusual cuts sold at the meat counter. Through sliding glass doors, Miss Zumstein’s Cakes & Desserts doles out fresh lemon cream tartlets and hazelnut genoise cakes.

Old Salt’s restaurant thrives on seasonal comfort boosted by excellent farm sourcing and nearly unrivaled beef from Hawley Ranch near Eugene. From the rotating menu, a few gems come and go. Watch for fluffy ricotta gnocchi rolling in a thick, meaty ragù, or the slick steak tartare. Otherwise, the vegetable-centric fare doesn’t yet match Old Salt’s lofty vision; you’re just as likely to find scorched cauliflower or “buffalo” cardoons floundering in watery blue cheese dressing.

A safer bet is the deli counter, stocked with everything a steer has to offer—corned, pickled, and peppered onto killer sandwiches. Don’t miss the house Reuben, slatted with outstanding corned beef on Fressen Artisan Bakery’s perfectly fluffy, slightly sour rye. In the adjacent case, dry-aged cuts, from culotte to bavette, sell at impressively low prices. Even as the supper-house concept lags, Old Salt is inspired, with enough meat, produce, handmade pastry, and epicurean vigor to feed an entire city.

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