Spring Report: Ten Portland Restaurants to Watch

Your field guide to an exciting new season of Portland restaurant openings

By Benjamin Tepler January 27, 2014

St. Jack’s main dining room

February is shaping up to be one of the biggest months for restaurant openings in Portland’s recent history—three on Valentine’s Day alone. In the mix: old favorites reborn from the ashes, new outposts from Portland mini-moguls, and fresh dives into underrepresented cuisines.

Get stoked and mark your calendars, 2014 is gonna be a feeding frenzy.  

1. Taqueria Nueve
727 SE Washington St.

This week, chef Billy Schumaker's once-popular Taqueria Nueve starts life anew inside the former Beaker & Flask space on Southeast Washington Street. Expect favorites from the original mid-aughts menu—wild boar tacos, ceviche, and cochinita pibil—alongside a few newbies, like vegetarian tacos, fresh salads, and updated Oaxacan mole negro tamales available seven days a week. Read more in our full news break.

Opening: This Thursday, January 23rd

Bollywood Theater's colorful counter service sign

2. Bollywood II
SE 30th and Division St.

With 4,000 square feet, a new Indian mini-market and large outdoor patio, the sequel to Troy MacLarty’s lines-out-the-door, Indian-inspired, Alberta Street restaurant, promises to be bigger and better (though the menu won’t expand right away). MacLarty plans to stock the market with hard-to-find items like housemade paneer, ghee, and dal along with rare spices—from curry leaves to black cardamom.

Opening: Next Week (barring construction holdups)

3. Clyde Common’s New Chef
1014 SW Stark St.

For the past few weeks, Clyde Common’s new chef Johnny Leach (New York’s Momofuku, Del Posto) has been preparing for his kitchen takeover following the departure of longtime chef Chris DiMinno. Owner Nate Tilden gives us a taste of the new regime: “Johnny will be bringing his Italian roots from Del Posto and ingredients from Momofuku.”  While the new Clyde won’t get an Asian-fusion makeover, expect to see flavors like black garlic, geoduck, and whelk (sea snail). Leach will also be delving deeper into “shared entrees,” like the four-person halibut and chorizo puff pie with parsnips. But old classics—the popcorn, burger, and Spanish fideos noodles—are sticking around.

First day of the new Clyde Common: February 7

4. St. Jack NW
1610 NW 23rd Ave.

Chef Aaron Barnett of St. Jack

Image: John Valls

Last August, Eat Beat broke the news of St. Jack’s move to Northwest Portland. This new iteration of Southeast Clinton’s offal-loving Lyonnaise bouchon promised a seafood upgrade, a brand new cocktail program, and “cool French bar food.” A new report from chef Aaron Barnett takes us a few steps further.

“The new St. Jack will bring showmanship back to the dining experience.” That means a cheese cart loaded with aged French dairy, a tableside flambé cart (get your fire extinguishers ready) and personal absinthe drips (who isn’t ready for this?).

Barnett is working with local fisherman to bring in unusual bivalves, from geoduck to sea urchin, and sourcing local ducks for his special sausage-stuffed duck neck, prepared beak and all.

Meanwhile, bar man John Salas (from New York’s Saxon + Parole) is stocking the new watering hole with a bottled beer selection, Oregon brews to Belgian farmhouse ales, while crafting a cocktail program with sweet and savory pours, like the egg-nog-thick Snowball (Beefeater gin, crème de violette, cacao, crème de menthe, and double cream).

Projected Opening: February 14th

5. Pepe Le Moko
407 SW 10th Ave.

Okay, okay. After several misfires, we were skeptical, too. Yes, Pepe Le Moko has been “in the works” for nearly a year and a half since we first broke the news in August...of 2012. But the long-anticipated speakeasy beneath Clyde Common—fronted by a late night bocadillo shop and backed by star bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler—finally has a hard opening date, and we’re sticking to it…for now.

Projected Opening: February 14th

6. Lang Baan
6 SE 28th Ave.
Reservations: 971-344-2564, [email protected]

Early tastes at Lang Baan. Clockwise from the top left: Gang aom quail with kabocha squash, cured salmon, spicy scallop ceviche, Wagyu tartar

This month, chef/owner Earl Ninsom (Paa Dee, Tarad) is food touring through Bangkok, sharpening ideas in preparation for Lang Baan, his upcoming tasting menu-only Thai eatery. As previously reported, blueprints call for nahm prik (chile relishes), raw dishes, (spicy scallop ceviche to cured salmon), grilled bites (think skewered sai aou sausage with charred pepper relish), and soups, like gang aom with quail breast and kabocha squash. The latest hard facts: 16 seats, two seatings (6 and 8pm), and a choice of a $40 or $60 prix fixe menu.

Projected Opening: February 14th

7. Kachka
720 SE Grand Ave.

Is Portland ready for a new wave of Soviet-inspired cuisine? Owners Bonnie and Israel Morales don’t have an exact opening date yet, but their menu is already online—and it just might start the revolution. In the works: a $18-a-head “Full Ruskie Experience,” with the likes of five caviars and roes served with brioche, crepes, and chive butter;  “Herring Under a Fur Coat” (essentially a Soviet 7-layer dip); and a short rib borscht. Not to mention the extensive vodka list, available in flights, $13-43.

Projected Opening: Late February

8. Lardo North
N. Williams Ave and NE Mason St.

PIGGING OUT Lardo’s sky-high signature burger and fries

The latest outpost of Rick Gencarelli’s pork-centric sandwich empire will be part Lardo, part bakery. The bakery side will tap veteran French boulanger Philippe Garcia and St. Jack patisserie chef Alissa Frice. According to co-owner Kurt Huffman (of the ChefStable restaurant group), the adjoining bakery will “be the first in this country” to focus on tangy, natural leavening agents (a sort of sourdough starter) in its bread and pastries, thanks to a fancy, imported French machine called a fermentolevain.

Projected Opening: Late February/ Early March

9. Son of a Biscuit
2045 Southeast Division St.

From serial franchiser Micah Camden (Little Big Burger, Blue Star Donuts, Boxer Sushi, Boxer Ramen), comes a new concept: a fried chicken shack serving Southern-style hot chicken upgraded with Northwest ingredients, from house-baked biscuits to Yamhill-bred, pasture-raised Kookoolan Farms birds spiced with Viridian Farms Piment d'Espelette. Read more in our full news break.

Projected Opening: Early March

10. Coopers Hall
404 SE 6th Ave.

A joint operation between Chefstable’s Kurt Huffman and Willamette Valley’s AlexEli Vineyards, Coopers Hall will be housed in an 8,000 square foot taproom and boast the most extensive on-tap wine program in the country, with 30-40 wines available in to-go growlers. The kitchen, run by Roscoe Roberson (formerly Racion’s sous chef) will serve rotisserie meats (whole chickens, beef, pork, and lamb) to take home with your wine-filled growler.

Projected Opening: April

Which 2014 restaurant opening are you most excited to see? Tell us in the comments!

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