The Reinvention of Portland's Iconic Indie Steak House

Can chef Ben Bettinger bring new life to Laurelhurst Market? Signs point to yes.

By Benjamin Tepler March 2, 2015 Published in the March 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

FROM TOP: Radicchio salad with lamb heart; dry-aged bone-in New York steak with hollandaise sauce and fennel-herb salad

When Laurelhurst Market opened in 2009, it veered as far from Morton’s as you could get: affordable cuts, next-level sides, and a butcher counter to rival any in the city. The steak house was a unique beast—until the rest of the city caught up to its comfort-chic standards. Now, six years in, an infusion of fresh blood: veteran local chef Ben Bettinger (Imperial, Beaker & Flask), backed up in the kitchen by Patrick McKee (Paley’s Place), and local mixologist Kevin Ludwig (La Taq, Beaker & Flask) behind the bar.

Much of the food still looks like Laurelhurst circa 2009, with rotating “a la carte” steaks, classic wedge salad, and potato-chip-topped mac and cheese. But Bettinger is already adding thick dollops of his own brand of hedonistic charm, like a starter of creamy blood sausage tumbled with roasted beets in a tar-black swath of squid ink, as well as crunchy, craggy fried oysters perched over celery root and thin shavings of salty carpaccio. The common thread? Rich, land-meets-ocean riffs, comforting enough for Laurelhurst’s cholesterol-conditioned patrons but charting refreshing new directions. Bonus: the new radicchio salad, garlicky, creamy, and weighted down with strips of grilled lamb heart, gives Nostrana’s famed radicchio salad a run for its money.

Meanwhile, Ludwig finds his voice in refined drinks like Pine Tar Incident, with cider-steeped aromatics from pear brandy, and a silky-sweet body thanks to genepy, Aperol, and sweet vermouth. His menu nudges Laurelhurst back to its glory days, when famed bartender Evan Zimmerman rocked the house with smoked ice (still on the menu).

It would be easy enough to keep Laurelhurst humming (it’s packed every night), but this seasoned trio is capable of much more. To make their mark, they’ll have to dig deeper: hone a new identity by pushing the steak-house boundaries once again with fresh ingredients and bold technique. In the meantime, pass the porterhouse and creamed kale.

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