Even by Portland standards, P.R.E.A.M. was a pretty crazy gamble. Over the past six months, two headstrong twenty-somethings have been designing a restaurant that pays homage to ‘80s hip-hop, building the entire place (from deep-fryer to drywall) themselves, and masterminding a dough recipe good enough to stand up to the best pizzas in Portland’s raging pie scene. Against the odds (and with a little help from restaurant incubator ChefStable) Brandon Gomez and Nicholas Ford have done it: P.R.E.A.M. will open at 2133 SE 11th Ave on April 24, with polenta, pizza, and plenty of Grandmaster Flash. It’s ambitious, loud, and unlike anything Portland has seen before.
Ford and Gomez met a year and a half ago at Ned Ludd, two New York transplants with a penchant for LL Cool J and Beastie Boys. Ford worked as a line cook, taking his cues from past Manhattan gigs at Union Square Café and Italian-inspired L’Apicio, while Gomez played bartender and front man after a stint at haute American Colonie in Brooklyn. They convinced Ned Ludd owner Jason French to loan his pizza oven on Monday nights and conjured the name P.R.E.A.M. (Pizza Rules Everything Around Me), after the Wu-Tang Clan breakout hit “C.R.E.A.M.,” building their unbearably cool playlist after-hours. “When we play music, we blast it,” explains Gomez. “It’s like how Tarantino says music is 80% of his movies. I’m the same way—the music, the vibe, the way you experience it—that’s 80% of the restaurant.” By the time P.R.E.A.M. stopped spinning records at the end of 2014, it had become one of the hottest tickets in the city.
Soon, P.R.E.A.M. will rise anew inside the former Tennessee Red’s space. The regal, 85-seat entryway is anchored by a massive brass bar and lined with red velvet stools. The open kitchen, tiled in emerald green, surrounds the matte black Gianni Acunto oven, a 900-degree monster from Naples. In back, a quieter, firewood-lined dining room holds big round tables built for larger parties and children. Every detail, from the graffiti murals to a vinyl mosaic framing the bathroom, was conceived and built by the fiercely creative duo.
Ford, the dough master, is keeping his pop-up menu format—organized like a song. His pizza section (aka “the chorus”) features 8 pies, like a now-signature kale-smoked mozzarella-honey, and a potato-pickled-onion-miner’s lettuce option, along with two rotating flavors. “The hook” is an ode to polenta, supplied by Eugene’s Camas Country Mill and Gaston’s Ayers Creek Farm, with grilled cakes topped with everything from broccoli rabe, sausage pesto, and fermented chiles to carrots, pistachio, and Vadouvan spice. Meanwhile, house charcuterie and creative salads, like grilled romaine with smoked mayo and chicken skin will flow from the “intro” and “verse.”
At the bar, Gomez is busy fleshing out his house-made soda fountain cocktails, piped into vintage soda bottles. In addition to 16 beers and wines on tap, the sweet blends will include the Root Beer Flip with bourbon, egg, and cream; the Craig Cola with bourbon and a special P.R.E.A.M. cola; and a play on the Gibson, steeped with olive oil.
Preview dinners (reservation only) will run from April 15-18, 5:30 – 9pm.
Check back in the coming weeks for opening day photos, exclusively on Eat Beat.
2133 SE 11th Ave.
Open every day, 5 - 12pm