Mussels and Fries at St. Jack’s Sister Bar, La Moule

The shellfish-centric eatery brings the classic Belgian combo to Portland, with top-notch cocktails and a seafood-friendly tap list.

By Benjamin Tepler November 9, 2015

Moulefrites olgi5x

The "Classique," with garlic, white wine, and butter.

Mussels and fries are a “thing.” It’s the national dish in Belgium, where it originates. In most major American food cities, you’ll find restaurants devoted almost entirely to the briny drinking food—except in Portland. Now, Francophile chef Aaron Barnett (St. Jack) offers his take on the classic “moule frites,” with dark, moody lighting, juicy, international mussels, and great cocktails.

Barnett is joined by Tommy Klus (Multnomah Whiskey Library, Kask), who makes La Moule, first and foremost, a serious bar. The Bootstrap Buck (rum, lime, ginger beer) and the Diablo (tequila, cassis, lime) are as good as they were at Kask, where Klus made a name for himself. Original drinks are nerdy but approachable, like the Lilah, with sherry, green chartreuse, and Mellow Corn—an in-vogue corn whiskey. Meanwhile, the Belgian-inspired tap list, both European and local, is a necessary accompaniment for the country’s favorite dish.

La Moule is every bit as cozy as its previous tenant, Savoy Tavern (and briefly, All-Way), if not a little sexier. The bar area has darkened with psychedelic mussel-themed wallpaper, black booths, and blue, backlit shelves. It’s a sweet spot for the shareable date-night mussels, with six flavors, Classique (garlic, white wine, butter) to Thai (green curry paste, lime, coconut milk). They’re not life-changing moule frites—some nights bring salty or unbalanced broth—but they sop up nicely with a thick slice of baguette. The fries, sold separately, are thin and crisp—the essential broth vehicle. There are few bonus items, like a terrific plate of smoked, meaty, Green Lip mussels from New Zealand, and a very salty burger, with a thick slice of bacon and double-cream brie. But otherwise, this is Mussel Beach.

For Portland, La Moule is more than a novelty. Sure, it’s the only place in town where you can sit in the dark, slurping seafood broth and downing hard-to-find Trappist beers, but it’s also a great bar—teeming with late-night neighborhood energy and strong, smart cocktails.

Want to try steamed mussels at home? We’ve got La Moule’s recipe right here. 

La Moule
2500 SE Clinton St
Everyday, 5-12pm

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