A Communal Appalachian Feast and More to Check Out in March

Portland Monthly food critic Karen Brooks dishes on the restaurants, obsessions, and under-the-radar finds of the month.

By Karen Brooks March 1, 2016 Published in the March 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Southern pride—biscuits and pickles to fried chicken—at Mae

Image: Karen Brooks


Portland’s food scene is cleansing, purging, and remaking itself. Every week, Darwin’s long arm seems to knock over another place unfit for survival in these competitive times. But one food phenomenon that still seems to be thriving is the “unrestaurants,” semipermanent pop-ups that serve appealing slices of food and mood. Leading the pack right now is Mae: a rollicking, communal Appalachian feast served every Wednesday night in the back room of Old Salt Marketplace. Here, North Carolina native Maya Lovelace, 28, digs into her granny’s recipe file, armed with techniques earned on the line at Charleston, South Carolina’s famed Husk and local farm connections from her kitchen tour at Beast. Upsides: the dip and relish tray, fluffy Angel biscuits hot from the oven, true Southern corn bread, bacon-perfumed fried chicken, heritage grains, and a welcome emphasis on farm-fresh pickles, salads, and sides. The nice cup of coffee comes from beans roasted in Lovelace’s own oven, courtesy of partner/barista Zach Lefler. Downside: Lard, have mercy, Mae is almost punishing in its Southernness—salty, heavy, and generous to a fault. Through it all, the air fills with the sounds of the South, Atlanta hip-hop to furious banjo picking. The price is $65 or “whatever you think is fair.” BYO wine, whiskey, or whatever. 5027 NE 42nd Ave, maepdx.com


Every thread, cell, and quirk of Portland’s food culture is sampled at Locale, a new North Portland coffee shop by day and votive-lit drinkery by night. There’s spiffy minimal-modern design, coffee brewed from local beans (Heart Roasters), charcuterie (Chop Butchery), Oregon craft beers on tap, and an aperitif obsession. It’s a sweet homage, complete with linen napkins at breakfast, coconutty granola, and a rather startling wake-up question: “Would you like still or sparkling water?” The one thing missing here is Portland-level geekery. So far, Locale is a jack-of-all-trades: a considerate hangout, an appealing date spot, and home to one of PDX’s biggest lists of vermouth and digestifs. (Newbies: try a light, fresh, bitter-tight Cocchi Americano, a delicately spicy Cardamaro, or an in-your-face sip from PDX’s Hammer & Tongs). What Locale needs next is to really master something with true rigor—even just a seriously good cup of coffee. 4330 N Mississippi Ave, localepdx.com


Bar Mingo’s happy hour (one of the city’s best) just got a new lease on life, jumping to twice a day, 9 p.m. to closing in addition to the usual 4 to 6 p.m. slot. Chef Jerry Huisinga’s cooking is now a late-night steal at $7 a plate, from Marcella Hazan–worthy lamb meatballs to baked polenta sided by house-made mozzarella. 811 NW 21st Ave, barmingo.com

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