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Former Spago and Bluehour Chef Thomas Boyce Takes Over Pearl Tavern Kitchen

The grounded steak house concept from former football star Joey Harrington and Chefstable’s Kurt Huffman gets a new lease on life from an Italian cooking pro.

By Karen Brooks July 26, 2017

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The blue burger at Pearl Tavern

Image: Karen Brooks

In 2013, Los Angeles chef Thomas Boyce strode into Bluehour’s kitchen, fresh from the trenches of LA’s high-flying Spago, where he worked as chef de cuisine for nearly a decade. While his wife Kim Boyce, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, put grain flours into fresh, sweet focus at Northeast Portland’s Bakeshop, Thomas looked like Portland’s new Italian pasta king. Alas, things didn’t go as expected: Bluehour missed its old signatures and Boyce headed for unknown pastures.

Flash forward to 2017: Boyce is gluten-free and re-entering the kitchen world after a stint helping Andy Ricker manage his Pok Pok empire. His new challenge: rebooting the Pearl Tavern, a manly sports bar-meets-steak-house-y tavern that never got off the ground at 231 NW 11th Ave.

About six weeks ago, Eat Beat has learned, Pearl owners Joey Harrington (famed Ducks star and NFL quarterback), Chefstable’s Kurt Huffman, and bar man Ryan Magarian recruited Boyce to lasso the menu with more skill and thoughtfulness. Gone is the all-over-the-map steak house that serves General Tso’s lamb ribs. The overhauled menu is still evolving, but expect a more stripped-down, considered tavern/pub approach, Caesar salad to steak frites to blue cheese burgers, rooted in technique and good ingredients. “I’ve brought it back to basics, simplicity,” says Boyce. “At its core, it’s a tavern, with solid cooking. I like to under-promise and over-deliver.

Boyce is also putting his stamp on the morphing weekend brunch menu. He’s most excited about his “thinnish” yeasted waffles, Berliners, and Dutch baby pancakes, currently with apricot compote with fruit from star farm Baird Orchards.

The room hasn’t changed, complete with snazzy black leather booths big enough to accommodate Damian Lillard and the Bosnian Beast. At least five sports screens flicker day and night. If you want to check out what’s cooking with an accomplished chef while sports announcers ponder the big questions of the day—“Does Drake have a Lil’ Wayne tattoo?”—Pearl Tavern is for you.

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