Best Restaurants 2017: Get Salty & Smoked

Bar Casa Vale Survived and Thrived in 2017

The sherry bar became Portland’s best place for smoky Spanish bites.

By Benjamin Tepler October 12, 2017 Published in the November 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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The spread at Bar Casa Vale

Late 2016 was ominous for restaurateur Nate Tilden and his just-opened Spanish den, Bar Casa Vale. Freezing rain poured down like a Genesis flood. The political climate was worse. (“People weren’t going out to spend money and celebrate being alive,” says Tilden.) Inside, tapas were simultaneously burnt and undercooked. Servers didn’t know fino from oloroso. A big black divider sucked the life out of Tilden’s glimmering, arabesque-tiled 20-seat bar. Doom beckoned. 

But this isn’t Tilden’s first rodeo. It took six months for Bar Case Vale to crawl out of its ditch: Olympia Provisions wine master Jessica Hereth redesigned the sherry and wine list to include user-friendly guides to Spain’s regions; the kitchen nailed the finicky wood-burning hearth; and Tilden replaced that divider with a patterned metalwork lattice.

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Bar Casa Vale revolves around wood fire, gintonic, and a dreamy room.

Now, crispy, smoked game hen slicked in nutty pepita mole complements skewers of compacted, spiced pork belly, or open-face “montaditos” smeared with salty, tangy sobrasada and mahon cheese. The bar program geeks out on cider, aperitifs, clever “Pan-Latin” cocktails, and Spain’s robust gin-and-tonic tradition: giant goblets brimming with rotating botanicals and citrus.

Our scene already offers tourist guides to salt cod and modernist commentaries on padron peppers. BCV is what we’re missing: a raucous Spanish cantina to keep you up all night.

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