You’ve probably passed by the Hoxton Hotel (read more about it here), that leviathan at the entrance to Portland’s Old Town right near the Burnside Bridge, at some point over the last two years. On Monday, November 12, the Hoxton finally opened, along with Submarine Hospitality's ground-floor Mexican restaurant, La Neta, and we took a peek at the menu.
Johnny Leach, the chef behind La Neta, is best known in Portland for Chalino, another ambitious Mexican spot that fizzled after a short run on North Fremont. Leach also briefly worked the line at Clyde Common, and was one half of experimental Stray Dogs pop-up before Peter Cho left to blow the doors off with Han Oak.
Looking at the first menus for the 70-seat La Neta, you can see a lot of Chalino’s DNA: three bright salsas (molcajete, verde, and chipotle-tamarind); a halibut ceviche with Seville orange, carrot, and habanero; and hibiscus-marinated beets with queso fresco, are all callbacks from Chalino’s menu in some form. The main difference between the two restaurants (apart from the obvious challenge of cooking for a scaled-up hotel) is that things look less eclectic and globally inspired, instead more locally focused.
Expect Pacific Northwest sourcing galore, from Ayers Creek beans to fresh Mexican cheeses from Don Froylan. Another notable name? Masienda, an heirloom masa company that’s been making waves at the country’s top Mexican restaurants. A custom organic masa blend will go into La Neta’s tortillas, which side all of the large plates, roasted chicken with mole coloradito to beef cheeks in adobo, annatto sopes (chorizo rojo, pinto beans, queso), enmoladas, and tlacoyos (football-shaped masa patties).
Breakfast and lunch bring a Mexican take on avocado toast with “guacamole toast,” whipped with cilantro and crema, and customizable with everything from cured salmon to fried egg. You’ll find the requisite huevos rancheros, “nacho” Caesar salad, and a hambuerguesa, but also more playful chilaquiles divorciados (with mole, fried eggs, and tomatillo salsa) and cinnamon churro waffles.
Cocktails, too, go in a playful direction—especially the day drinking menu, which includes the Cereal Number, with cornflakes, lemon, pecan, gin, saffron and yogurt (it could work!), and a tequila cold brew sipper with ancho reyes. (Evening concoctions will run you $12–14.) A house agua fresca program kicks off with celery root and jicama.
And that’s just the main dining room. Leach is also in charge of the Hoxton’s rooftop taqueria, Tope (mezcal-focused cocktails, beef tongue tacos), a nameless basement bar serving exclusively Asian, rice-based drinks and American-Chinese food, and a ground-floor coffee bar with Mexican pan dulce, breakfast pastries, and future breakfast tacos. Phew.
If Leach delivers on even half of this crazy-ambitious hotel dining operation, it’ll be one to watch.