To see the space that once held Wildwood—one of Portland’s most iconic restaurants—reinhabited is kind of like visiting your childhood home to see a new family living inside. Happily, the people cooking in the old Wildwood bones, now a neighborhood cocktail spot called Bar West, have built a fresh, modern space with remarkably approachable food.
Bar West is actually just Wildwood’s original bar space, a 40-seater in blond wood, curved archways, and muted tones; the rest of the former restaurant is reserved for private dining and cooking classes. The bar shakes up habit-forming cocktails, mostly creative takes on classics as reimagined by noted barman Brandon Josie. The Toki & Savory, a highball fizzing with Suntory whisky, salted plum, and “maitake mushroom soda,” has junk food levels of sweet-salty-umami that will get you into trouble, fast.
The kitchen is helmed by young chef couple on the rise Lucian Prellwitz and Morgan Deeks. The pair met at Ned Ludd; now they sweat it out together in the tiny West kitchen every night, with only a few part-timers and externs for help.
You might dismiss the slim menu as unambitious on first glance. It’s a fairly simple list of west-side-approved comforts with a distinctly 1990s Zefiro-Wildwood-Paley’s vibe, chicken-liver mousse to hazelnut-laden salads to flourless chocolate cake. But that’s intentional: Prellwitz and Deeks are cooking their nostalgic go-tos, with seasonality at the forefront.
The best things so far make use of Wildwood’s old tandoor oven, still swallowing applewood logs after all these years. Smoky beets sit in a brown butter–curry spice slick that lends a gentle, complex heat to the tender roots. A huge mound of fall-apart short ribs hunker in a red wine reduction that seeps into McDonald’s-caliber fries. Spaghetti a la chitarra, a tomato-butter-sauced ode to Italian legend Marcella Hazan, is mainline comfort.
There are still kinks: salt levels fluctuate, a number of doughy “focaccia” toasts were singed beyond healthy levels, and a recent confit chicken leg was overcooked. And a few callbacks from past decades might not warrant resurrection, like that dense, brick-like chocolate cake—even if it is zhuzhed with red-wine cherries.
To light the burners in one of the city’s most hallowed and recognizable kitchens is impressive enough. But Bar West cooks a menu that coddles the neighborhood’s less adventurous crowd and hooks nostalgia-hunting food hounds. For that, it’s already earned its keep.