Belgian Restaurant Coming to Portland

Sometimes a press release stands out from the crowd. This is one of those:

Bar owner Kelly Stewart and publican Jim Parker are teaming to bring Portland its first “all Belgian, all the time” bistro and bar.

The Belgian Embassy is slated to open in mid-November at 938 N. Cook Ave., in the big pink house that now houses Stewart’s PurpleTooth Lounge.

“I love PurpleTooth,” Stewart says, “But this location, this house, really cries out for something unique. The Belgian Embassy will be like nothing Portland has never seen.”

All beers at the Belgian Embassy will be Belgian-brewed or Belgian inspired and the food will come from classic Belgian recipes such as mussels, beef carbonnade and Belgium’s famed pomme frites. “We’re going to go all out, cutting  our own frites and doing the traditional two-stage frying,” says Parker. “We’re making every effort to make this as authentic a Belgian experience as we can.”

Parker has been serving Belgian beers since 1992 when he opened the Mountain Tap Tavern in Fort Collins, Colo. He was also one of the founders of Portland’s Oaks Bottom Public House and the recently opened Green Dragon Bistro & Brewpub, where three of the pub’s 18 tap handles are devoted to Belgian styles.

“I’ve always said Portland has some of the most sophisticated and adventurous beer drinkers in the country and we are one of the top markets for Belgian-style beers,” says Parker, who will split his time between the Green Dragon and the Belgian Embassy. “Lots of places dabble in Belgians, but up til now, no one has gone all Belgian, all the time.”

Parker and Stewart met when Stewart was scouting locations for PurpleTooth. When she first showed him the 1910 house on the corner of Mississippi and Cook, “my first thought was, ‘This would make a killer Belgian bar.’” Parker says. He inspired Stewart to feature shareable large-format Belgian beers in the upstairs bar of PurpleTooth. That touch was one of the lounge’s biggest hits and when Stewart and local beer writer Lisa Morrison hosted a women’s-only Belgian beer tasting in late September, she developed a deeper respect for Belgian beers and their compatibility with food.

“I’ve always been more of a wine person,” says Stewart, who named PurpleTooth for the effect red wine has on a drinker’s teeth. “But I realized that beers, especially Belgians, complement food rather than competing with it.”

The Belgian Embassy will feature nightly prix fixe multi-course meals, pairing each curse with a different Belgian beer. Or, patrons can order from an ala carte menu and choose their own pairings. The bistro/bar will start with four beers on tap and those selections will always be rotating, taking advantage of the growing number of Belgian and Belgian-inspired beers available in the market. The upstairs bar will also feature daily flights of up to four beers, each paired with an appropriate cheese or chocolate and daily happy hours featuring Belgian beer and food specials. There will also be a full bar.

The Belgian Embassy will be open Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight and Sundays 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. A Sunday brunch is in the works. The phone number is 503-517-9931.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Mumonkan says

    can this be for real? as a belgian-blooded portlander living only a few blocks away, i dont know what to say.

    maybe this will answer my question as to whether there are actually any other belgians in this town. haha

  2. says

    Not sure if there are any other Belgians in Portland, but I can state there are some true Belgian beer and Belgian food fans here (yours truly included). It will be great if they can pull it off.

  3. livetoeat says

    Several years ago I had a fabulous beer in Hood River. It had a hint of banana and clove. I have been trying to find that beer ever since. Someone told me it might be Belgian. Anybody know?

  4. says

    I would go to one of the bars in Portland that specializes in Belgians (isn’t there one on Belmont? or the Morrison Hotel) and ask them. Stumptown downtown also has a big selection and used to publish a little guide with detailed descriptions.

    My guess is you had a Gueze of some sort. They can get pretty complex like you described.

    Belgians are a whole new and big world of beer for many and I think we are just starting to really discover them in the States.

  5. nate says

    I’ll admit that I know very little about Belgian cuisine, but I do love my Belgian beers, so I’m looking forward to this.

    livetoeat: Belmont Station out on SE Stark has an excellent Belgian beer selection. For bars serving bottles, Blue Monk on Belmont has several bottles as well. As does π-rem, a great little underground gallery/lounge on NW 4th and Glisan. For draughts, the afore-mentioned Green Dragon (9th and Belmont) is great with its three dedicated Belgian taps, and the Horse Brass (45th and Belmont) usually has a few too.

  6. steve says

    Are they going to have separate rooms for the Flemish patrons and the Walloon patrons? Otherwise they’ll have fights breaking out.

  7. mczlaw says

    Back in my drinking days, I recall a Belgian-style white beer from Austin TX that was stellar.

    Now, I’d be pleased with a nice waterzoie soup plus frites with that yummy egg mayonnaise I first encountered–with astonished delight–in Holland, 1978.

    –mcz

  8. Mumonkan says

    the flemish and the walloons will get along just fine if a dutch person shows up.

    i only wish it had been open when my dad visited… well, i hope its going strong when he gets back out here in spring.

    also, something for sing-along night?

  9. oldbaldfart says

    Mumonkan, there are definitely some Belgians living here (we even have a Belgian Consulate in town) and some of them have been helping us with old family recipes. Feel free to shoot me any favorites you would like to see, as our menu for the prix fixe dinners will change weekly and we will always be looking for new dishes.

    Mczlaw, that was Celis White you are thinking of. Pierre Celis, the founder of the brewery is the former owner of the de Kluis Brewery, makers of Hoegaarden, which just happens to be on our opening tap list. And, yes, we willhave waterzooi and our frites will be hand-cut, and double fried — in lard, the Belgian way.

    Livetoeat, the beer you had was likely a Bavarian weissbier. Some likely candidates would be Paulaner Hefeweizen, Spaten Franziskaner or Schneider Weiss. A few local breweries also make traditional German weiss beers, as opposed to American hefeweizens that have none of the yummy banana/clove esters.

    Belgian witbeers, like Hoegaarden, have more of a coriander/orange peel character.

  10. ciaofun says

    There’s another Belgian wanabee bar/restaurant called North 45 Pub on NW 21st, just north of Glisan. They have about eight variations on moules frites and about six Belgian beers in bottles only. Unfortunately the beers are of the “usual suspect” variety. There are also a few micros and imports on tap.

    It’s comfortable and welcoming.

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