Review: Le Pigeon

Refreshed 7/09

Le Pigeon

Almost since the day they opened, I’ve been hearing good things about Chef Gabriel Rucker and his restaurant Le Pigeon. I went for the first time a month ago, and have been going back ever since.

If you’ve been to Colleen’s Bistro, then you know the location. If not, picture the stretch of Burnside, just West of Doug Fir. Le Pigeon is hard to see, a small space squeezed in between other storefronts, but it’s worth taking the time to find.

The entire restaurant is made up of a large open kitchen, about seven farmhouse style tables, and a chef’s counter where you can watch the action. On nice days, there are a couple of tables outside. Some old chandeliers provide plenty of light, and with the matching vintage chairs, this is a quaint, charming spot. Le Pigeon is a place you’ll be equally comfortable taking a few friends, or a romantic date. Everything is local, organic, free-range ingredients. They use good glassware and good Laguiole knives. The wine list is excellent, with quite a few interesting choices. Right now the offerings are limited to beer and wine.

Chef Rucker, former sous chef of the now closed Gotham Building Tavern, has wanted his own place for some time: somewhere he could stretch his wings and experiment with out-of-the box thinking. It shows throughout the entire menu, all the way through the desserts.

Menu choices run the gamut, but many feature unusual combinations for Portland. Some are inspired and work perfectly. Others feel gimmicky, or not quite thought through. Still, there are many more hits than misses.

If it’s on the menu, don’t miss the marrow sandwich. It’s unbelievably rich and satisfying. Match this with a salad and you’ll have a great dinner. Sweetbreads with pickled strawberries are inspired; perfectly crisp, yet creamy inside, the sweetness of the strawberries singing a soft harmony. The cucumber gazpacho is a beautiful, refreshing green soup that tastes of summer, with a single perfectly grilled prawn in the middle. It totally works. A dish of squab is so rich you might think it is duck, until you remember it’s matched with duck fat-poached potatoes and marrow crostini. A totally classic and elegant dish, even if it is a bit of a pain to dig though those tiny bones.

One night I thought I’d order a boring entree like the fennel chicken with carrots. I was blown away by the perfect skin and masterful balance of flavors. The chicken arrives perched atop a addictive sweet onion confit, surrounded by carrots that made me think of the love my grandmother put into her cooking. I’d order it again in a heartbeat. The burger is excellent, a large patty of really juicy beef, though the thick ciabatta was somewhat annoying. Other than that, it is one of the best burgers in the city. Flat iron steak sounds boring, but when you cook it perfectly, lay it gently on a bed of truffle flavored greens, and top it with addictive semolina-crusted onion rings, it reaches an entirely new level. For the more adventurous, try the lambs tongue potato salad, or even the calf hearts. The times I’ve had them, it has been hard to find fault with either dish. Even the desserts can be stunning. Take, for instance, the bizarre sounding dish of sweet cornbread with apricots, topped with crispy bacon, honey, and maple ice cream. I’ve had it twice, and both times we sat there saying, “I can’t believe this is so good!” Likewise the berry cobbler; it tastes like a country backyard, bursting with summer. Having had a recent bad experience with basil ice cream, I was a bit hesitant to try it at Le Pigeon. What I got was damn near perfection, and a perfect foil to the cobbler’s berries.

There are, however, some problems. The foie pb&j is just what is sounds like, but didn’t really work for me. Take two slices of Franz white bread. Add thin layers of foie gras, peanut butter and jelly. While the foie gave it a rich depth, I felt the flavors were all slugging it out, and none of them really won. A salad of roasted beets, peaches, radishes, and watercress with peach cava vinaigrette also suffered from too many competing flavors, though on some nights it was better than others. I thought the radishes fought with the more subtle flavors, and slices of less than sweet peaches were not helped by a healthy dusting of salt and pepper. A “Pork and Beans” consisted of salty pork belly, with a so so onion aioli, and some average tempura beans. It was served on a cold plate, so the meat quickly chilled. Finally, an old bugaboo of mine rears its ugly head: lack of consistency. One night the beet salad was perfect, on another the ingredients weren’t quite as good, throwing off the whole dish. The steak, so good one night, fell flat a few days later, arriving somewhat overcooked, in a pool of oily separated sauce.

My conclusion? Like most new restaurants, this bird is still fighting to take wing. However, it is obvious the chef is inspired, creative, and talented. I think Le Pigeon is one of the most exciting restaurants to hit Portland in a long time, and even with the issues, I’m sure to keep returning. Brunch is served on weekends. I haven’t been, but the menu (at the bottom of this review), looks interesting.

  • Phone: 503-546-8796
  • Address: 738 E. Burnside St., Portland, OR. 97214 Google Map.
  • Hours: Daily 5pm-close
  • Website:

Le Pigeon on Urbanspoon

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. says

    Great write up- Just hope I can still get in for Brunch every weekend!!

    Just a shout out to Gabe, who is seriously one of the very nicest, most talented people I have ever worked with.

    Go say hi to him, he is a LOVE- and I wish him all the sucess he could ever dream of..

  2. Burgueil says

    thanks for the review. i’d love to hear more comments on the wine list. i do my best to keep the choices curious and entertaining, while still bein approachable and complementary to the food. if anyone disagrees, i would love to hear it, for i’m no expert just a passionate seeker.


    • Bruce says

      We had dinner there last Thursday (Jan. 22, 2009). Magnificent foie gras with duck confit in a perfect consumée, wonderful poussin with truffles. Beef cheeks really good, but to my mind the sauce was overly reduced and salty.

      The wine list is the best I have seen in Portland, hands down. Great choices, absolutely fair mark-up, and the ability to hop around with a glass here, a half-liter there, a split just for fun. Terriffic!

  3. heatherkiok says

    I’m so glad this place spiked your interest; I haven’t enjoyed a new place so much since Alberta Oyster opened. I think it makes the prospect of writing a review so much more interesting when the menu is creative and there’s some integrity in the ingredients and the cooking–though I understand and am glad you highlighted inconsistency–it’s good for the kitchen. And there’s so much they are doing that’s great, it’s just making sure that it’s consistently great all across the board. A tiny detail, I was happy to see the Laguiole bee on the knives, but they’re Sabatier’s version of Laguiole–the chef is quick to tell you this as well. They’re nice knives, but not so nice as the high-end Sabatier and Laguiole-it’s like ready to wear vs. couture. This is a small small thing, but a good distinction to make. That said, the knives are still very good knives, and a very nice touch. I like to run my fingers across the bees.

  4. Ellie says

    Hi Bourguiel (I assume you left out the “o” as a typo)

    For such a small, well-focused restaurant, I’d prefer to see a small, focused list. We felt as though it was diluted a bit, as it seemed to be trying to be all things to all people (French, Italian, NW, CA, Australia, Austria and more were represented on the list when we dined there.) Maybe small production French wines, given the style of the food. Alba Osteria is a great example of a restaurant that selects wines that are regionally based, and much of Andina’s wines reflect the food’s origins. An out-of-town example of a very focused list that matches the cuisine is the Slanted Door. Hey, you’ve got this very cool, SoHo type room, so why not push the envelope? Give the customers something different? I truly believe that consumers enjoy seeing a unique wine list, as long as it is supported by a knowledgeable staff. So many people in this town feel as though they “must” have that Sonoma Cutrer “Les Pierres” Chardonnay (just a random example) on their list, for fear of alienating a customer. WTF? Why not show them something new that actually enhances their dining experience?

    Being in the wine industry, I hope that you will take this with a grain of salt, as it’s hard for me to give an unbiased opinion of a wine list. But since you asked… (And no, I don’t call on you as a purveyor, so it’s not a Dixonian sort of thing.)

    Beautiful room, unique menu, enthusiastic staff, engaging chef… we’re looking forward to more good meals at Le Pigeon.

  5. Joe Dixon says



    Anyway, Gabe is doing a great job putting out great food. I’ve yet to get in there for dinner, but the few times I’ve been for brunch with friends has elevated Le Pigeon to “Favorite Breakfast Place” status amongst my peers. It’s nice to have a “white port coolie” instead of a mimosa, and that pork belly waffle… well, that was probably the single best breakfast I’ve ever eaten.

    Keep it up Gabe. I’ll see you tomorrow.

  6. Marshall Manning says

    Count me as another fan, although we’ve only been twice. We’ll have to hit brunch sometime soon, it’s sounds excellent.

    While Le Pigeon does buy some wine from the company I work for, I think they have a pretty interesting list for a small restaurant. I’d much rather have a shallow list with a wide variety of mostly interesting choices than another boring West Coast-only list that’s filled with wines that don’t match the food well.

  7. Flattail says

    Hours on here list brunch til 3 on weekends, showed up before 2pm and was told they were no longer seating – left very disappointed, hungry and a little cranky – ended up at Pambiche and had a great lunch with very good service.

  8. death dealer salad killer says

    i would follow gabriel rucker into the volcano’s inferno.
    i love his food, i cooked his food, and i miss cooking with him.
    a true natural, no school boy slouch know-it-all, Gabriel cooks with his heart and a sense of humor.
    if i were to overhear folks talking smack about him whislt in my cups at the bar, id take ’em outside and take an ass kicking just to stand up for an individual i truly believe in.
    keep it up Gabey, im proud…

  9. death dealer salad killer says

    oh yeah, another thing….
    you better believe I will be there after i get off work flipping eggs all day, my pits stinking, my arm hairs crusted with egg yolks, fresh out of my own brunch cage to drink a beer and eat a burger and watch my comrade work. sorry if you sit next to me, but i must have it now…The foodat Le Pigeon precedes my inevitable shower…its better than clean…its dirty…

  10. Laurie Rucker says

    I’m Gabe’s mom and would gladly sit next to you of the crusty arm hairs and stinky pits – or anyone else – to enjoy my son’s amazing cooking. Sadly, I live hundreds of miles away and don’t get the opportunity often enough. His dad and I are thrilled to read the great reviews and comments for Gabe and Le Pigeon. We’re eagerly anticipating our next visit to Portland and Le Pigeon. (FYI: Gabe is a natural talent; we, his parents, love good food but are only so-so in the kitchen). You go, Gabe!

  11. FoodGroupie says

    Had an excellent meal there. Got there at the opening and for a while, had the restuarant all to ourselves.

    Interesting menu with some unusual combinations, but it looks like the menu may have been a little more conservative/conventional than what the previous posters had experienced.

    Still had the maple ice cream/cornbread/apricot/bacon dessert. I’m a little ambivalent about it, dining companion loved it.

  12. a cook says

    great meal! kudo’s for serving me food worthy of a big ego but there’s no ego to be found here, just damn fine food and service.
    congrat’s to gabe and his staff.

  13. Becca says

    I had breakfast at Le Pigeon yesterday morning. I expected to have to fight a crowd to get a table, but the six tables hadn’t filled up by the time we left. I ordered a mimosa (generous – a splash of orange juice in an ample glass of sparkling wine) and the benedict (of course). I really liked the twist of the whole-grain mustard in the hollandaise (I’m a huge mustard fan). The poached eggs were beautiful and the potatoes were yummy if overseasoned – flavorful and soft, with some lively char on the outside.

    The music was a bit loud for a Sunday morning and the kitchen wizards don’t seem shy or reserved about the close quarters. I would love to try dinner there some time. Still kicking myself for never having made it to Colleen’s…

  14. Mobie says

    My husband and I ate there last night. The food was AMAZING! We had the beet salad, which was interesting but had too much orange ginger vinaigrette on it. The beef cheek bourguignonne melted in your mouth and the reduction sauce complimented the root vegetables nicely. The flat iron steak was cooked to perfection, lean cut but very tender. It was full of flavor. The only complaint was the long wait, it took us 1.5 hours to get seated. If you have to wait, you can get a drink at the Doug Fir Lounge.

  15. Bigfoot says

    We tried to have the same experience. We arrived well before 7:00 PM and were told that there would be a wait of 1-1/2 hours to eat at the bar. If we wanted a table, we were told that we couldn’t be seated until after 10:00 PM. We tried to make a reservation for a later night, but with only 4 in our party, were told that the policy was only to take reservations for 5 or more.
    This Portland trend of “no reservations” has gotten out of hand. I’m all for making a night out at a great restaurant a slow, enjoyable affair. Waiting in the cold or at a nearby bar is not a slow, enjoyable process. If we all refused to patronize these places, they would change. BTW, anticipating the concerns over no-shows and lost revenue, I’ll gladly put a 50$ per head charge on my VISA (applied to the meal if I show) in order to ensure the owner makes a profit.

  16. Food Dude says

    Moved this converstation here, as it didn’t really have much to do with Le Pigeon. Please jump over there if you have opinions about the whole reservations/no reservations question.

  17. Chambolle says

    It’s strange to me that, just like with Ripe and such, these long-winded discussions occur on threads about the restaurant of the moment. As in, the places that don’t need publicity get more publicity. This stopped being about le Pigeon a long time ago; but it keeps the place firmly entrenched in the readers mind. The same thing magically happened with any Hebbster thing: it would become a fifty-post argument about something unrelated. I don’t think le Pigeon has even been mentioned since around the mid-30’s.

  18. Elliott says

    I had dinner at Le Pigeon this past weekend and was only slightly impressed. I started off with the oysters and they were very dissapointing. They were served with pickled peppers that were not very good and the oysters just did not seem cold enough. The Beet salad was outstanding. Simple but good. Lastly, the entree was very dissapointing. I had the flat iron and ordered it medium-rare and it definately came rare and was cold in the middle. It was served on a room temperature plate that didnt help the steak any. I wont be going back again.

  19. IHeartEating says

    My husband and I have eaten here a few times and really enjoyed ourselves. The service and the wine choices were great. I’m totally obsessed with the bacon cornbread and maple ice cream dessert. To die for, but we took our brother and sister in-law here and they hated the dessert, so you see, some things are VERY subjective. That’s why you have to know that appreciation of a beautiful, artsy, uniquely portland restaurant is just that, every dish ingredient may not be the “perfect culinary delight”, but what it is, is local, sustainable, honest, real. While I’m at it, I think the wild rice w. my pigeon was one of the best things I’ve eaten, too, and when I told Gabe that I was obsessed with making the cornbread at home, he took me into the kitchen and let me copy the recipe. Now that’s a dining experience I can get behind.

    Thanks for the awesome food–we’ll be back!

  20. Food 100 says

    The food at Le Pigeon was ok. the guys in the kitchen putting their fingers throught their hair the entire night was not.
    Basic bistrot food nothing new or “best on Portland”
    Broken plate, no decor or ambiance.
    Come on Portland! we are supposed to go forward with or food and our restaurant not going back in time.

  21. BC says

    Food 100, you are right. It is just bistro food. But it is bistro food done right. Portland doesn’t really have any restaurants that are pushing the envelope as in bigger cities. However, I don’t think that the current market would support anything too avant garde. Le Pigion is just good food, which makes it good for Portland. Hopefully no one is comparing it to the restaurants of New York, San Fran, etc…

  22. Ania says

    I just ate there last night for the first time and definitely not the last! Probably the best meal I had in Portland so far and definitely the most creative deserts…not to mention the unique appetizers. EVERYTHING IS SUPERB…AND FUN AT THE SAME TIME. NOW THAT’S WHAT GOOD FOOD IS ALL ABOUT!

  23. Cuisine Bonne Femme says

    This is fantastic for Gabe. Unfortunately this means the wait for a table will now be 10,000 hours, as opposed to the current 1000 hours.

    Also, I fear it will attract a different kind of crowd – one that may not appreciate the current small set-up, wait times, limited menu, and the general atmosphere of East Burnside at night.

    However, this is nice publicity for Gabe and Portland in general. It’s nice to see people succeed.

  24. Pork Cop says

    This is what Pascal was talking about ..This is do or die time for Gabe and crew. How to deal with success…..and not alienate your core customers. It’s a toughie. I wish them luck.

  25. Bubbles McGee says

    I love the food at Le Pigeon. The first time we went for brunch, there was a drink that mixed sauvignon blanc with Orange Crush (I don’t remember the name). It was absolutely ghetto fabulous. The second time, it was no longer on the menu – did anyone else get a chance to try this? I’d love to see it come back!

  26. caponemang says

    Le Pigeon? Spot on. Just got back from there (Portland…I live in Vegas) and I had tongue salad(bangin), monkfish with beef lip and tempura squash blossom(on point), and the cornbread deal(def works)…well, I’m in the process of opening a restaurant back east and going here just inspired me soooo much. It’s so perfect that it’s real small and the plates were pretty straight forward. Just really interesting ingredients. KEEP IT UP.

  27. foieman says

    Le Pigeon is awsome. Keep up the good work Gabe! We dined there recently and had a great dinner. Who doesn’t love beef lip mac and cheese? One question, Where can I ,foieman, get one of those “In foie we trust” T-shirts you guys were sporting?

  28. Pigboy550 says

    Had dinner at Le Pigeon last night. Interesting taste combinations that were, mostly, very palatable. With a party of 4 (reservations for 6:15) we were seated almost immediately. Our waitress, Chevon (sp?), was upbeat, funny, and playful with a slight edge. I have read other reviews that indicated the wait staff were “snobby” and “rude”. I disagree. If you are the type that takes yourself and life too seriously then you should NOT go to Le Pigeon. They do EVERYTHING with a bit of edgy humor. If you take life with a grain of salt and can laugh at yourself and want a unique dining experience…GO, NOW!!!

    We had 4 “Starters” and moved on to have 5 “Entrees”. The highlights were:
    Beets, cucumber & lemon crème fraiche was light with a ton of flavor.
    Scallop, lobster mushroom baked chowder had a golf ball-sized scallop done to perfection. Very flavorful.
    Roasted corncakes, smoked trout & green beans were a bit on the “smoky” side for my taste, but another guest loved it. The fresh roe added a nice depth of flavor.
    Blood noodles, squash sausage & sherry: We weren’t sure what to expect with this one. First taste reminded me of turkey stuffing with noodles. Would recommend as a “shared” starter only.
    Beef Cheek Bourguignon was cooked perfectly (no knife necessary). However, I felt the sauce was a little too overpowering for the meat. I’d skip this dish for another if given a choice.
    Salmon, crab, cauliflower, tomato vinaigrette had precisely balanced flavors with large chunks of crab. The salmon was about 30 seconds over-cooked, but enjoyable nonetheless.
    Squash & Mozzarella Ravioli, peppers, olive oil is a nice dish to have as a “shared” plate. I wouldn’t recommend as a main dish. Peppers were nicely seasoned, but weakened the ravioli’s flavors.
    Cod, corn, chorizo, potatoes (Saving the best for last). Cod was cooked PERFECTLY. I have never had cod with this much flavor. Nice, buttery texture.
    Crème brule’ was wonderfully done with a perfect crust (Scorched, but NOT burned). Exceptionally smooth texture.
    Honey apricot cornbread with Maple ice cream & bacon: I read about this dish several times and had to try it. Would NEVER have thought of adding bacon to the dish and told Chevon this. To which she replied, “Bacon is the candy bar of meat”. Well said, Chevon. Cornbread was moist and not crumbly. Every bite was a flavor explosion in your mouth.
    All in all a wonderful experience. I’d go back again.

  29. JDG says

    1) It’s almost certainly spelled “Siobhan”.
    2) Gabe was sporting a t-shirt with crossed machine guns (I think) and the banner “Pidge Life” in Old English gangsta script on our last visit.

  30. SLH says

    We were at Le Pigeon last night. The food was amazing, some of the most creative we have had in Portland. The big problem however, was the noise. This was, hands down, the noisiest resturant I have ever been to. We were seated next to a family with screaming children ( the tables farmhouse style) and I could barely hear them scream. Walking out to Burnside traffic felt pastoral. Despite the great food I’m not sure I will be back.

  31. feedme says

    Screaming children at a restaurant are a no no! Parents should take turns walking them around the block so as not to disturb other diners. I should know I have a 6 and a 4. They WORSHIP Gabe, as do I! After seeing him cook at PFM some weeks ago they stood by waiting to meet him as if he were a rock star, telling him they ate everything he made and LOVED it! Gabe then invited them to come and sit at the counter and let him cook for them. Three weeks later that is exactly where we were, front and center. We had an AMAZING dinner while 6 ate and 4, after an app., somehow slept on my husbands lap. The vibe at the pidg is beyond fantastic! The noise level is like every backstreet bistro I have ever eaten in from Paris to Geneva to Frankfurt and beyond and noise just goes along with it… so dine later or bring ear plugs!

  32. Catherine says

    I had that maple-cornbread-bacon concoction over the summer and I’m still dreaming about it months later. Yes, this guy’s got skill, no question. Regarding the mention of brunch; I don’t think they’re doing it anymore.

  33. betty crocker says

    Here’s a thought…delicious food, not a stunt menu. Cheeks and belly and offal… YUM!!!! PDX isn’t France, Belgium or Spain…. it’s PORTLAND, We like our protein local, our produce sustainable fer christ’s sake! Wait staff with no clue about the origin or provenance of food products do not fly, my friend, at all. Here is a Portland perspective: Food is important here. It ain’t warm, it ain’t sunny. We like eats, we like our booze. In other words, we like to feel full and satisfied that we got our C note (for two) worth. I, for one felt unfulfilled. Cod and mackeral with leeks….uh WTF? Acidic, yes; olive oily, yes; delicious not so much. Beef Bougoinuine, it is what it is..beef cheeks in demi glaze…nuff said. So if no one ever cooked a meal for you in your life then by all means ENJOY!!!! Otherwise give grandma a big kiss and thank her for satisfying you hunger for homespun grub… cuz I promise grqndma cooked you a decent enough dinner whether you appreciated it or not.

  34. says

    on Navarre,

    went there last night, after driving in front of it for almost two years.
    service was terrible, food tasteless, and don’t get me started with presentation, one thing is simple food but anthoer thing is overcooked and flavorless food!!
    are they supposed to be a top restaurant here in PDX? ( got same feeling at Noble Rot )
    not going back, no way!!
    any comments?

  35. Terri says

    We took the inlaws here last week and it was absolutely wonderful. There’s no wait if you go early, I love the waitress, and the chef took a moment to talk to my father-in-law. Le Pigeon is great Portland food, and I love that the chef isn’t snobby or pretentious in any way. We’ll keep coming as often as we can afford to.

  36. amie says

    Tonight was my fourth visit to Le Pigeon. The food tonight almost rivaled the dishes I tried on my first visit a year ago: endive salad with blood orange and pecorino, egg noodles with truffles and parmesan, and duck with spinach, walnuts and raisins. Each dish had a depth and complexity of flavor that made me savor every bite. As it has been written many times in comments above, chef Gabriel Rucker works some special magic in that open kitchen.

    Sadly, I cannot say the same about the service. On my last two visits, my partner and I had the same server, who soured an otherwise perfect dining experience. We arrived at the restaurant early this evening, and found ourselves the first people there. We were promptly seated at the end of a table, right next to the door. As there was no one else in the restaurant, we did not see the cause for this (especially since we also had reservations). My partner decided to request that we be seated somewhere else, because we preferred not to sit next to the door. Our server’s response: “you’re behind the door, not next to it.” This was not said in a particularly kind tone. However, she brusquely gathered our things and moved us to a different spot. We noted, over the course of the meal, that the restaurant never filled up and no one ended up sitting in our former seats by the door.

    The meal passed relatively uneventfully, except for a rather terse reply from the server when we asked about the dessert options. I’m always surprised when a server doesn’t take the time to talk in more detail about the food offerings, especially at a place like Le Pigeon.

    I love the food at Le Pigeon very much, but service is an important part of a dining experience. The service I’ve received on my last two visits does not make me anxious to return.

  37. bluewater97201 says

    We had the most wonderful meal. Other then the eye rolling of the party next to us when we ordered our Foie Gras it was a terrific meal!

  38. Michelle Leigh says

    I ate here with a friend last week at the counter and requested the chef’s recommendations that evening. I believe I had the Duck Confit, and also a Halibut dish that isn’t listed on the above menu. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in my life… each bite melted in my mouth and stimulated nearly every sense receptor in my body. I can’t even begin to describe all of the wonderful flavors in those two little dishes, but I am ready to take every person I know to Le Pigeon to experience a menu that could rival many bistros in the great cities of Europe. I was expecting some pretentiousness, having heard about the hype of the place, but the service was excellent and waitstaff very nice and casual.

    Kudos to you, Gabriel and many congratulations on your much deserved success!

  39. Really says

    My husband and I ate here once before we moved to Portland. We ordered one of everything off the menu. As “Food Dude” says there are some hits and some misses but overall everything was really good. The service was great and Gabe was really nice. We sat at the bar and he chatted with us most of the night. I personally loved the Foie Pb&J but honestly I’m a sucker for anything with Foie. Haven’t gone back yet since moving here but only because we want to try as many places as possible. I do plan on going back one of these days.

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