Ruth’s Chris Moving, Trader Vic’s to Return, Master Chef Auditions Saturday

Catching up on news that is interesting, I present a deluge to match the rain outside your window.

According to the Portland Business Journal, Ruth’s Chris is moving to Pacific Center over at 851 SW 6th Avenue:


The Heathrow, Fla.-based chain will transform a 9,400-square-foot retail space into an upscale restaurant. The space originally was constructed for Zell Bros. Jewelers. Zell went out of business when its parent company filed for bankruptcy and never moved in.

Back in 2009 when I did the Steakhouse Showdown, Ruth’s Chris scored the worst on ambiance: “The first thing I noticed about Ruth’s Chris hit me before I had even opened the door. The entry seemed a bit worse for wear. Inside, it was more of the same. This is a restaurant that is clearly in need of a bit of fixing up; it is not nearly as impressive as it was 10 years ago. Neither is the crowd. As I walked to my table, I couldn’t help but notice the large number of people in sandals and casual wear. We felt like we were in the suburbs, rather than in a downtown steakhouse. As we sat down, I took in the surroundings. The inside is a bit dated and in need of a refresh. It is more brightly lit than it used to be, and with the rays of the long summer day streaming through the windows, it all felt a bit cheap. The long tacky mural painted across the back wall doesn’t help. The clubby feel found in many steakhouses is gone. This place has seen better days.”

Maybe they were saving their pennies for the move.

You can read the rest of the Business Journal article here

According to Portland Monthly, Both the owners of Chop Butchery in City Market, and the owners of Nick’s Italian Cafe in McMinville, are jumping into the charcuterie fray. This explosion of interest doesn’t seem to be specific to Portland, but all over the country. They will be competing with Olympic Provisions, Tasty n Sons (including the new retail branch in the old Carlyle building on NW Thurman), Higgins and Bluehour among others. Chop’s Eric Finley and Paula Markus plan to open in the Hub, behind my favorite breakfast spot, .


Meanwhile, Eric Ferguson and Carmen Pierano, chef-owners of the celebrated Nick’s Italian Café, have started construction on Fino in Fondo, a 3,000-square-foot curing facility in downtown McMinnville. Ferguson is a salumi fanatic, who learned the art in Umbria, then headed to San Francisco’s famed Quince, where he ran the butchery program and met kitchen mate and cooking talent Pierano. The couple, now married, took over Nick’s from Pierano’s father four years ago after working in small restaurants in Italy. Salumi was on the menu from Day One, and anyone who has been lucky enough to try it knows they’re playing for keeps.

Plans include a full wholesale line of classic salami, plus whole muscles, two types of pancetta (flat and round), guanciale, bone-in prosciutto and culatello, Italy’s “king of salumi”—all made from heritage Berkshire-Yorkshire pigs sourced from one Madras farm. And, of course, more goods on the menu at Nick’s.

Click here for a link to the whole article.

Trader Vic’s to return to Portland? So says Oregon Live. Once a fairly large chain with a branch in what is now El Gaucho, occupied the space from 1959 to 1996.  If you look at the brickwork on the outside south wall, you can still see remnants of the old decor. When I was a kid, one of my favorite places to go on my yearly birthday dinner with my dad was the Beverly Hills TV. Good memories. Tiki Central has a nice article on the original restaurant. From Oregon Live:


A local group led by Hering hopes to put a new Trader Vic’s in the Pearl District space formerly occupied by the Manzana restaurant at Northwest 12th Avenue and Glisan Street.

Hering admits he has no restaurant experience. But his partner in the deal, Portland developer Ben Stutz, does. Stutz co-owns Kelly’s Olympian bar and grill in downtown Portland and MotoPizza, a drive-through.

Several real estate sources said Hering’s group has signed a lease for the 7,900 square-foot building, currently vacant. Hering said that’s not the case. “We have a commitment on the space,” Hering said. “But we have outs. It’s based on certain conditions being met.”

You know I’m going to say it – A location that doesn’t exactly lend itself to the theme (even with lots of work), no parking and not exactly a strong track record, being opened by someone with “no restaurant experience”, with a formula that failed 12 years ago. Has Portland changed that much? I’ve got a bad feeling about this one. Here’s a link to the whole story.

Speaking of the O, their big review this week is Crush, a rather expensive, though award-winning restaurant, in Seattle. I’d never heard of the author – S.j. Sebellin-Ross, so I looked her up; she’s a marketing and PR person. Just seems weird that the Oregonian states they are going to focus on restaurants with more mass appeal – with attention being given to the suburbs – places for the common man, such as Taco Time. This is a suburb? A restaurant with mass appeal? They seem very confused over there.


You may remember my original post about the changes at the Oregonian. It got a boatload of comments. ExtraMSG followed through on the idea of doing a comparison between Taco Time and taco trucks. Guess who won? Snort. Fun read.


Portland Mercury’s new food critic, Tony Perez has been writing for them since early 2010, but his food writing started in earnest last month. The good folks at Eater PDX have more information about him “Tony Perez, a Tin House Books editor and sometime-Merc book reviewer, will take over the “Last Supper” column. In his inaugural Blogtown post, Perez describes a recent jaunt to Iceland, where he consumed a whale sandwich with lobster mayo: “My whale was — perhaps unsurprisingly — rubbery and tasted like a week-old steak that had been stored in fish guts.” A gift for description; makes me want to rush to Iceland. Welcome to the grinder, Tony!


Lincoln has announced a Sunday “industry night”. 10% off if you show your valid Food Servers or OLCC license.


Jacob Leonard is leaving Walking Man Brewing to work for Widmer.


From Le Cordon Bleu in response to my post about the closing of Restaurant Bleu, “Just wanted to let you know that our student-run restaurant, now called Technique, is actually open and running. You’re right, that we’ve decided to no longer enroll students in our associate degree programs beginning in February. That’s due to some anticipated federal regulatory changes. While we’re making this change to our educational offerings, we have no current plans to close our restaurants. Hope this helps clarify the situation for everyone.”
Technique. Hmm. Should we add it to our list?


The city council is serious about the whole food truck thing. They held a meeting last night to clarify the new rules and permit process. From Oregon Live,


“It’s a long road and it doesn’t always have a bright light at the end of it,” [Randy] Leonard said, adding that some of the illegal structures he has seen attached to the food carts would not likely be given permits because of structural issues.

To obtain a building permit, an owner of a structure must meet a slew of requirements, including having drawn plans of the structure’s site and floor plan. They must also provide proof that the building is accessible in accordance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and be reinforced enough to withstand strong winds and other elements. Owners of food carts with illegal structures can apply for building permits by visiting the BDS building at 1900 S.W. 4th Ave.

A choice quote from food cart owner Jeremy Davidson: “What’s frustrating to me is how much they say they want to work with us but at the same time their line is ‘you can try to get a permit, but don’t,'” Davidson said. “It’s kind of like they’re saying do it if you dare.”

Ping, Andy Ricker’s Old Town restaurant, has rolled out a new “noodlecentric lunch menu. Sounds good to me – perfect for this weather.


Black Pearl has replaced the Parker House in Washougal. From The Columbian,


The owners of a planned $5 million Washougal restaurant, the Black Pearl on the Columbia River, aim to take full advantage of waterfront views when the venue opens next spring.

They also will take advantage of the short supply of upscale restaurants to serve the growing population of well-heeled residents and corporate executive types in the Camas-Washougal area, said Russell Brent, project manager for Black Pearl on the Columbia LLC, the project’s local investment group.

“It’s very difficult to find corporate meeting space here. I’ve learned there’s a need,” said Brent, 49, who also will serve as general manager of the restaurant.

Now under construction on the site of the former Parker House Restaurant, the new venue’s ground floor will include meeting space for up to 80 people. The downstairs also will feature a bar with seats for 40 patrons and casual dining space spilling onto a landscaped outdoor terrace next to the river.

“We moved the building back (from the original Parker House footprint) to create outside space,” Brent said.

The restaurant’s second floor is designed with banks of glass siding on three sides, offering west-, south- and east-facing views, Brent said.

“We’ve framed Mount Hood and the (Columbia River) Gorge,” he said.

Check out the rendering. Washougal! Zounds!

Bon Appetit has listed Castagna as one of the national “top celebration restaurants”.  “Chef Matt Lighner uses the expected local ingredients (Dungeness crab, blueberries) as well as the unusual (green almonds, ferns, nettles), with dazzling results. 1752 SE Hawthorne Boulevard; 503-231-7373”


Naomi at Beast wrote to say she only has two seats left for the seven-course vegetarian dinner, but plans to have another one in January.


Lamb prices are going skyward! The latest, Cattail Creek.


This is the largest across the board price increase we’ve ever done and that disturbs me.

Since 1983 we have worked hard to produce the highest quality lamb possible. We rejected the traditional model of commodity pricing and the wild fluctuations inherent in the system in favor of consistent pricing that gave us a fair return for our extra efforts and stability for our customers. A few months ago there was an unanticipated 30% spike in the price of commercially grown (commodity) lamb. Initially, I ignored it as usual, assuming this was one more wild fluctuation and gravity would bring it back down. It hasn’t. In fact, credible analysts now see these prices holding for the next year or more. For the first time, ever, we are now in a situation where we could fetch more for our premium Cattail Creek Lamb at the local auction house than what we receive from our customers.

So how does this affect our farms? All of us have suffered during the current recession. We responded with improved efficiency, took in other delivery business, and finally resorted to price cutting (I mean sales) to keep our products on restaurant menus and moving off of retail shelves. Even though I said at the time we wouldn’t try to borrow our way out of the recession, our short-term debt mounted and, of course, costs have risen. It’s no longer tolerable that we work this hard while others are receiving more for a lower grade product.

And so we’re raising our prices. We have enjoyed your support and encouragement over the years. This increase is substantial and we are under no illusions that you will stay with us no matter what. Your response must be based on sound business and we understand that. Although we are hoping you can stay, we completely understand if you need to move to another lamb supplier or another protein.

I’m calling all of you this week to apologize directly.

I suppose if I was getting a price increase, this is the kind of notice I would appreciate. Classy! (No, I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way.)

Gordon Ramsay’s Master Chef: Season 2 is coming to Portland this weekend. here’s the casting information:


  • Saturday December 11th
  • 10am-6pm
  • Le Cordon Bleu
  • 600 SW 10th Ave, Suite 500
  • Portland, OR 97205

If you are interested, you’ll find more information here. They are searching for the “best home cooks in America”.

Good food/bad food over the last week: Clyde Common – terrible (!) lunch, great dinner. Go figure. Lousy lunch at Wildwood, great breakfast at Tasty n Sons. Zell’s Cafe still holds my heart for mostly sentimental reasons. One week of pretty good health, but now I’m back on the couch. Grrr…


Alex Yellan over at Serious Eats wrote a piece called “Behind-the-Scenes of the Pok Pok kitchen“. I like Serious Eats. Nice site.


Time to get your New Year’s Eve plans to me if you want your event to be included! I’ll write the post on December 18th. Here’s the submission form. A regular press release will probably be forgotten, so please fill out the form.


The Thanksgiving post got over 35k reads, so, new year’s traditionally busier night, is going to get more than that. Speaking of press, the PR site has doubled in traffic over the past year (still only 1000 a day, but growing). I know it’s been a bit slow, so I’ve moved good portions of the code to Amazon’s cloud. Faster now. Thanks for your patience! That being said, I keep getting notes about events happening the next day. Plan ahead – I post 9 per day to give everyone an equal chance on the front page, and they frequently get backed up a few days.

Speaking of holidays, I’ll be continuing to add to the private/special-event dining room list as long as I keep this site. You’ll find links to add your restaurant on the front page.

There’s more, but the dryer is buzzing, and I’m out of socks. When I get a bunch more news, I’ll blast you all again.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. hsawtelle says

    “We have a commitment on the space,” Hering said. “But we have outs. It’s based on certain conditions being met.”
    So, in other words, a lease.

  2. Irene says

    Can someone please clarify once-and-for-all who is taking over the old Carlyle space?  I have heard the venture attributed to both the (remaining) Olympic Provisions guys and John Gorham/TB/Tn’S, and I am getting thoroughly confused.  What’s the deal?

    • zaggy says

      Its OP…I talked to them yesterday at one of the distiller parties. The vast majority of the space is going to be production, with something like 900sq ft for retail. No line, but there will be an oven and rotisserie, so expect rotisserie chickens and schmaltz potatoes and the like. 40 seats, and expect some good cocktails. Production space opens supposedly in Jan, with retail not till “at least March”. I’m excited their coming to the westside…their concept works great for a quick stop for a cheap dinner type place, something that side of the alphabet district/pearl don’t have a ton of.

  3. Jon says

    “A location that doesn’t exactly lend itself to the theme (even with lots of work), no parking and not exactly a strong track record, being opened by someone with “no restaurant experience”, with a formula that failed 12 years ago.”

    Since when has parking been required for the success of a downtown restaurant? What are we talking about an Applebees on TV highway? The best restaurants dont have any parking… its either valet or street. Its the bad suburban chain restaurants serving Sysco food that have parking.

  4. Steve says

    Don’t even get me started on S.j. Sebellin-Ross.  All I ever learned about her reviews, I learned here:

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