By Charley Michaels
God, I love and hate eating out in Portland. Would hate to run a restaurant even more. A Yelp review (names withheld):
Upon entering the ambience was warm welcoming, and lively, but once we were seated it was evident that the noise level was too loud for comfort. Next set back: service was slow. Finally we ordered our wine, and then sat for quite a while with it before food orders even taken or bread offered.The concept here is small plates meets bistro style meets localvore. Waiter recommended we order three plates each, but at +/- $12 per that’s pricey. We ordered four between the two of us. At long last food arrived. High concept composed large plates. Food is tasty, but portions are tiny. It seems money is being spent on extraneous items like the extra large plates (why wash so many per serving!!!) and cotton towels in the wc…… a hot air drier is cheaper and more sanitary! I’d rather pay for good food than pretentious extras. Hope they get it right.
Which got me to thinking. To succeed in the Portland restaurant world, you must meet at least these five requirements:
1. Place must be very quiet, no matter how many seats or customers in those seats. Otherwise, your place will be too noisy and, therefore, uncomfortable for the locals. You should be able to hear your neighbor’s conversation. Music is OK, but it should be bland enough to go unnoticed except by the occasional techno, jazz or easy listening devotee.
2. Serve lots of bread–and never charge for it. Bring out a big heaping basket as soon as your West Hills customers are seated.
Liberally refill. Charging for bread is considered gouging in Portland, never mind that you don’t get it for free yourself.
3. Service must be lightning fast. As soon as the bread is dropped, get drink orders, and dinner orders too if requested. Drinks should be served no more than 2.5 minutes later. First course should come out within 7.5 minutes thereafter. Entire meal–exclusive of dessert and coffee which most will not order anyway–should be served and cleared within 45 minutes. On the other hand, diners should never be rushed to depart, even if hanging around for an hour or more after finishing the last morsel of food or sip of coffee and even if there are lots of others waiting. If there’s one thing Portlanders hate, it’s being rushed. If there’s another thing, it’s waiting. Hmmm…
4. A full-course meal should never cost >$25 lest your restaurant be labeled “pricey” by the self-proclaimed “foodie” hordes and relegated to special occasions (i.e., when someone else is buying).
5. “Frills” of any sort are not permitted lest your restaurant be labeled “pretentious” by the self-proclaimed “foodie” hordes and shunned unless The Oregonian or your favorite blogger says the airs can safely be overlooked. Frills do not include comfortable chairs which are required to accommodate a leisurely evening of camping at your table.