This review has been replaced by a newer one. You will find it here.
At one time, Echo was one of those restaurants I really liked. An 1890’s building that once housed a brothel was completely renovated. Large windows spill light into the room from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. There is a nice bar area where you can sit, if there is a wait for a table. The owner, Tim Krawczuk, always seems to be there, either working the bar or expediting food. Echo was a great addition, helping to turn around an iffy neighborhood. Six months later I am back. Is it worth the trip?
When it first opened, the food was excellent. I became a regular, stopping in about once a week for vintage cocktails and good, reasonably priced food. Most of the newspapers in town wrote glowing reviews, and it became difficult to get a table any night of the week. Things must have been bright in the Echo world, but suddenly everything changed, and it hasn’t been the same since. Dishes lost focus and became overcomplicated conglomerations of ingredients. Friends called and asked how I could have recommended it to them. I stayed away for a long time but recently decided it was time to go back and see how things were doing.
My first return visit was on a Saturday night at 7:00. Unlike six months before, we were seated immediately – not a good sign. The menu has changed a bit from the early days as they take advantage of seasonal ingredients. Here are comments on some of the dishes I have had recently: Bruschetta Deconstructed – olive oil brushed toast with mushroom/garlic/parsley mix in a small bowl on the side to be spread on the bread. This dish was gimmicky…what’s the point? Done right, the mushroom-garlic mix will leave the bread crisp, so there is no reason to serve it on the side. The garlic and salt overpowered the mushrooms, which was a shame because they looked really good, but we really couldn’t taste them. A dish called Salmon Fillet Over Greens was a bit overcooked and just okay. The greens were crisp and fresh but had almost no discernible dressing. For $12.00, you would expect a bit more pizazz.
On the first visit back, I had Pan Seared Monkfish in Saffron Vegetable Broth. It was way too salty and not quite balanced. There was a nice saffron flavor but was missing something. Perhaps, it was because the fish did not absorb the broth, and served with a fork, it was hard to get broth flavor and fish at the same time. As my companion commented, it just doesn’t quite work. $16.00.
The Chipotle Ravioli Stuffed with Grilled Vegetables under a Southwest Style Hazelnut Romesco Sauce Topped with Sautéed Leeks and Cotija (whew!) was overly complicated and lacked depth. Compared to Gotham, the romesco here was a C-. Not balanced and too salty. There was nothing redeeming about this dish, another effort that just didn’t work. $14.00.
A Crab Cake Sandwich with roasted tomato and chili rémoulade, lettuce, tomato, and onion had the texture of a chicken burger, was somewhat dry and looked a lot like too much bread was used as filler. The side salad was just fine, but nothing special. $8.00
Recently, I had the Pork Chop with Apricot and Almond Liquor Reduction. The meat was nice and thick but again a bit overcooked with a rather pedestrian and overly complicated sauce. A nice blend of vegetables was served on the side, but the first bite was a salt-bomb. It tasted like they had been plated and then had salt thrown on top. Once I cleared away the upper vegetables, the others were nicely done. Mashed potatoes served under the chop were nothing out of the ordinary, and served too cold, only warm where the pork touched them. $14.00.
On my first trip back, out of two table settings, we had 2 dirty plates, 1 dirty fork, and a dirty knife. This did not recur on subsequent visits. Service was average at best. We were never asked if we liked our meals and had to wait with empty water glasses for refills. On another visit our entrée plates sat empty for almost ten minutes before they were picked up.
Echo has a great selection of vintage drink specials, though unless my memory fails me, prices have gone up a bit; most are around $6.00. With choices like a Cosmopolitan, Old Fashioned, Singapore Sling, and Mint Julep, it is like working your way through a bartending guide from the 50’s. Unfortunately, they tend to vary greatly depending on who is making them that night. Sometimes, the Dark & Stormy is perfect, a nice balance of ginger and lime, other times mostly lime with barely discernible ginger. Other drinks seem to vary from week to week, too. They don’t exactly have a heavy hand with their pours, but it is still fun to have some of these older cocktails.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to Echo. It is a convenient neighborhood restaurant in a nice building with nice owners who really care about the place. Go for a few drinks and the happy hour food when prices are considerably lower. Stick with the simplest dishes and you’ll probably be happy.
- Phone: (503)460-3246
- Address: 2225 N.E. M.L. King Jr. Blvd., Portland OR. 97212 Google Map
- Hours: Mon-Wed: 4:30pm-11pm, Thu-Fri 4:30pm-Midnight, Sun: 9am-11pm
- Happy Hour: 4:30–6pm, and after 10pm nightly. $10 off every bottle of wine SUNDAY nights.
- Website: EchoRestaurant.com
I have eaten at Echo several times since it opened. I have never been disappointed! The bartenders and servers are always friendly, cheerful, attentive, and cool! The food has always been wonderful. There are always new and tasty wines by the glass (always changing…). The cocktails are yummy! And the desserts too. And they have a great happy hour! The owner, TJ, is delightful as well.
I have never posted a comment/review for a restaurant before…but after reading the above review, I felt compelled. I have recommended Echo to many, many people…and they have all come back to tell me that they had an excellent experience.
Food Guy, maybe you should try Echo again…
Food Dude says
Thanks for the note. I will definitely check it out.
tim preheim says
I have to concur with Tracina, we ate at the Echo last night and thought it was wonderful, the atmosphere, the staff and the food all great. I too have never written a review but felt the need after reading the food guys comments. I had just log on to get the phone number for the echo to add it to my favorites list and could’nt believe his scathing and disappointing review.
Food Dude says
You must have missed this, even though it is in bold: “This restaurant has improved markedly since being sold in mid-2009. Two meals there have brought it much closer to what it was when it first opened. I’ll keep returning, and will do a complete update soon.” Remember, you are reading a review from 2005, and at least one owner (and multiple chefs) ago.
As a matter of fact, the review would have been posted last week, but I was waiting to see if the owner was going to get back to me on something. It doesn’t look like he will, so a review will be posted next monday
Yeah, Food Guy, get crackin’ on that new write-up of The Echo.
It was quite sunny today. Beautiful day for a ballgame. I accidentally shut the front door.
Food Dude says
Tracina, welcome to the site, and thanks for the update. Echo is actually on my short list of places to revisit, so I’ll be there in early summer.
Geoff Brown, Deephaven says
I must disagree about Echo. I had the salmon fillet a while back and found it excellent. I guess different nights can produce different experiences. Besides, I just like the atmosphere — somehow quaint, yet cool.
My wife and I had a very fine dinner there on our first visit, late in 2005. Last month we stopped in on a Sunday night, about 90 minutes before they closed and had an unpleasant time. It was hot, and there was no air conditioning, but that was okay. There were a handful of people at the bar, apparently regulars who were more interesting to the bartender than we were.
Although we were only ten feet from the bartender and right in front of him, we stood unacknowledged for quite some time before finally asking if we were supposed to seat ourselves.
At a table in the middle of the restaurant was a waitress, I guess, counting tips or something. She didn’t look at us, and we assumed she was off shift. We sat down and waited for someone — anyone — to acknowledge us, bring us some water, a menu… anything would have been nice.
After four or five minutes the waitress got up and went to get some menus — we hoped — but then she was gone for a long time. We tried to wave the bartender over, but he was either deaf and blind or purposely ignoring us.
We left, disappointed. They were probably just not interested in serving anyone at 8:30 on a Sunday night.
Not a great loss. There are lots of restaurants in this town, too many to fret over one that doesn’t care for business.
I have loved Echo since it opened, but I admit I’ve logged more hours at the bar working my way through the drink menu than in the dining room over plates of food! However, the few times I have eaten dinner there I’ve been mostly pleased, although the shrimp skewers we ordered on New Year’s Eve were overcooked to the point of tough chewiness. I’ve given them a pass for little things like that because TJ is such a delight and the space is so beautiful, and the one server I didn’t care for finally left.
The quality and (lack of) consistency of the food has everything to do with who’s in the kitchen, and from what I understand, the back of the house at Echo has a revolving door! I suppose it’s a common quandary: until they establish themselves as a dining destination, they won’t be able to attract solid kitchen talent, but without that talent, they won’t ascend in the ranks of go-to Portland restaurants! That’s a tough road to hoe, though, and I’m really glad Echo’s managed to stick around this long.
Paul Gerald says
I had their brunch on Sunday and enjoyed it. I wonder if anybody else has been there on a weekend and has some feedback.
The place had kind of a loose feel to it, which was at times welcome and, at others, annoying. Some of my party didn’t like the host carrying a toddler around while seating people, and the lack of a waiting area made it kind of awkward.
Also, I called on Thursday to tell them I had 6-8 people coming on Sunday, and they said, “Fine, we don’t take reservations, but just calls us Saturday night with a number, and we’ll set up your table.” So I called, gave them my name, and was prepared to grease a palm or two on arrival Sunday. Showed up 10 minutes early, they knew my name, and then they said it would be 30 to 45 minutes before we’d sit. Now what, I wondered, was the purpose of all those phone calls? Three of our folks left anyway — didn’t have the time or patience.
I was also wondering if anybody has sat outside; it was closed for the season when I was there.
Jean B says
My husband, daughter, and I had brunch at Echo on Sunday (11/5). We were disappointed, mainly by the small portions we were served. We spent $40 on breakfast for three, and none of us felt full when we left.
I had the veggie and cheese scramble (on this day, it was blue cheese and potatoes) with the cheese grits. Hubby had the daily frittata (sausage, thyme, and red onion) with a side salad, and my daughter had the zucchini-carrot bread French toast. We also ordered a short stack of the hazelnut-apple pancakes to share, because they just sounded too yummy!
When the food came, we were all disappointed by how small everything was! The scramble and the frittata both appeared to be two eggs, not three. The salad that came with Hubby’s frittata had brown spots in it.
The cheese grits that came with my scramble were delicious, but there was probably less than a half-cup of them. My daughter got four pieces of French toast, each about two inches across, four inches long, and an inch thick. The short stack was three (I know, it’s a short stack) smallish, undercooked pancakes. Hubby was still so hungry after his frittata that he wound up eating the whole short stack. Daughter and I did get tastes, though.
My daughter and I were both very happy with the quality of our meals, but the quantity was just too disappointing for any of us to want to return to Echo. There are a lot of amazing breakfast places in Portland serving good portions of great food for reasonable prices, but we didn’t find Echo to be one of them.
Last week I re-visited Echo Restaurant for the first time in well over a year; after I had learned that one of my favorite Portland Chefs had taken over the kitchen last fall; I was VERY impressed, and we had a most memorable and very enjoyable evening. I would recommend Echo to anyone, and plan on visiting again very soon.
I would like to immediatly call out FOOD DUDE and implore him to do a new review of this higly eccentric yet very quaint and enjoyable establishment. I believe that the foundation of any good resturant is a tested chef with a knowledge and a passion for food, and with the addition of Chef Paul, as well as an established location, and the test of time, Echo has once again become an excellent small dining establishment worthy of the highest praise. Chef Paul remembered us from when we used to dine at his last restaurant and even made an effort to come visit our table and briefly say hi. The owner TK was cheery and helped us pick out some early cocktails that fit perfectly into our night out. After seeing the dynamic between these two and the friendly atmosphere surrounding the entire staff I believe that this crew will continue together for some time.
Echo has gone back to only serving dinner and with the use of better quality ingrediants and a more consistant approach to presentation I believe that this is a solid dinner choice when a more intimate and less pretentious atmosphere is desired.
We started the evening with some house speciality drinks, that came in the most unusual antique glassware. I was impressed with the way in which they were presented and found it refreshing to see a new and unique style displayed. This carried over to the appitisers, Cream cheese, Filbert, and Spinach Stuffed Peppers, were the perfect start to our meal. For the entree I had the Grilled Pork Loin, cooked perfectly the way I had ordered it, and which was surpisingly not accompanied by a starch; instead it was accompanied by a copious amount of sauteed spinach which somehow seemed to balance the plate perfectly. For dessert I had icecream which I was delighted to find out was home-made.
The atmosphere was perfect the service was friendly and the food was excellent. I will be happily visiting Echo again and again.
Food Dude says
Okay industryveteran. Since you called me out, I’ll go by and have a meal. I don’t think I’ve been there for 9 months or so. The last time I was REALLY unimpressed, but I’ll check it out and report back. Thanks for the heads up!
Unquestionable, Echo has some of the worst food in Portland. Last Thursday the hummus was stale and inedible, and the stuffed peppers were at least a week old. Loved the decor and ambience, the cap-headed hipsters and their messenger bags sucking down mojitos at the bar, but the food, blech blech blech . . .
Food Dude says
Biabub is right. The Echo thread is getting a huge amount of new readers that they probably would rather not have. I’m going to move this to it’s own thread, so if you are about to comment, please wait a few minutes.
I went a few ago after much protest and thought the meal was good. Our server however, acted like he was out of his mind. He grabbed a menu off our table, giving it to another table, before my friend had looked at it. When I asked for plain water to replace the cucumber water, which nauseates me, the server just stared at me blankly.
I’ve only been here once, but the drinks were good. The food was average. I was very disappointed that the chocolate soufflé was actually just a chocolate cake with a gooey center. Another pet peeve of mine: mesclun. It’s so lazy, boring and almost always wilted.
On the strength of foodindustryveteran’s recent good review, we stopped in last night. It was an enormous disappointment. We will not be back. The green beans in the bean salad (more of a warm veggie side) were off, perhaps from having been in the freezer too long. The romesco sauce on the piquillo pepper starter was decent but the stuffing was not much more than cream cheese and the dish was something that should have been discarded as a menu item after the first time it was tried. The mac and cheese and the Strawberry Mountain beef salad were bland. I didn’t know you could take the taste out of Strawberry Mountain beef. We should have been tipped off when I made a comment about the fact that the menu listed two dishes with Strawberry Mountain beef and one with Cascade beef and the waitress had no clue when I asked curiously why they used beef from two different sources.
Jen & Scott says
The last post here is over a year old. Ownership changed in early 2009. Our first visit was about two weeks after the new owners took over. On our two visits to Echo the food, drinks and service were excellent. The first time, we tried the salads – the Asian salad was one of the better salads I have ever had. The offering with pears & bleu cheese was outstanding. We shared the mussels, which were fresh & tasty and the stuffed piquillo peppers — flavorful, silky & sinful. Nicely poured drinks come at a very reasonable price. Our second visit (this week) was equally satisfying. The fish special was a blackened cod (?) served with wild rice pilaf and sauteed veggies. The fish was perfectly cooked, and the pilaf & veggies were buttery and complimented the fish nicely. We will definitely return to Echo.
I want to echo (sorry, couldn’t resist) Jen & Scott’s recent review about Echo. I’ve been to Echo various times since they first opened a few years back. The drinks have always been outstanding, and the back patio one of the hidden gems of PDX, but the food quality wavered a fair amount last year (2008). Since the new owners took over a couple of months ago (nice people with a great amount of enthusiasm for their new project), the food quality has definitely shot back up, both for happy hour & regular evening service. They just introduced a $12 happy hour steak & frites combo that’s really damn good & a good value as well. And in my opinion they still have one of the best burgers in town. Also, they finally installed A/C, making the thought of sitting inside during the summer months a pleasant prospect instead of a sweaty chore.
If you haven’t been there in awhile, I suggest a 2nd look. And if you’ve not yet been, it’s worth checking out.
Does TK still tend bar?