Updated 9/22 – confirmed – Apizza Sholls to expand into space next door. Also confirmed Sous Chef has left Balvo.
Under the “What Were They thinking?” Willamette Week (link now bad) points out what has to be one of the worst restaurant ideas ever. Take a vegan restaurant. Plunk it down way out on St. Helens Road. Give it a website that takes a LONG time to load (don’t even try this at dialup – don’t they know many vegans use dialup?). Write the site so it will not only alienate vegans, but non-vegans alike too. Add music to the site (don’t get me started). Make most of the links not work. Finally, give it a pirate theme. Avast Ye Mateys!
In 2004, Anthony Demes and Maura Jarach transplanted Couvron, their French restaurant, to New York City. Apparently, it didn’t work out, so they closed in winter of 2005. Now I’m hearing whispers they are back in town, looking into opening a restaurant.
There are always lots of rumors going around. Sometimes, I have the most fun taking lots of little bits and pieces from different sources, and trying to put them together. Sometimes I’m right; sometimes I’m wrong. Keeping that in mind, let’s speculate.
Back in July 2006, I reported “Now that Tommy Habetz (Gotham expat) is on board, Apizza Scholls is expanding. The new endeavour will be called The Pork Store.”
Suppose Brian Spangler, owner of Apizza Scholls, decided against opening the Pork Store, and decided instead to expand the seating at Apizza. CONFIRMED What would Tommy Habetz do? I can’t see him making pizzas. I can’t imagine him being happy. Hmm…
Suppose the sous chef at Bruce Carey’s venture, Balvo, decided she wasn’t happy there, and quit. Hmm…
Suppose a week later, Bruce Carey was running around town telling people that he had found a new chef for Balvo – “a name everyone in Portland would know“. Hmm…
Certainly gives one something to think about. If it all adds up, you heard it here first. If it doesn’t, I never said a word.
In the same July 06′ news issue, I talked about 1001, the new venture by the owner of Tabla, on the SE corner of The Henry Building in the Pearl District. Peering through the door, I’d say they are spending good money on the space, with a second level being added inside. I’ve also heard they will be opening the Armory Cafe, in the Armory Building when it reopens as the Portland Center Stage. Look for 1001 to open in…
October November. Hope they aren’t getting stretched too thin. I’ve heard a few rumblings lately that the food at Tabla has slipped a bit. I haven’t been back to verify this myself.
Everyone seems to be calling themselves a “gastropub,” a British reference for a public house that specializes in high-quality food.
Now comes word that the large restaurant opening in the Clyde Hotel building on Stark Street will go by that name. Restaurant manager of Castagna, Nate Tilden is reportedly involved in the business venture, with development by the same person responsible for the makeover of the block that houses Pantenegra, and St. Honore Bakery. I detoured through the neighborhood, and got a look inside last week. It’s still a long way off. It will be called Clyde Common
The old Epicure location on NE Broadway (think Lloyd Center area) has been completely renovated, and is ready to reopen as The Old Market Pub. I peered in the windows a few days ago, and was impressed by all the changes. An old barn door replaces the old entry. The new signs are up, people are scurrying around, and it looks like it could open within the week. Judging based on looks alone, this place will be a neighborhood hit. They also advertise they are kid friendly. Thanks to our Lloyd Corespondent, Betsy, for reminding me to go by. Yes Betsy, you are in charge of making sure we don’t miss anything in that area.
While I was in the area, I walked past the old Sukhothai location, which disappeared almost overnight. It is being completely gutted. No word if it will be replaced by another restaurant.
The American Cheese Society Conference this summer was so successful, it started making people think. Should Portland have it’s own cheese festival? Apparently, the collective thinking is yes. Look for “Wedge” cheese festival, towards the end of next September.
Somehow, I forgot to mention this little tidbit from Willamette Week. Simpatica Dining Hall will be hosting “Matthew Stadler’s Back Room“. Remember him, the “In-house writer” from the late Gotham Tavern. I’m just going to sit here and be quiet.
From the same Willamette Week, comes news of Tom Hurley. He “is working up some major menu changes at his eponymous local restaurant. Chef is moving away from teeny-weenie plates toward full-sized appetizers, entrees and desserts…” There have been so many rumors about this guy over the past year. He’s closing his restaurant. He’s opening a restaurant in Seattle. He’s moving to New York. I guess not. As far as I know, he’s still on disability from his injury with the Portland Fire Department. Maybe it’s too good a thing to risk leaving town… I don’t know. I refuse to speculate.
Sir Loins says
Couvron, haha! I ate several courses of their obscenely expensive, highly ornamental food once. It tasted good, but the most memorable thing about it was the way it looked and how much it cost. I hope Demes and Jarach aren’t planning Couvron part Deux.
As for possible changes at Hurley’s, I’ve already eaten what will likely be the most expensive dinner of my life at Couvron, and I’ve decided that it ain’t worth the price, no matter if the plates are small or large.
My wife and I celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary (15th I think) at Couvron. Service was excellent, the best I’d ever experienced food was great, but this was almost 10 years ago and my palate has changed radically since then. It was, as Sir Loins points out, the most expensive dinner I had ever enjoyed anywhere in the world.
I find it interesting that the Couvron concept didn’t work out in NYC. Seems that most “high-end” French restaurants in NYC are associated with a name-brand chef such as Jean Georges Vongerichten or Daniel Boulud. I’m guessing the “Couvron NYC” was too small for NYC but too big for PDX.
I hope there will be a “Couvron-lite” in Portland, a French bistro similar to Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, CA. We have Carafe and the too-noisy-but-good Le Bouchon. There is room for another! Maybe Brasserie Montmarte part Deux?
Classic Girl says
Does anyone know whatever happened to Charlie Zorich, the owner and chef at Epicure? Everytime I see reference to Epicure, I wonder… Back in the NW days, at the former St. Cupcake location, I loved his food.
Sir Loins says
If FD or anyone has dinner at Tabla anytime soon, I’d be curious to know what you think of the service, which went from bad to awful over the the last three times I dined there. I was a regular — and a nice, polite, easy-to-please customer — but my last time there was pretty much the last straw.
I love their cooking, but Tabla’s chef/owners are going to have to get serious about service if they want their growing empire to stick around.
Thanks bro. My eyes appear to be working just fine, thank you, and no problem with MY memory. Ah well. I’d heard that men age faster than women, and this must be just another indication, seeing as we come from the same root stock. But don’t fret-you’ve had some good years.
Does anyone know about the new space undergoing a high-end renovation on the west side of Interstate between Alberta and Killingsworth? I was running past it the other day and stopped to read the public notice. It was an application for a liquor license by “Procrastination, LLC”. I watched them clean up and pour a concrete pad in the outdoor area, which makes me wonder who wants to eat or drink outside right next to Interstate. A few bloggers have mentioned the building, but no one seems to know what’s going in.
Also, any idea who Robert McArthur is? My best friend lives a block away, and is really looking forward to a restaurant within walking distance that isn’t the Fishwife.
My mailman just delivered the October issue of Gourmet Magazine, its annual restaurant issue, which lists what it calls “America’s Top 50 Restaurants.” Two Portland dining spots made the list: Higgins, in 28th place, and Paley’s Place, at No. 46. Both are new to the list this year. (For comparison purposes, the issue also reprints its 2001 best-restaurant list. In that one, Wildwood was in the 41st spot and Cafe Azul was 47th.)
Couvron may have been expensive, but I defy anyone to name a 7-course meal for a better price. The quality was excellent, the service generally wonderful and the creativity rarely matched in Portland. Especially dear to my heart, they even did a 7-course vegetarian dinner every night. Now all we have left is sentimental favorite Genoa, which bored us enough I doubt we’ll ever return.
Classic Girl, Yes, I know where Charlie is!! It’s my great pleasure to have him on the staff at our newest Cedar Hills Crossing store (New Seasons Market), where he is one of our Sous Chefs in the Deli. Come say hi
Food Dude says
Carlo – thanks for the tip. I haven’t gotten my issue yet.
Emily James says
Ahoy, Stephen the Vegan…have we got a place for you! Just kidding. That website is truly amazing–probably the one time vegans & non-vegans can agree on something. It’s so awful, I might actually have to go there. is there such thing as a vegan strip club?
The Pirate Tavern site has nothing to do with food, and everything to do with how proud the designer was he could render an avatar “babe”.
I mean really, how many vegans (or anyone for that matter) wander around sporting kevlar (?) and what would they be doing with a sword like that if they are against hurting animals?
Avast ye indeed!
Was Couvron that expensive? It may have been, I can’t recall. What I do recall was an excellent meal and the best service I have ever received. My only negative memory was the complete overuse of ring molds for every course. We both recall every single course being round and towering.
One particular evening we went for my mother’s birthday. She declined dessert, so they brought her a little plate of cookies with a candle and the entire dining room sang happy birthday. If this happened at a TIG Friday’s, I’d have hated it. But, here it felt warm and very nice.
WooHoo – I’m the “Lloyd Correspondent” now…!
(Best non-defamatory title I’ve been given in a long time, thanks.)
A few other tidbits of note from the area: Good Eats (which went in where Lagniappe was) is now gone, and there’s a For Sale sign in the building.)
Also shuttered – Nothing But Noodles, in the old Irvington Market space that now houses Sushiland, Panda Express, and the soon-to-open Segafreddo. I predicted a dire fate when it opened during the height of the low-carb craze; I saw nothing to suggest the inevitable return to carbs would send guests scurrying in through their doors after one dismal visit.
Bigfoot–Couvron had a 7 course meal for $75 with wine flights for an additional $50 (as I recall). I remember going to a special dinner there on New Year’s Eve, 10 or so courses for, like, $150.
Every time I went into Couvron it was packed. Granted, at $75 a head, we did not go regularly. But on the few visits that I had, it was a small space that was always full. In that location, I can’t imagine rent was high (in fact, I think they lived above the building). Why did they close? Greener pastures?
I think this is a concept that could still work for them on a limited basis. Meaning, that other options would have to be offered in order for a restaurant to succeed.
aghast there y’ pantaloons. I’d be goin to hunt for menu treasures this very afternoon. Robert Newton be with me for translation and I be powerfull hungry for pirates booty.
Hope I don’t yargh.
so wrong. so sad. at other peoples pain i laugh. This has me crying.
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Why is that Irvington Market area so lame for dining? It’s like being stuck in some mid-western, semi-upscale shopping mall complex. Newport Bay? Panda Express? Pastini? Applebees? You’d think with the income demographic in nearby Irvington there would be a little more locally owned and decent choices. It bums me out.
That may have something to do with the fact that it is much easier for a chain to open up than a locally-owned independent business. There may be a lot of money in Irvington, but it’s well documented how dangerous financially it is to open a restaurant. I don’t think a lot of the fiscally smart people of Irvington would be too interested in taking that kind of chance.
Dave J. says
I don’t think a lot of the fiscally smart people of Irvington would be too interested in taking that kind of chance.
I think CBF was saying that the neighborhood would seem to have a lot of people who would patronize such places, not own/run them. And I agree–for example, my parents, who live in Irvington and are comfortably retired, are forever driving all over town to go to their favorite restaurants, and are bemoaning the lack of a Higgins-esque place right nearby. I don’t know what the deal is with that, but the neighborhood seems unable to support a quality bistro type of restaurant.
And, yes the preponderance of chains is annoying–my guess is that a combination of expensive leases (pricing out the locals) and a poor success rate (thus excluding/worrrying the independent types who would be likely to open a quality restaurant) is to blame. I think most of the restaurants are aimed at workers in the Lloyd district and patrons of the mall rather than people who live in the hood.
Food Dude says
Has anyone ever opened a high-quality restaurant in the Lloyd area? I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Somehow, the East side, specifically lloyd and the 82nd corridor just don’t lend themselves to it.
Of course Adam Sappington is opening his place around Stark and 70th (I think). It will be interesting to see what he does with it.
High-quality? Yes. Upscale? Not really.
Yuki was one of the better Japanese restaurants in town when it opened, and for a few years thereafter (but seems to have declined as of late). Before Yuki, it was All Y’alls BBQ, which really was the best BBQ in Pdx for the year it was open. We really liked Pastini when it opened, but then the Atkins diet hit and it fell off our regular list and we just haven’t been there in a while (and in the meantime, Sal’s opened). Before Pastini, the location was Metronome Cafe which was probably one of the more adventurous places for the neigborhood. Paparazzi Pastaficio was fantastic; Sukhothai was great; Blue Nile seems to be highly regarded; all are a little farther east than would rightly be considered Lloyd District though. Cadillac and Milo’s are perennial favorites. Then there’s the revolving door that has been Rustica, La Prima, Epicure, and now Old Market Pub.
Even though they are just a block apart, NE Weidler clearly attracts the chains/franchises while NE Broadway is home to more local establishments (which apparantly tend to fail at a rather alarming rate).
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Yes, Dave J. I was more curious about the financial ability and interest in the neighborhood residents with regards to supporting more interesting, locally owned, and higher end establishments in the area. With all the little start up restaurants in town (lower Burnside, who would have ever thought that would be a destination dining area?), why not Broadway/Weidler? Rents can’t be any higher than SE and there is a whole NE population that could potentially support them.
I am proud to say I have never eaten at a Newport Bay or an Applebees. I have eaten at a Panda Express and the sad, greasy little sushi-go-round in the Irvington Market. I once worked at Grand Central Baking (in Seattle), but it was enough to turn me off to that place forever. Blue Nile is ok. They sure like their microwave though, so I wonder how long things have been sitting in the cooler.
Anyway, I like Yukis for some items. Their sushi tends to lean heavily towards the fried-things and cream-cheese filled abominations, but I like their noodles. I had a pretty decent Nabeyaki Udon (one of my favorite cold weather dishes) there last week. The egg was perfectly poached (not overcooked like they manage to do at Koji’s) and they brought the tempura shrimp on the side so that I could add it when I was ready so that it wouldn’t get soggy. It was a nice attention to detail.
I’m sure the mall has a huge impact on which restaurants are attracted to and do well in that area. It’s too bad the excellent local shopping on NE Broadway doesn’t attract a different crowd which would support more independent restaurants.
Jeff, I used to live just a scant few blocks from Paparazzi, and was so sad when it closed. While the food at Colosso can be great, the inconsistency and service-with-a-sneer made it a pale substitute.
I had so many good dinners at Paparazzi over the years it was open on NE Broadway. I remember hot summer evenings before they installed A/C, eating hot food in a hot restaurant that brought back memories of visiting my relatives in Tuscany on a warn summer day.
Paparazzi’s owners burned out after opening the westside location and then folding under the strain of two locations. Jopa emerged from the westside location, owned by Paparazzi sous chef Joe.
Nick and Sara Medici took some time off from the Paparazzi experience, swearing never to do it again, but you knew they might be tempted. They moved into the old Melting Pot location in Raleigh Hills and opened La Prima Trattoria, which is proving to be very popular, especially on Thursday Jazz nights.
going anon here says
On Weidler, the traffic seems to move faster than on broadway. There are fewer parking spaces as well. (and on Halsey, they’re metered! right next to all that free mall parking? – someone explain that!!!)
All those factors make it pretty terrible for any business.
I’ll out myself as a currently non-dairy/egg pescatarian and say that I might check out this vegan bar after I see what the menu is.