Portland 2010 – the normal amount of restaurant closures
None of these restaurants closures are a big story by themselves, so I’ve just been posting them on Twitter/Facebook, but now have enough for a story. A few people are crying “restaurant Armageddon” again, but more likely it has more to do with restaurants not doing as well as they should have over the normally profitable holiday season.
Daphene’s. This was a chain of Greek cafe’s that wasn’t better than a cafeteria. They closed a branch in Hillsboro and one in Portland.
Blossoming Lotus Cafe. Paul Gerald, author of Breakfast in Bridgetown, my favorite Portland breakfast guide, reviewed the cafe on PortlandFoodandDrink in July of 2007. Blossoming Lotus was located in the lobby of Yoga in the Pearl. They still have a restaurant in Irvington at 1713 NE 15th st.
Sel Gris. Back in late October, there was a fire in the building, which caused heavy smoke damage to the Sel Gris space. From the O, “Today, Mondok told The Oregonian that the business may never reopen at the original site. He blamed squabbling between insurers and the property owner, manager and tenants.” Of course in the meantime, there is the new restaurant, Foster Burger in the old Cava space, which he is also associated with.
Bay 13. I mentioned this a few posts ago, but I will include it in this roundup too. Rumors are that they will open again after a revamp of theme and whatnot. My question is if they couldn’t get it right in three years, how are they going to get it right with a two-month closure? Just a question, as I wish them the best. Perhaps they will drastically shrink the space. That’s where I’d start. The rent has to be enormous! updated – they never reopened.
Virgo & Pisces: First the corner of NW 21st and Everett housed Zefiro, then Basilico, and finally Virgo & Pices. The latter was known for it’s less than stellar food. It closed last week. Word on the street is the owner wants about $6K a month for the spot. Cough. Just sayin’.
Add to these spaces Manzana, Palomino, Little Wing, Olea, Eddie Bauer, Puma, and Adidas, and I’d say the Pearl District has a problem. My god, it’s “Pearlageddon! I know, let’s build a soccer stadium! That will fix everything.
Sel Gris? OMG, say it ain’t so.
Ellen Green says
Went to the last night of Virgo and Pieces – the owner of the business really had a hard time to let it go, watching him trying to give a farewell speech, and his f**king DJ/Bar Tendender employee tried to take the mic from him so that him and his free loader buddies (food and alcohol were free that night) can get on to the party is really hard for me to watch. I wanted to slug that a**hole for taking the mic from the business owner. The property was orginally 2 seperate retail space – 2 kitchens, one dining area and one bar. It was Zefiro punch a hole between bar and dining area and made it one retail space. Very hard to support such a huge space, if property owner willing to seperate out the two, and let two seperate parties least the spaces, and charge less rent. It might work. Nevertheless, I wish for a better recovery and economy for all of us in 2010.
I believe you left out at least two former restaurants occupying the Virgo and Pices space. One was Zinc Bistro, and the other (I can’t remember the name) immediately followed Zefiro.
RE: Sel Gris
Although saddened by the closure, I found the chefs explanation for the unlikely reopening kind of shakey. I’m thinking there’s a piece to this story that we’ll never hear about.
The reporting and commentary here on Sel Gris seems to depart somewhat from the Oregon Live story I wrote, so let me clarify and add a little further comment of my own (you might also want to read the actual story if you haven’t already; it’s short):
1. First, it was courageous of Chef Mondok to speak up to me about the frustrations he is feeling 3 months after the fire that started in an adjoining space of the multitenant building Sel Gris occupied–with his beloved restaurant still stinking of old smoke.
2. Of course the lease between Mondok and the Sel Gris landlord will control, but at some point as a tenant, you have a reasonable expectation that fire-damaged premises will be made habitable again by the landlord and that absent the landlord fulfilling this responsibility, you ought to be able to walk away. No surprise then after 3 months of basically nothing happening that Mondok would become skeptical about ever getting back in to that space and would start to look around seriously at other options.
3. Mondok was clear (as was my story) that he wants to reopen Sel Gris, but that it’s increasingly looking bleak at the original Hawthorne site. That and you do what you need to do to put food on your family’s table.
4. I don’t know what secret back story anyone is looking for. If you have ever suffered or dealt with a serious fire loss, especially in the multiparty commercial setting involved here, you would know that the truth is awful enough. Leverage games, finger pointing, foot dragging, whatever–all’s fair to get the little guy to submit. I hate to see a talented chef like Mondok – or any small restaurant operator – get jacked around like this. Having said that, I fully expect Mondok to land on his feet and prosper at whatever he ends up doing.
Dave J. says
I drive by that location every day, and it is downright laughable to see the lack of progress that’s been made on the Barefoot Sage location where the fire started. Granted, all I can see is the exterior, but there have been literally no signs of any work–no huge dumpsters out front, no workers entering/leaving…nada. I’ve long assumed that the property owner and insurance company are playing chicken, and sadly the tenants are paying the price.
the employees are paying the price as well! promises of re-opening and then reading online that their restaurant is possibly not re-opening.
mcz, you’re using “Mondok” like he’s the (primary) owner, and it’s his decision, but….
Agreed. Mondok does not own Sel Gris. Lets not mistake PR for reality.
Regardless of what Mr. Mondok says, last I heard, he was not the sole owner of the business.
Food Dude says
ah yes, Zinc. How could I forget that one.
I believe there was also the short-lived Adam’s (was that the name?) in that space. He had come over from Astoria and Cannon Beach. Place was open for a few months. Left people in the lurch and trashed the place.
As far as the Candy Lounge goes. I am far from a night club goer. In fact, I am not sure I have ever been to one. However, I have eaten there at happy hour (3-7) and for $6 split a big and decent if not great Caesar salad and a better than frozen 12″ pepperoni pizza that had a crispy crust and plenty of pepperoni. Were either of these dishes fantastic? No. But for $3/person we filled up on a gray afternoon and had a decent time as well as having the entire place to ourselves. You can do worse.
The Wizard Tim says
Wasn’t Ira’s opened right after Zefiro, only to come into huge problems and just locking his doors one day. Rumor had it that he left everything as was, fridges full of rotting meat etc…
Also in the last six months in the burbs Hunter Ridge Sherwood, Speedy linguini Lake Grove,New York New York Tigard and countless other lower end restaurants and I’ve heard rumors of several Pearls restaurant that are close.The next six month should be very interesting this looks like the restaurant apocalypse that was spoken of is coming true very disturbing! !!
Food Dude says
I still don’t believe in the “apocalypse”. I think this is mostly just pruning the weak out of the herd. Remember, most of these restaurants aren’t exactly known for good food.
I drive by New York New York everyday. That place was always, regardless of time of day, empty. I had a morbid fascination for wanting to go in there and check it out but never did.
I had the same morbid infatuation with NY NY. I think my apocalypse comments might have been a little harsh but there is only so much money to be spent in a community . With Bridgeport village opened it diluted the west side Fridays and Cucina Cucina at Washington square sitting vacant for years now are evidence of that. Before the Pearls districts rise there were only a handfull of restaurants down there. It maybe the economy or just a larger then normal amount of people that have no buisness in the restaurant industry . The economy seems to be hitting mid and lower price restaurants now but I think high end restaurants are going.g to take a hit I know of a few struggling bottom line
I think the Portland restaurant seen is saturated.
Hunter’s Ridge was fantasitc in it’s day. Never got the press it deserved bcause of being in the burbs!! Went downhill once Chef Paul left.
Anyone know where Paul went after Hunter’s Ridge? He was doing some nice work.
I actually am in Dundee, Opened up a small boutique hotel, restaurant and wine bar 6 months ago. Come and see me. We are having alot of fun down here!!!
Inn at Red Hills
Farm to Fork Restaurant
Paul is at Farm to Fork in Dundee, is back into his element and making some awesome food
Ira’s was in that space between Zefiro and Zinc. I don’t remember the details, but the guy who opened it had run a place out on the coast, run afoul of some creditors out there and pretty much repeated the whole process here in PDX, if I’m remembering it right. I didn’t even know we had a Palomino’s… Is that the same Palomino’s I’m thinking of, the Mpls based chain with a location up in Seattle (among other locales)?
Food Dude says
Yup same Palomino’s. It replaced Manzana
Just in case anybody was wondering, Manzana and Palomino are both ‘brands’ of the Restaurants Unlimited organization. Their other holdings in this area include the Portland City Grill, Henry’s Tavern and any number of Newport Seafood Grill restaurants. That’s just scratching the surface of their many brands. More info at:
So the idea was that maybe one of their other concepts would make a go of the Manzana location. That would be ‘nope.’
At this point it’s hard to properly untangle the threads, but I think it’s worthwhile to remember that most of those brands (Palomino being the notable exception) were originally developed and grown by the former Pacific Coast Restaurants organization, which was locally founded and owned — in part by Bob Farrell, best known in these parts for Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlors. (Possibly the last surviving touch of Farrell’s-ness in the current organization survives in the milkshakes at Billy Heartbeat’s, hidden in the top of the Lloyd Center beyond the perimeter of the food court.)
My own sense is that since R-U acquired the Pacific Coast operation, the Pacific Coast brands (Newport Bay, Stanford’s) have been noticeably vanilla-ized — Stanford’s and Newport Bay have lost their local roots, and the once-more-ambitious signature satellites (Portland City Grill, the late Steak & Chop House) have pretty much fallen off the radar, not keeping pace with their markets. An Oregonian story about Stanford’s last year pointed out examples of this, and there’ve been other indications.
All of which argues in favor of not selling out into the so-called big leagues, I suppose….
Marshall Manning says
Try getting a table at Navarre, Le Pigeon, Toro Bravo, Tabla, Beaker & Flask, Laurelhurst Market, Ken’s Pizza, etc. on a Saturday night between 6-8 PM. There’s no “restaurant apocalypse”, it’s just that people are being more picky with their dollars and going to places that they know will give them good food. If restaurants aren’t putting up excellent food, they won’t succeed.
Food Dude says
Exactly as I commented below. However, good Saturday nights won’t sustain a restaurant, and I have walked into everyone single one of those restaurants in the past few months without waiting. Still, I agree, there is no apocalypse
Dave J. says
Even in the best of times it is common knowledge that the failure rate among restaurants is something like 70% after a year or two. I think this is really just the fact that (a) Portland is a small town, and so we hear about failures we might not otherwise, and (b) the blogosphere tends to amplify the noise about closures.
Try going to those places right now when mainstays like Pok Pok, Paley’s (I think) and a couple of others have been closed for a week or two. We went to Bar Avignon last Saturday and it was jammed to the hilt.
Drive by Le Pigeon on a Monday at 7 and you will see empty seats that would have been full 2 years ago. 2 hours on Saturday night does not a sustainable business make.
Tried to hit Toro Bravo two weeks ago on Wednesday around 5:30. Two hour wait!
btw: went to tabla a few weeks ago and it was not too great. the terrine was cold.
Food Dude says
I have noticed the same issue. Cold pasta and some of the newer appetizers didn’t do much for me. Not sure what the issue is.
Humble Pie says
From my experience with landlords and insurance companies, I’m ready to believe every word from the chef at Sel Gris. Just ask the folks at Little Red Bike about what they went through after their flood. Commercial real estate is a shady business, really. Landlords can be total jackasses and it’s all a “civil” matter that is expensive to sort out in the courts. The cops won’t help when they steal from tenants, fail to comply with the terms of their leases… People who care about their time usually back down and move on. Property owners who sit around collecting rent have nothing but time, and money to pursue litigation. Still haven’t met a cool one, though they must e out there somewhere.
Where restaurants also might fall victim as tenants is when the landlord finds themselves in a mortgage crunch. This is another economic wave on our horizon.
Please Sel Gris, find a new home quickly!
Dan Welch says
You mentioned Barista as a new open. I understand the new location will be opening late february. New jobs there for people passionate about coffee! Also the newly re-opened Genoa/Accanto is having great success and comments. Lots of positive signs in the economy.
Best wishes to those that have had to close and the employees that are on the job hunt.
Food Dude says
I was talking about the Pearl Barista location, but I suppose they have been open close to a year now
Pointless question: what was the proper pronunciation of Zefiro? (a) ZEFF-ih-row or (b) zeh-FEE-row?
“Navarre, Le Pigeon, Toro Bravo, Tabla, Beaker & Flask, Laurelhurst Market, Ken’s Pizza”
Thats *SIX* restuarants.
“there is no apocalypse”
I am willing to bet there are alot of restarateurs who are afraid to fire up quickbooks this Jan.
Those are just some examples. I have to agree that things seem pretty busy in a lot of places. We just went out last night (granted, a Saturday) figuring wrongly that we could just walk in some place. We were looking for Italian so we went to Mingo, Serrato, Fratelli, and Piazza Italia before giving up and leaving the NW completely. All had waits of at least an hour. Some gave us two hour waits. Maybe it’s just our bad luck, but this seems to happen to us just about every time we try to drop into a place spontaneously and don’t pick up a reservation first — at least on a weekend night. This is all circumstantial of course, but it sure does seem like most of the places that are closing are not the more highly regarded. Clearly there are some exceptions to this, but even in those cases there usually seem to be reasons that go beyond attendance.
next time don’t forget to try Giorgio’s on NW 12th and Hoyt. They have amazing Italian food. some say it is expensive but I think it worth it.
Not sure exactly what the swipe for the Timbers was worth….perhaps you are unaware where those (few) dollars are coming from the city (its not out of the general budget)? No need to be so snarky.
I’ve hit a few of these recently and agree with everything above…people are just being choosier and unfortunatly many of them won’t be missed. I do hope Sel Gris is able to figure out a new location, but am interested in trying out that new burger place…
went to Foster Burger last night. Had the Shroom Burger; companion had the Kiwi. We both agreed that the “Foster Sauce” killed the flavor of the burger and it’s other parts (e.g. the onions on the Shroom). Fries were great. The 3 mushroom soup was tasty but barely lukewarm. We’re willing to give it another try, sans sauce.
How about a baseball stadium and a Ferry Building?
Nancy Rommelmann says
Boy, would I love a Ferry Building here in Portland.
Not a restaurant, but a local vegan staple in the Pearl — Sydney’s Cafe — closed on 12/18.
What's for supper? says
It’s a shame about Sel Gris, for my money one of the loveliest and most satisfying restaurants in Portland.
I’ve had two meal at Accanto. The menu is small but well-conceived and moderately priced, and the food was outstanding (a delicate and fragrant fish soup and lasagna so good it was sinful). The service, however, was very wobbly both times.
I have dined recently at Lauro Kitchen (lunch, midweek,) as well as Vindalho (dinner, midweek.) Both were quite full if not overflowing. I think David Machado has fine-tuned his offerings to the tastes and budgets of today’s dining out crowd. For a reasonable price I received a more than generous portion of well prepared food. It may not be bleeding edge, but it was a great value, and delicious. The same goes for Serratto; it is well-occupied at most lunchtimes and does quite well for dinner. Again, high quality with ‘fair’ pricing and enough imagination to keep the customer interested are the keys.
I have to agree with bananadan. We went to Lauro last Saturday, and had a lovely experience. There were seven of us, almost all ordering something different, and all were quite pleased. In addition, our waitress offered to bring us separate checks (4 of them – 3 couples and a single), and did so with a smile. I can’t remember the last time that happened!
I went to borders at Bridgeport village yesterday and went to The blue tangerine for lunch and itwas closed walked across the street to split wine bar closed I wound up getting a pretzedog at wetzels. It just an observation but there does seem to be something with the mid level restaurants closing there seem to be more then usually.
Not a suprice that split closed. Owner was an a-hole
rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated – just had lunch there
Food Dude says
Yeah I was down by there last week and split is open but the day I went to eat it was two o’clock in the afternoon and the sign said it was open for lunch at 11 at two it was locked up and all the chairs were on the bar and tables.I saw were the blue tangerine was an avaga Mexican grill is going to open in the spring
Al in SE says
According to Biz Journal, The Agency Sports Lounge, near PGE Park, was closed by its landlord for failing to make its lease payment.
Food Dude says
We’ve been talking about it on Facebook/Twitter, but it hasn’t been enough for it’s own post. Thanks for putting it in the comments.
Someone mentioned McCormick’s (which I found out closed its Oak St. store in June, I gotta get out more) was closing Harborside. Unfounded rumor?
Haven’t heard that one.
Riverplace’s restaurant density has already dropped sharply — Stanford’s is gone, and the floating Newport Marina Grill has gone to “seasonal only” operation (i.e. it’s supposed to reopen this spring-through-summer). That could cut both ways; on one hand, better market share for Harborside as the survivor (and best of the three anyway), on the other, a lower destination-profile overall. The big question may be whether the bar down there (the Pilsner Room?) has held onto its rep as a popular hangout/”meat market” through the current economic cycle.
I’d hate to see it go; the location, if nothing else, has aesthetic value far above many of the M&S suburban outlets.
RJ Fenley says
Tried to eat at Lovely 50/50, but 10 minutes after they were scheduled to open, we grew tired of waiting in the rain, without nary an acknowledgement from their staff, including one employee who opened the door to leave. I’ve worked in restaurants and know how things get busy, particularly when you’re trying to open. But you generally stop by to say, “We’ll be with you in a few minutes,” even if you’re curt and annoyed that someone in Portland is actually punctual.
Remember: It’s just pizza. Oh, and ice cream.
So, we instead traveled across town to Apizza Scholls whose pizza was delicious and served by someone who seemed grateful to have customers, despite the restaurant’s unflagging popularity.