If you go

(All locations in Portland)

INFORMATION

Travel Portland: 701 SW Sixth Ave. (Pioneer Courthouse Square); www.travelportland.com, 503-275-8355, 877-678-5263.

LODGING

The Heathman Hotel: 1001 SW Broadway; http://portland.heathmanhotel.com, 503-241-4100, 877-976-7310. Rates from $244. Includes (soon-to-be) Headwaters restaurant.

Hotel Lucia: 400 SW Broadway; www.hotellucia.com, 503-225-1717. Rates from $169. Includes The Imperial and Portland Penny Diner restaurants.

DINING

Castagna Restaurant: 1752 SE Hawthorne Ave.; www.castagnarestaurant.com; 503-231-9959. Dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Expensive. Adjoining is Café Castagna; moderate.

The Hairy Lobster: 900 NW 11th Ave.; www.thehairylobster.com; 971-229-1166. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday. Moderate.

Imperial: 410 SW Broadway; www.imperialpdx.com; 503-228-7222. Three meals every day. Moderate to expensive.

Le Pigeon: 738 E. Burnside St.; www.lepigeon.com; 503-546-8796. Dinner every day. Moderate to expensive.

Mi Mero Mole: 5026 SE Division St.; 503-232-8226; lunch Saturday and Sunday, dinner Tuesday to Sunday. Also 32 NW Fifth Ave.; 971-266-8575; lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday. www.mmmtacospdx.com. Budget.

Nomad.PDX: 1200 SW Morrison St.; www.nomadpdx.com; 503-459-1986. Dinner Thursday to Sunday. Expensive.

OX Restaurant: 2225 NE M.L. King Blvd.; www.oxpdx.com; 503-284-3366. Dinner every day. Moderate to expensive.

Paley’s Place: 1204 NW 21st Ave.; www.paleysplace.net; 503-243-2403. Dinner every day. Moderate to expensive.

DINING ATTRACTIONS

Feast Portland: September festival. www.feastportland.com.

James Beard Public Market: Scheduled opening 2018. www.beardmarket.org, 503-208-2071.

Pine Street Market: 126 SW Second St., Portland; www.pinestreetpdx.com, 503-227-0428.

Providore Fine Foods: 2340 NE Sandy Blvd.; www.providorefinefoods.com, 503-232-1010.

PORTLAND —

Old Town Portland’s new Pine Street Market might be the ultimate Oregon food hall.

Occupying the ground floor of a historic horse-and-buggy barn around the corner from the Skidmore Fountain, the new market, scheduled to open this week, will be what culinary curator and Feast Portland co-founder Mike Thelin calls “a grown-up version of food carts.”

Its nine tenants represent a who’s-who of Portland restaurant personalities, from celebrity chef John Gorham to baker nonpareil Ken Forkish. Visitors will be able to get Barista coffee and Salt & Straw ice cream, while dining on Japanese noodles, Israeli ranch cuisine (at Shalom Y’all) or Olympia Provisions’ “best wurst any time.”

A few blocks south, at the west end of the Morrison Bridge, ground has been broken on the James Beard Public Market, an undertaking scheduled for completion in 2018. Honoring the Portland born-and-raised pioneer of modern American culinary culture, the Beard market will include more than 100 vendor stalls along with full-service restaurants and a teaching kitchen.

These projects serve to underscore the favor in which Portland is held by food critics and diners across the country, winning glowing reviews from publications as prestigious as Food & Wine magazine and The New York Times.

Widely regarded as the birthplace of the farm-to-table movement in the 1990s, led by renowned chefs Cory Schreiber, Greg Higgins and Vitaly Paley, Portland is a city that has never rested on those laurels. Said The New York Times in 2015: “There is no place in the country better known as a bastion of good living, leisure and happy inebriation than Oregon’s largest little city. The city’s sensibility — its stylized aesthetic, its thoroughly hyped food culture, its taste for irony — is celebrated, imitated and satirized.”

Feast Portland, which Thelin launched with co-founder Carrie Welch in 2012, already is acclaimed as one of the nation’s leading food-and-drink festivals. More than 30 events are held over four days in mid-September, with all proceeds benefiting childhood hunger causes.

Meanwhile, new restaurants thrive, each major opening spawning a flurry of interest from Portland’s passionate community of foodies. Colonies of food carts (there are more than 600 in the city, most of them clustered in pods between downtown and more distant neighborhoods) offer seemingly every manner of world cuisine, from Czech to Uruguayan, and pop-up restaurants without permanent locations have added a surprise element to the world of fine dining.

A prime location

The star of the moment is the Pine Street Market. Managing partner David Davies, who has been working on its development for more than two years, speaks with pride about the process of rehabilitating the 1886 United Carriage & Baggage Building at Second Avenue and Pine Street.

“We think it’s a prime location,” said Davies. Two blocks west of the Willamette River esplanade and a couple of blocks south of Burnside Avenue, the structure was a 19th-century parking garage — of sorts — for the historic Multnomah Hotel, now Embassy Suites.

The original block-and-tackle pulley system that once raised horses and carriages to the building’s second and third floors still has a place of honor, beneath a restored 60-foot skylight. It will share the upper stories with GuideSpark, a California-based tech specialist in employee communications.

But the average consumer will be focused on the ground floor, with its 9,500 square feet of floor space and seating for more than 200 patrons at any one time.

Gorham, the owner of Toro Bravo, Tasty n Alder and other local restaurants, will offer Spanish street food at Pollo Bravo and partner with Kasey Mills and Ron Avni at Shalom Y’all. Forkish, of Ken’s Artisan Bakery and Trifecta, has the Trifecta Annex. Adam Sappington of The Country Cat is offering morning and midday cuisine at Sol Food + Juice.

Asian food comes courtesy of Marukin Ramen, which last month chose Portland to establish its first noodle house outside of Japan, and Common Law, a French-Thai concept headed by noted local chef Patrick McKee. And Olympia Provisions is widely known for its charcuterie and other house-produced meats.

Fully licensed for wine, beer and alcoholic beverages, the Pine Street Market will allow the same dishes and cutlery to be used by all nine restaurants, Davies said. That arrangement puts a local catering company in charge of dish collection, cleaning and distribution.

And Pine Street is not the only new foodie-pleasing precinct in town. Other micro-restaurant projects that have sprung up in northeast Portland in recent years include The Ocean and The Zipper. The Ocean, on 24th Avenue at Glisan Street, opened in a former Dodge dealership in 2012 at a cost of $1.5 million. It incorporates a burger joint and a taqueria, Indian and Korean food outlets, a meatball cafe and a bakery.

The Zipper was unveiled just last month on 28th Avenue at Sandy Boulevard. Pizza, New Orleans po’boys, Middle Eastern and Vietnamese cafes, along with a coffee roaster, share a common dining area. The complex also includes a mini-bar and a hip nail salon, and the onetime used-car lot also has an outdoor patio with fire pits and bicycle parking.

Between the Zipper and the Ocean, but under separate ownership, a one-time auto dealership building at NE 24th and Sandy has been transformed into Providore Fine Foods, a specialty European-style marketplace. Providore combines a grocery and wine shop with restaurant-quality foods, meats and produce, a bakery and a gourmet oyster bar. The 5,000-square-foot market, which also includes an espresso bar and a florist, is owned and operated by Kevin De Garmo and Kaie Wellman of Pastaworks and City Market NW, along with partner Bruce Silverman.

Top chefs

Having great food — vegetables, seafood and livestock all readily sourced within a couple of hours of the city — is essential to Portland’s culinary success. But without the upper-echelon chefs who can turn those raw products into memorable meals, the city’s reputation would not be what it is.

An example is the husband-and-wife team of Greg Denton and Gabriela Quiñónez, finalists this year (along with Justin Woodward of Castagna) for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Northwest” award. Their northeast Portland restaurant, OX, combines elements of the wood-fire grilling traditions of Argentina, Quiñónez’s home country, with outstanding preparations of seasonal Northwest produce.

Now, the couple have a new project. They have purchased the former Gruner restaurant, in downtown Portland at 12th and Alder, and will reopen within the next week or two as SuperBite. Here, they will break tradition by serving chef-inspired bold, creative small dishes because, as Denton said, people lose interest even in their favorite foods after several bites.

The Dentons have been a part of the Portland restaurant community for many years. But there’s still room for outsiders like David and Mellisa Root, who have staked their claim to the Portland scene at the curiously named Hairy Lobster in the heart of the Pearl District.

David Root’s roots are in the Boise, Idaho, area. In the mid-1990s, he owned that city’s consensus finest restaurant, Desert Sage. Root moved on to other venues, including Las Vegas, New York and the San Francisco area, took a pastry chef wife and finally, in 2015, returned to the Pacific Northwest with this new venture.

The Hairy Lobster opened March 2 on Jamison Square, in a space that previously had been the Fenouil and Jamison restaurants. The name — a tongue-in-cheek nod not only to British pubs, but also to a quirky painting on one wall of the restaurant — offers what David Root calls “Old World comfort food.” Divided into categories of “Water,” “Garden” and “Barn,” the menu allows diners to fill their savory stomachs while still leaving room for the dessert wizardry of Mellisa Root, a former pastry chef under renowned chef Thomas Keller at Per Se.

The Hairy Lobster’s tavern-like atmosphere, countered by mismatched estate-sale china table settings, promises to quickly elevate it to the standard reached by so many other fine Portland restaurants.

The Paley appeal

Few Portland chefs have earned the acclaim of Vitaly Paley, who took the city by storm when he arrived in 1995. The onetime Belarussian piano prodigy had phenomenal success at Paley’s Place, in a former Northwest Portland residence at 21st Avenue and Northrup Street. He was honored as Beard’s “Best Chef Pacific Northwest” in 2005, and published a best-selling cookbook in 2008.

Paley still had only his one 60-seat restaurant, however, until 2012, when he opened two restaurants in the Hotel Lucia — Imperial and the breakfast-and-lunch Portland Penny Diner. Under executive chef Douglas Adams, Imperial went on to be named Portland’s “restaurant of the year” by the Willamette Week newspaper in 2015.

Now Paley has perhaps his most challenging project. On March 31, the day before his 53rd birthday, he was handed the keys to the Heathman Restaurant.

Until September, the kitchen will be offering room service only to guests of the venerable Heathman Hotel. When it reopens as a full-service restaurant in early fall, Headwaters (as the restaurant will be known) will be something quite different than its French-cuisine predecessor.

“The Heathman is an old grande dame,” noted Paley. “There’s a lot of history here, so we’re approaching it very carefully. Old buildings deserve to be kept intact and showcased.”

Paley hasn’t come right out and said so, but all indications are that Headwaters will offer a seafood-centric menu. “I think the seafood portion of the market is a little underserved,” he told me, as he introduced Ken Norris, formerly of the Riffle seafood restaurant, as his chef de cuisine.

“Our mission has always been buying from and giving back to our local farmers and purveyors,” Paley said. “Headwaters is in line with what Paley’s represents. It is community-centric, drawing from and giving back to the community.”

Business aside, Paley also has been taking trips “down memory lane.” In 2014, he introduced a Russian-cuisine pop-up concept at the Penny Diner. The no-more-than-monthly event, announced on websites, has been selling out far in advance.

“It’s an emotional connection to the past that I had been avoiding for so many years,” said Paley, who spend his youth in the former Soviet Union. Though now thoroughly American, he revisits his culture through traditional cuisine, music and readings from the works of Chekhov, Tolstoi and Gogol.

Pop-up pride

Perhaps no Portland pop-up in recent memory has been afforded such a lasting embrace as Nomad.PDX. Ryan Fox, 29, and Ali Matteis, 22, already this year were semifinalists for the “Best Chef Northwest” honor. And they’re barely out of school: Matteis, in fact, graduated from Bend’s Mountain View High School in 2011.

Fox, a native of Dayton, Ohio, has remarkable credentials. He studied with the acclaimed Michael Mina and Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas after graduating from the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, New York. Matteis went to Portland’s Western Culinary Institute and worked at the chic Terra restaurant in New York.

They met in Portland at the Castagna restaurant and before 2014 was over, they were having success with monthly pop-ups in different locations. (The name “Nomad” could not have been more appropriate.) In June 2015, they found a temporary home on the second floor of the Shift Drinks cocktail lounge, where they can seat 18 guests nightly, Thursday to Sunday. By the middle of May, they’ll again be looking for new digs.

“People really seem to appreciate the limitations that we have,” Fox said. “We are allowed to make the stupid mistakes now that we ideally won’t make later. And we’re dialed in with a client base that we will take with us to brick and mortar.”

My recent meal at Nomad.PDX was a wildly creative prix-fixe masterpiece of 15 miniature courses, ranging from rabbit tureen to sturgeon mousseline, beef-broccoli noodles in a Chinese takeout container to coconut ice cream in an Easter bunny’s nest.

“We’ve grown from nothing into ‘something,’” Fox said. “It just kind of turned into this thing. We really just wanted to feed people.”

As for Portland pop-ups, Fox said, “I can’t keep up with them anymore. Some are open on a consistent basis, while others are only there every couple of months.

“But it’s an interesting concept. I had 100 bucks in my bank account when we started. It allowed us to start just with selling tickets to people. And when we went to Open Table and began posting seating times, the food itself seemed to get better.”

Keeping an edge

The food-and-beverage industry in Portland, however, is challenged with questions that extend beyond food. Questions of a higher minimum wage and the elimination of tipping are on the leading edge.

Owners Andy Fortgang and chef Gabriel Rucker of the popular eastside restaurant, Le Pigeon, have already announced plans to do away with gratuities, effective in June. To do so, however, they must increase the cost of food by 18 to 20 percent. Thus an entrée that is now priced at $21 might well be recalibrated to $25.

“Cooks and dishwashers will be paid a higher wage,” Fortgang explained. “Servers will receive a more consistent income with their hourly wage increasing significantly.” The best servers, he said, would be rewarded with higher hourly wages by supervisors who evaluate their daily performances.

But Nick Zukin, a longtime Portland restaurateur who now owns a pair of Mi Mero Mole taquerias, isn’t a fan of the “tip pooling” concept.

“Places that tried haven’t been successful,” he said. “I think tipping has a general effect on our expectations” of a restaurant. “People look at the bottom line price, and they’re willing to pay more in tipping.”

At his restaurants, Zukin said, employee base wages already are substantially higher than minimum.

Paley, who has seen Portland restaurant fortunes ebb and flow for more than two decades, doesn’t pretend to know the answer.

“That may require a multi-tier series of solutions, industrywide,” he said. “It will be important for us to act together. It has to come from the consumer base as well as the restaurants. But increasing prices across the board isn’t a viable option.

“It all applies to the cost of doing business. And we have five to six years to work it out.”

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com .

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