Ned Ludd, the mythical inspiration for the Luddites, famously opposed the automation of industry in the 19th century. Nothing quite so contentious comes to mind when considering the newish North Portland restaurant that shares his name, where co-owners and chefs Ben Meyer and Jason French celebrate Ludd's low-tech methods rather than revolution—and create stellar food from humble ingredients in the process. Ned Ludd's menu, esoteric on the surface but easily decipherable, is divided into small plates, or "bits," and entrees, or "plats." "Forebits" fulfill the traditional appetizer role, featuring charcuterie, cheese plates and housemade pickles. "Kaltbits" are salads. The "warmbits" and plats are where the alchemy of wood smoke and fire really shine. The "elbows, peas and cheese" is a deeply satisfying bowl of comfort, with tender tubes of pasta bathing in milky, salty cheese and coated with buttery breadcrumbs. Of the plats, standouts included a half game hen rubbed with berries and served over a simple green salad.
Order this: Anything featuring Ned Ludd's lovely, luscious pork belly.
Best deal: Stick with the kaltbits and warmbits to build yourself a fabulous mini tasting menu for not too much cash.