304 SE 28th Ave., 517-9951, kensartisan.com.
[WOOD COASTER] Reclaimed wood is everywhere in this damn town. Every cocktail bar, farm-to-table restaurant and corn syrup-happy ice cream parlor seems to lay claim to some piece of recycled timber. Wake me up when Duane "Stumptown" Sorenson salvages panels from Abigail Scott Duniway's privy. But for my money, the planks with the finest old-growth pedigree are those at Ken's Artisan Pizza, where the bar and tables used to make up the Big Dipper roller coaster at Jantzen Beach. Before Hayden Island was Washington's duty-free cigarette shop, it was Portland's million-dollar playground, and kids flocked to the Big Dipper's 83-foot drop. It's funny, then, that wood with such thrill-seeking roots now exists alongside such dependable—in the best way—cuisine. Ken's 12-inch pies are studies in restraint: a vegetarian pie with a peppery pesto base contrasting sweet zucchini on top; or the soppressata, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and spicy, garlicky salami. But while they might not shock, Ken's reliably delicious wood-fired fare (don't miss the roasted vegetable plate, which changes seasonally) keeps the patrons coming back, just as the daredevils kept returning to the Big Dipper decades before.
Ideal meal: Roasted vegetable plate and fennel sausage and onion pizza.
Best deal: Margherita pizza ($11).
Pro tip: Westsiders should remember Ken's Artisan Bakery in the Alphabet District, from which this pizza joint sprung, still makes pizzas on Mondays from 5:30 to 9:30 pm.
5-10 pm Monday-Saturday, 4-9 pm Sunday. $$.