1403 SE Belmont St., 971-544-7136, roostpdx.com.
[SIMPLE PLEASURES] A visit not long ago to Roost resulted in a peculiar experience: we were the only customers, save one guy at the bar, for the length of our meal on a Saturday night. We felt so bad for this often-underappreciated restaurant that we came back the next day for brunch—to find the place nearly full. Go figure. Although attendance at Roost can be erratic, the American-centric food is consistently good. Chef-owner Megan Henzel and her staff have a knack for making seemingly simple preparations exceed the sum of their parts, whether it's a summery salad or a hearty burger. So a return visit on another Saturday night was both welcome and a bit worrisome—would we again be the only diners? We arrived just before 6 to find one table occupied. "Sit anywhere you want," the waiter said. We settled into a window table at the bright, minimalist eatery and ordered wine and starters. The thin zucchini fries were coated in crisped bread crumbs and served with a tangy dill cream, a tasty combo. Even better was a beautiful plate of grilled squid salad with watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, black olives, radish and basil, its blend of flavors refreshing, delicious and a perfect complement to the citrusy minerality of the Melon de Bourgogne from Portland urban winery Grochau. The brined pork chop was flavorful and juicy, served with an earthy tandem of lumpy mashed potatoes and a salad of currants and bacon. The grilled hanger steak in red wine sauce with spinach puree and horseradish cream was nearly the pork chop's comfort-food equal. By the time we left, there were six tables occupied. Maybe things are looking up for this sometimes undeservedly empty nest.
Ideal meal: Salad, pork chop, chocolate mousse.
Best deal: The Worcestershire-soaked burger with fries and sauteed arugula ($14).
Pro tip: Skip the glass pours on wine and order a bottle. The markups are more than fair, with no bottle exceeding $30. You can take home what you don't drink.
5:30-10 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-9 pm Sunday, brunch 10 am-2 pm Saturday-Sunday. $$.