March 9th, 2005 Caryn Brooks, Audrey Van Buskirk | Special Section Stories
 

Biting Our Time

Thirty years of gastronomic journalism.

     
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BOTTLE ROCKETS: Noble Rot, the cozy cave of a wine bar, helped distinguish East 28th Avenue as a dining destination.

1974: Mike McMenamin takes the first step in building his "Kingdom of Fun," opening Produce Row cafe with some college buddies. Kid brother Brian joins in; they open the first official McMenamins pub in 1983. Leaders in jester-painting business applaud.

1976: John Castro starts serving at Jake's Famous Crawfish on Sept. 29. He hasn't stopped yet.

1978 :Brasserie Montmartre opens, giving Portland elegant late-night dining and a puzzle. How do those cards stick to the ceiling?

1979: Sisters of the Road Cafe throws open its doors, providing homeless and low-income Portlanders a dignified way to get lunch.

Bill McCormick and Doug Schmick start their chain of upscale seafood emporia, introducing escolar, mahi-mahi and wahoo.

Floods, Prohibition, war-nothing can coarsen the charm of Huber's, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. Named for scholarly mixologist Frank Huber, the saloon hit its stride with the advent of Jim Louie, a Cantonese stowaway who carved up turkey for sandwiches that were originally given away free. Louie's descendants still own the joint, renowned for its flaming Spanish coffees.

1981: First Macheesmo Mouse opens in a tiny storefront on Southeast Milwaukie Avenue. With entrepreneur Tiger Warren at the helm, the store will propagate an entire chain of "healthy fast food" Mexican joints, drenched in Boss sauce and spiced with postmodern décor.

1983: Woman kills date by stabbing him in the heart with her fork at the downtown Old Spaghetti Factory.

Delphina's Bakery heats up its ovens, giving Portland its first regular source of artisan bread.

1984: First Portland craft brewery, BridgePort, starts fermenting in what was then the deserted neighborhood around Northwest Marshall Street and 13th Avenue.

Bangkok Kitchen brings mounds of pad Thai to Southeast Belmont St. Many imitators follow-though not many imitate proprietor Johnny Siripatrapa, who congenially sits down with diners and joins the conversation. On at least one occasion, he invites himself along on a trip to the beach.

Continuing the trend of brewing brothers, Kurt and Rob Widmer establish the German-style Widmer Brothers Brewing Company in Northwest Portland.

1985: Not to be outdone, the McMenamin brothers start microbrewing at the Hillsdale Brewpub.

1986: At last, a beer company that doesn't involve brothers: Portland Brewing produces its first ale. The brewery later becomes MacTarnahan's, then is acquired by Pyramid Brewing.

1987: It's official: We live in Beervana. Witness the first Oregon Brewers Festival.

Why didn't anyone think of combining movies and beer before? Thank God, Yahweh and Allah that the Mission Theatre opens this year in a former Swedish church/union hall.

1989: With a sinister hiss of steam and a shot of hazelnut syrup, Starbucks serves its first Portland latte at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Barbecued chicken on pizza? Peanut sauce instead of tomato? You better believe it. Pizzicato punches its first dough on Skyline Boulevard.

1990: Zefiro transforms the Portland food scene. The finger-licking Caesar salad and seared ahi appetizer are still much missed from the restaurant's decade run.

Landmark restaurant Henry Thiele's at Northwest 23rd Avenue and Burnside Street shuts down to make room for a Gap. Fans of liver and onions (all five of them-sorry, Mom) have never recovered.

1991: David Machado opens nuevo Italian Pazzo, upping the ante for hotel restaurants. The private dining room becomes the place to have a party.

With very little Bam!, Caprial and John Pence open Caprial's Kitchen. The local cooking celebs open their popular cooking school in 2002.

1992: A fixture on Northwest 23rd Avenue since 1957, venerable Rose's Deli swallows its last bowl of matzoh-ball soup, instantly reducing Portlanders' average caloric intake by at least 2 percent. Unfortunately for dieters, it reopens several blocks down the street in 2001.

Kent's Bento pops out its first box downtown, heralding a craze that will turn us into Bento Town, U.S.A. When will the rest of the country catch on?

Beloved late-night diner Quality Pie serves final cup of joe and holds a sidewalk sale to dispose of the effects. WW arts editor Audrey Van Buskirk mistakenly prints her parents' phone number instead of Quality Pie's and her folks can't answer their phone for a week.

1993: Cheese fries can't be vanquished! Beloved Clinton Street hangout Dots Cafe suffers a kitchen fire, but rises as good as new in the near future.

Escape from New York Pizza finds itself on the wrong end of a Goodman family real-estate deal. The pizzeria is razed to make way for a parking lot. Fortunately, its sister restaurant on Northwest 23rd Avenue survives.

The onslaught of fancy pizza joints can't be stopped. Portland chain Pizza Schmizza is founded by Andre and Carla Jehan.

Le Bistro Montage, WW's Restaurant of the Year, makes $1 beers, $1 oyster shooters and histrionic waiters the talk of the town.

1994: Adding the city's first whiff of international savoir fare, Normandy native Phillipe Boulot puts on the toque at the Heathman restaurant.

Hometown boy Cory Schreiber opens Wildwood, his homage to Pacific Northwest bounty.

Le Bistro Montage moves from tiny Belmont outpost to huge Mac-'n'-Cheeseatarium under the Morrison Bridge.

Now boasting 15 outlets, local chain Macheezmo Mouse (yes, that "s" got replaced by a "z") goes public. Its stock roars to $11, but falls to $5 within a year.

Cocktail Nation reaches its zenith. Headquarters at the 1201 Club make clear one thing-old people are cool, at least when they're drinking.

Sometimes those "finding yourself" vacations really do amount to something. After searching for tranquility in the Himalayas and finding a sweet drink instead, four local women fire up Oregon Chai in Northwest Portland.

1995: Vitaly Paley opens Paley's Place, solidifying Northwest 21st Avenue's claim as best restaurant street.

Zefiro side-project Saucebox opens. People start flinging the term "pan-Asian" nonchalantly.

1996: The one millionth oyster is served at Jake's Famous Crawfish on Jan. 24.

1997: Oh, the horror! Bill McCormick and Doug Schmick sell the Portland-based restaurant chain McCormick & Schmick's to the parent company of Applebee's.

A few years ahead of the small-plate explosion, the authentically Spanish Tapeo brings cultured food to Northwest Thurman Street.

Getting out when the money is goodish (going public and expanding too fast didn't help), Jim and Patty Roberts sell Coffee People.

1998: Over 2,000 gustatory know-it-alls flood the city when Portland hosts the annual convention of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

¡Oba! enters the scene. Pan-Latin becomes the cuisine of the moment and caipirinha the hottest-and potentially most potent-drink.

1999: Tiger Warren, 49, the brains behind Macheezmo Mouse, dies with his three young sons when his private plane crashes into the Columbia River.

The Pearl gives up one of its longest-lasting residents when the famed Blitz-Weinhard Brewery closes its doors after 143 years.

Michael Hebb and Naomi Pomeroy host ripe's first Family Supper-in their actual living room. Family-style dining has never been so cool.

2000: Zefiro closes. Bluehour in the Pearl opens, pushing Portland's food scene further into the national limelight.

Jon Beckel, 39, co-founder of Le Bistro Montage, dies of a head injury after being arrested by Portland police for outstanding drunk-driving warrants.

In a location that saw the deaths of at least three other restaurants, Mother's Bistro thrives with the ultimate comfort food.

2001: Ira's, successor to the vaunted spot where Zefiro made its mark on Northwest 21st Avenue, shuts down overnight, leaving a stack of unpaid bills.

Farrell's on Northeast Weidler Street (the original Portland Ice Cream Parlour) sings its last "Happy Birthday" to kids and their sundaes.

In an surprise move, Bill McCormick and Doug Schmick rally investors and buy back their namesake chain.

Atwater's, perhaps Portland's most popular restaurant to get engaged in, shuts down operation at the top of the U.S. Bancorp building.

2002: Genoa chef and co-owner Cathy Whims leaves the beloved restaurant on Belmont after 15 years in the kitchen. Her partner Kerry DeBuse, who worked her way up from dishwasher, takes over, and most customers never notice the difference.

Pacific Coast Restaurants' Portland City Grill opens in the spot vacated by Atwater's on the 30th floor of Big Pink. Happy hour is back.

Gourmet magazine declares Portland "The Next Napa."

Incensed over a negative review, La Bella Napoli owner Sam Macbale takes out a series of ads attacking WW critic Caryn Brooks and kicks off a publicity stunt whereby patrons can eat a free lunch if they don't like the food. The restaurant downgrades into a pizza parlor called Silver Dollar shortly thereafter.

Oregon ranks as the fattest state in the West. Nearly two-thirds of Oregonians are overweight, with more than 20 percent classified as obese. Weirdly, Oregon is also one of the hungriest states. More than five percent of Oregonians sometimes go hungry, compared with a national average of 3 percent.

Greek Cusina owner Ted Papas threatens to lobby the city to shut down Portland's popular food carts. Downtown denizens, hooked on $4 burritos, shoot Papas the raspberry.

L'Auberge, one of Portland's first forays into sophisticated Continental cuisine, bids adieu. The building faces the wrecking ball but is later rescued and transformed into Meriwether's-making Portland the only town in America with two upscale restaurants named after Lewis and Clark.

Pho Van opens a stylish bistro in the Pearl, marking an evolution for both the once-humble Vietnamese cuisine and the once-humble neighborhood.

2003: Wine bars rule! Noble Rot cements East 28th Avenue's claim as Portland's latest dining destination.

Krispy Kreme opens its first Oregon store-in Tigard.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA, to you) names Portland the fourth-most vegetarian-friendly city in America.

Burgerville reviewed in Gourmet magazine.

Shuttering its last four restaurants, Macheezmo Mouse files for bankruptcy.

2004: Despite critical acclaim, sisters Claire and Shawna Archibald of Cafe Azul abruptly shut down their innovative regional Mexican restaurant.

Zinc Bistrot abandons the former Zefiro spot on Northwest 21st Avenue. Basilico jumps in an attempt shake the curse.

Ultra-chic clarklewis-the other spot named after the famous explorers-stakes out fresh dining territory in the industrial zone on the east bank of the Willamette. Further east on Division Street, the unstuffy Mediterrean food of Lauro Kitchen becomes a neigborhood hit.


WW Restaurants of the Year

1992: Zefiro
1993: Le Bistro Montage
1994: Higgins
1995: Paley's
1996: Assaggio and Mingo
1997: Tapeo
1998: ¡Oba!
1999: Genoa
2000: Mother's
2001: A celebration of favorite neighborhood spots
2002: Pho Van and Pambiche
2003: Noble Rot
2004: Lauro


30th ANNIVERSARY MENU: INTRODUCTION

TIMELINE:
1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004

FEATURES: Hell on Wheels: John Callahan | Neil Goldschmidt's Web of Power | Gus Van Zant: The Camera Man | Homer's Odyssey: Matt Groening | Quadruple Expresso: MAX Makes Tracks | Nike's Achilles' Heel | Biting Our Time: Restaurants Revisited | Highway to Hell

 
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