Now, it's no secret that Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard can be a bustling street where the gentle tinkling of commerce mixes with the tangy smell of vittles off the grill. But its heart has most recently been considered the cross street at 37th, where the eateries and shopperies flank the landmark Bagdad Theater. The upper reaches of Hawthorne leading up to Mount Tabor exist as a Ghost of Christmas Past; a view of Portland pre-Money magazine top ratings on livability and pre-fruits of the global economy.

But between the comfortable old-school cracks of places such as Sewickly Addition, JaCiva's, the Eagles Aerie and the Space Room, a quiet revolution that portends to shake the status quo of upper Hawthorne is astir. A bunch of new places, taking the lead from 1990s stalwart Compass World Bistro, are bubbling to the surface.

Sheila Baraga may be best known for creating the Green Room in Northwest and the Empire Room on Hawthorne. She sold both and is setting her knowing eye on a new venture called the Sapphire Hotel (5008 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-6333), slated to open Jan. 3 (with the blessing of the omnipotent Oregon Liquor Control Commission) and beckoning thee from 3 to 11 pm. This smallish Turkish coffee bar will serve wine, port, beer and light munchies such as tapenades and hummus, creating what Baraga calls "an old turn-of-the-century hotel lobby feel." Baraga picked upper Hawthorne mainly because it's close to her house, but also because "I think this nook is really going to blossom."

Already flowering is the recently opened Japanese restaurant Ginya (4615-A SE Hawthorne Blvd., 231-8364), which features state-of-the-art sunken grills at each table that suck fumes down into the cooker rather than fumigating the room. Platters of prized Kobe beef arrive raw so you can prepare your meal yourself. Owner Takaaki "Tim" Hayami oversees this chain from his native Japan, where he also rules a huge homeland chain called Haya. This is his first venture in the United States, says manager Edward Merced. Why Portland? "He was looking at Seattle and San Francisco," says Merced, "but he picked Portland because he thought the people were the friendliest here. There's nothing like this in Portland, and his Kobe beef supplier, Marbest, is based here." OK, well, why this stretch of Hawthorne? "It had good feng shui," says Merced. "They had a master come in and study it. They looked at Beaverton, but they liked this upper range of Hawthorne because there weren't any other Japanese places around."

Well, almost. A new Mio Sushi will open this January in the redeveloped building at 3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd., which will also house the relocated No Fish! Go Fish!

In other news...

Cue scratchy military recording of "Taps": Boxcar Bertha's, that venture of Sisters of the Road Cafe that helps feed and employ the disadvantaged, is hosting a "closing celebration" Thursday, Dec. 20 from 8 am to 2 pm. After two years of serving up coffee and dunkables at Northwest 17th and Lovejoy, the non-profit enterprise became mired in a variety of financial problems that necessitated its closure.

Photogenic Portland restaurateurs Caprial and John Pence are opening a cooking school and kitchenware shop Jan. 15 called Caprial and John's Kitchen at 1608 SE Bybee Blvd. Check it out at