Longtime Le Pigeon sous chef—and former Little Bird head chef—Erik Van Kley will say that the food served at this beautifully high-ceilinged, once-industrial Central Eastside space is inspired by roadside America. And sure, the open-kitchen spot has both steak and fried chicken on the menu. But that fried chicken ($21) is done up with a turmeric-strong curry and its breading is fattened with an avocado topper; crunch aside, it's a spicy-sweet swirl better known in India.
Meanwhile, that flat iron steak ($27) is sweetened with both fish sauce and pears until it becomes a trans-Pacific meat confection. The richness makes it almost seem cruel that the restaurant's hostess stands on a truck scale. But though not everything is working straight out of the gate—cilantro and yuzu combine to cloyingly overpower a yellowtail starter ($13)—Railworks is already forging an interesting culinary identity not with American comforts, but from its cheerful willingness to borrow ingredients from seemingly anywhere at will.
Pro tip: The drink menu is confusingly organized, with a menu of aperitifs and vermouths you wouldn't all want straight. Skip instead to the part where is says "Pinewood Baron" and enjoy your stunning $10 smoked Negroni.
GO: 117 SE Taylor St., 208-2573, trwpdx.com. 5-10 pm Tuesday-Sunday. $$$.