Nothing slows down Olympia Provisions. The state's first certified dry-cure salumist has two sit-down restaurants, hot dog stands in both Pine Street Market and Oregon City, and coppa salami in stores from Japan to New York City, not to mention a sausage of the month club and a handsome new cookbook. Not even the International Olympic Committee, which forced it to change its name from "Olympic" last year, can stop it.
But unlike most restaurateurs with their eyes on the stars, Elias Cairo hasn't sacrificed a gram of quality while expanding his empire of European-style preserved meats to the national acclaim they deserve.
Each meal should begin with a charcuterie board ($18)—the fresh chorizo makes the Spanish a standout—and a three-cheese board ($15, ask the servers to choose their favorites). The grilled sausages ($17), with lentils and Brussels sprouts cooked to perfect tenderness, and an oozy poached egg. But its raw materials are so excellent that it's one of few restaurants that can shine just as brightly with casual lunch fare, from the city's best hot dog ($8) to an OP BLT ($11), whose additions of cress and aioli make heirloom tomatoes shine bright, or the capicola and salami cotto grinder ($12), a deep hoagie bun stuffed full of buttery cotto and delectably musty salami, dressed to the nines with red onion, pepperoncini and Italian dressing. Finish up by grabbing some sausages for the road. That butcher's case is always fully stocked with chorizos, salamis, saucissons and other meaty treats.
Eat: For two, you'll want one or both (if you're hungry) of the Spanish charcuterie ($18) and three-cheese ($15) boards, and the sausages ($17) or a BLT with soup subbed for the mountain of potato chips ($11, $14 with soup). Olympia's dessert menu is surprisingly deep, varied and sophisticated. Finish things off with the sweet corn ice cream with apple confit, tarragon, peach shortbread and bacon salt-topped popped sorghum.
Drink: Skip the cocktails. You want a bottle of German or Belgian suds, ideally an Ayinger Brau Weisse ($7). News flash: European beer goes well with European food.
Most popular dish: Their three charcuterie boards—French, Italian and Spanish.
Noise level: 65/100
Expected wait: Reservations are encouraged, but the Northwest OP keeps bar and window seats open for walk-ins.
Who you'll eat with: Visiting tourists who begin and end each meal by gazing, twinkle-eyed, into the packed butcher's case. Your workmates on an extended power lunch.
Year opened: 2009