It doesn't matter where you sit in Clyde Common. In all likelihood, you're going to have a conversation with a total stranger, and that's pretty cool. Whether it's the tatted-up youngsters next to you at one of the community tables, gushing over their crispy, porky lumpia ($7), or the Silicon Valley expats in the two-top to your right, the frenetically laid-back vibe here seems to draw out the conversationalist in all of us. And if you're not talking about politics or what brewery to hit up afterwards, you'll probably just discuss chef Carlo Lamagna's food.

Lamagna seems hell-bent on discovering which heretofore seemingly disparate culinary traditions are the most simpatico. Why shouldn't a crispy chicken milanese ($21) get congenial with an earthy mole, nestled with the acid crunch of pickled cucumber and jicama? You know what shishito peppers ($8) always needed? Being smothered in caramelized eggplant and tangy chèvre—the char on the peppers adding a bitter counternote to the whole affair. Lamagna's menu revels in unexpected combinations with such alacrity that it's pretty obvious it's more than whimsy driving it. Or he's just gotten lucky. But that's something else to talk about.

Photo: Thomas Teal
Photo: Thomas Teal

Eat: Fish dishes are represented well here, subject to seasonality. Get the rainbow trout ($25) if it's available.

Drink: Take a chance on the daily punch ($7). Jeffery Morgenthaler runs the bar program so you're in good hands.

Most popular dishes: Porchetta with grits, and the steelhead trout plate.

Noise level: 78/100. It's loud and bustling, a low rumble that becomes a pleasant white noise once you get acclimated.

Expected wait: It does take reservations; weekend evenings can be dicey.

Who you'll eat with: Everybody. It's downtown, next to the Ace Hotel, so expect a lot of out-of-towners or showgoers who are pregaming.

Year opened: 2007

(Thomas Teal)
(Thomas Teal)

1014 SW Stark St., 503-228-3333, clydecommon.com. 11:30 am-midnight Monday-Friday, 10 am-midnight Saturday, 10 am-11 pm Sunday. $$-$$$.