At Toro Bravo, there are both kisses and a kissing room. The "kisses" on the menu at chef John Gorham's decade-old tapas bar are little bites like the tease of a lover: the beestung smoke and honey of a bacon-wrapped date, or the rich undertow of a foie-stuffed prune.
But the Northeast Russell Street space, tucked demurely under the Secret Society ballroom, also sports a "makeout room." Adorned by a painting of foolish romantic Don Quixote, the closet-sized, wallpapered nook has its own mythology: If you're caught making out there, your next cocktail is free.
But at WW's 2007 Restaurant of the Year, your private ecstasies will likely be reserved to the small plates, whether a $12 half-plate of the dry-aged, almond-garlic-chili coppa steak that made Gorham's name in this city, or crisp patatas bravas that come on as the world's most delicate dirty fries. Croquetas are breaded-bechamel depth charges that burst into lovely warmth, while Toro's rich romesco-manchego-bacon burger is one of the best we've had in the city—which should come as no surprise if you've tried the burgers at Gorham's world-beating Bless Your Heart.
Amid two Tasty restaurants, Middle Eastern fare both fancy and fast casual, and massive event space Plaza del Toro in the central east side, Toro remains Gorham's signal achievement as a restaurateur—amid ups and downs, multiple chefs and multiple remodels, it's still one of the most singular dining experiences in Portland. I've fallen out of love with Toro in the past: Consider the affair rekindled.
Pro Tip: Toro is still famous for its lines, and reservations go only to groups of seven or more. But two years ago they installed a couple of standing "tapas bars" by the door. Even on a Friday, if you're willing to stand while you eat, you can waltz in to immediately enjoy a $5 glass of Asturian Trabanco sidra, patatas bravas ($5) and maybe raw-cured sobrasada with light honey ($8). And then you can bounce.