Gigantic Brewing continues to live up to its name with the opening of a third location; however, the new spot is much more than just another satellite taproom. It marks the company’s entry into food service and offers a menu that tracks the founders’ beer-related travels around the world.
The pub, located at 4343 SE Hawthorne Blvd., hosted media for a tour and sampling just days before Thanksgiving, but quietly opened the week before, which primarily attracted curious passersby and neighbors. The restaurant had for decades been home to Hawthorne Fish House, which closed during the pandemic.
The building is hard to miss—even on this busy stretch of road—thanks to Gigantic’s superherolike signature colors. The exterior has been painted a vivid shade of blue, and a bright red sign bearing the brand’s name hangs above the front door.
While it doesn’t look too large from the outside, the 2,000-square-foot pub can actually fit 100 people in the dining room and bar and another 100 on a semi-secret rear patio with picnic tables and a bamboo plant buffer. You’ll also find 20 taps (though as of last week, only a handful were pouring while Gigantic waited for approval of a cooler permit from the city) and two beer engines that serve at around 50 degrees and offer a much rounder mouthfeel.
“We finally have a bar big enough to serve cask beer,” Gigantic master brewer Van Havig said at last week’s preview, “which is what I was really excited about.”
But what Gigantic fans might be even more delighted by is the food menu, which was developed by Havig and Gigantic brewmaster Ben Love. Originally, they were inspired by tater tot-based dishes that would come with a variety of toppings—everything from Benedict fixings to a full English breakfast. While that concept didn’t end up making the final cut for the opening (though could appear down the road in the form of brunch), the lineup now allows visitors to retrace Love and Havig’s globetrotting.
“The food was inspired by festival travel,” explained Love, who experimented with recipes with Justin Wills, former Pelican Brewing chef and current owner of the renowned Restaurant Beck in Depoe Bay as well as Nye Beach’s Sorella.
While everything we sampled at the preview was solid, the standout was the Flaeskasteg, which admittedly is easier to eat than pronounce. The Danish pork sandwich is a tribute to those that Havig and Love have ordered numerous times at the Isted Grill in Copenhagen. It comes with a crispy Carlton Farms roast pork loin that is barely contained in a brioche bun and layered with braised red cabbage, remoulade and housemade dill pickles.
Once you’ve visited Denmark, make your way over to Japan via the karaage chicken sandwich, which you can get regular or spicy (but, really, bring on the heat in this instance). It’s inspired by a similar dish at the Teppa Room in Japan, owned by Love and Havig’s brewery friends.
Also worth returning for: the double 3-ounce-patty smashburger (“a glorious gooball,” as described by Love) and the Baller Grilled Cheese, which is a variation on the first winner of Snackdown!, Portland Beer Week’s wrestling-themed food-and-beer pairing competition. To ensure it’s worthy of its title, Gigantic piled on multiple cheeses, including Mahón, Manchego and truffle cheese, as well as tomato and sauteed onion jam.
Gigantic’s founders had differing reactions to operating a kitchen for the first time: “Terrifying,” Havig said. “Exciting,” Love added. Ultimately, the two decided they wanted complete control over the food for a change and, if they had relied on outside vendors, would simply be leaving money on the table. Plus, it’s a way for longtime fans of Gigantic beer to get to know the people in the brewhouse by sampling some of their favorite dishes.
“It’s exciting to have a menu with all of these foods that we enjoy so much,” Havig said.
Work is still underway on what will be called the “Portrait Lounge” in the back of the pub. The English-style gentleman’s lounge (not club) will be decorated with hard wood and leather accents and feature vintage-style paintings of Love, Havig, their wives and full-time staff members. The space will be open to the public most of the time, but also available to rent for private parties.
Gigantic Hawthorne is open 3-9 pm Monday through Friday and noon to 9 pm Saturday and Sunday. All ages are welcome and leashed dogs are permitted on the patio.