For 20 years, Wildwood restaurant was a Portland dining mainstay—and one of the finest beer bars anywhere near traditionally craft-beer-starved Nob Hill. But it closed suddenly in 2014 after a dramatic rent hike while business was still booming.
Two years later, the Wildwood building still stands vacant, somehow impervious to the development on every other nearby block. It's been used only to film Grimm episodes, the outdoor lettering for the restaurant's Wood Room modified to read "THE DOO ROOM" before more letters disappeared.
But Wildwood still kind of exists—three blocks to the north.
There, at the newly relocated Besaw's on Northwest 21st Avenue and Raleigh Street—a restaurant that is a survivor of 100 years—Wildwood's former general manager, Cana Flug, says she has hired 21 former Wildwood employees. This includes head chef Dustin Clark, sous chef Emory Brun and sommelier Savanna Ray. She's hiring two more, she says, for her next-door Solo Club bar that will open at the end of July.
In the same building, new pizzeria Please Louise is headed up by former Wildwood sous chef Brian Lamback, alongside still more Wildwood alums, something all involved say is a complete coincidence.
"We've all known each other so long," Flug says. "If one runs out of thermal paper and the other runs out of to-go boxes, we've done swapping—quite possibly a literal cup of sugar."
Flug says she's received about 100 comment cards asking if Besaw's can make Wildwood's famed mussels plate. "I think we're going to have to bring back some of the iconic dishes a few times," she says. "If I can get Dustin to do it after making them for 16 years."