Interurban has had an odd trajectory. This premium pub grub spot opened on Mississippi at the end of 2011 under the ownership of John Gorham, Kurt Huffman and Dan Hart. Gorham has two Restaurant of the Year plaques; Huffman owns a piece of about a dozen spots including No. 4 St. Jack. The Big Three never found a flow, and Hart bought the others out of this underlit little tavern with a big, sometimes smoky patio. You might figure Interurban was destined for a downgrade—Hart otherwise owns two beer-focused German spots, the bro-y bar Prost and Stammtisch. But, finally, five years in, Interurban has come into its own as a roundly excellent gastropub with top-tier draft beer, excellent cocktails, and food that pairs well with both. Chef Jonny Henry's small menu at this "publican's table" is mostly the same stuff you find at others of its ilk—roasted bone marrow, crab cakes, steak frites, salad topped with blue cheese and hazelnuts—but it's the first and only place in Portland to do it on the level you find at places like Denver's Euclid Hall. An early fall visit found the kitchen assembling a simple but exquisite salad from ultra-ripe heirloom tomatoes, a fat dollop of maple-smoked chevre, tissue paper-thin slivers of salty fatback and sweet, nutty Banyuls vinegar ($10). It's exactly the sort of thing that looks easy to compose until you see it bungled so many times. Our entrees included a perfectly grilled rainbow trout served under fried leeks and above smoked baby potatoes ($14) and a perfectly medium-rare hanger steak ($15), served already sliced and sopped with a rich, spicy and delightfully trashy demi glace. Pair it with the artisanal Jell-O shots ($3, jiggly G&Ts on our visit) and apologize to no one.
GO: 4057 N Mississippi Ave., 503-284-6669, interurbanpdx.com. 3 pm-2:30 am Monday-Friday, 10 am-2:30 am Saturday-Sunday. $.
Eat: Steak, potatoes, salad—seriously.
Drink: The rotating beer list is fantastic, and the cocktails are better. Interurban does one of the best Old Fashioneds ($10) in town and is equally passionate about other classics, like an Applejack Fix made with Laird's and Combier orange ($10) and a version of the storied old gin-and-vermouth cocktail known as the Lone Tree, here made with Hayman's old tom and both Dolin dry and Cinzano rossa ($10).
Most popular dish: Trout BLT with house-smoked rainbow trout and Nueske's bacon on bread baked fresh to order, and the boar burger with roasted Hatch chiles, queso botanero and pickled jalapeños.
Noise level: 55/100
Expected wait: Usually none.
Who you'll eat with: It really depends on where you're sitting.
Year opened: 2012