A piece of Portland culinary history is being resurrected in the same building it disappeared from over 20 years ago.
For four decades, the colonial-themed Ye Olde Town Crier served homestyle meals out of a converted house at the corner of Southeast 41st Boulevard and Holgate Avenue. Known as much for its kitschy decor—which included wooden totem poles and images of pilgrims carved into the walls—as its food, the restaurant was a family-friendly favorite of the Woodstock neighborhood until it closed in 1996.
Several other bars and restaurants went on to occupy the space. Most recently, Johnny Zukle, owner of strip club Casa Diablo, had planned to open a restaurant and cannabis dispensary on the property, but the building ended up sitting empty the last few years.
Now, the Towne Crier is coming back—minus the "Ye Olde."
"We're keeping the charm and character," says new owner Tacee Webb. "Even though it hasn't been around for a long time, it's worth bringing back."
Webb is the former owner of long-running Hawthorne Boulevard vintage clothing store Red Light. She says that while she never visited the original Towne Crier, she and her daughter were frequent patrons of one of the businesses that proceeded it in the late '90s, Grandma's Restaurant, which maintained a similar look, along with many of the same employees.
"Before the birth of Portland's internationally acclaimed food scene, [the Towne Crier] was a neighborhood restaurant, and we went there a few times per week," Webb says. "There was this little bench outside that we would sit on, and I was very sentimental about it."
Webb says she initially tried to buy the building over a decade ago, but the deal fell through. (In 2017, Webb caused a minor controversy when she tried to buy a building in Astoria. She later pulled out of the deal.) She was finally able to purchase the former Towne Crier building last year, for close to the same asking price, she says.
"It's remarkable it never got torn down, because it needs a lot of work," she says.
Webb plans to restore the dining hall's "midcentury lodge" aesthetic while serving updated versions of original menu items including prime rib, Yorkshire pudding and dutch babies. She is also going to convert the basement, which contains a giant stone fireplace, into a "hip and campy" bar, with a drink menu from Stuart Ramsay, who curated the whiskey selection at the Multnomah Whiskey Library.
In addition, Webb plans to open a separate coffee shop, called the Treasury, in the rear of the building. Similar to Courtney Taylor-Taylor's wine bar, Old Portland, it will be decorated with items from other shuttered Portland institutions, including chandeliers from Der Rheinlander, bricks from the Lotus Cardroom, signage from the Overlook and chairs from the Fernwood Inn featuring nameplates of celebrities who once sat in them, such as Tom Jones and Raquel Welch.
"We wanted it to feel decidedly old," Webb says. "Everything in Portland [today] is so over-designed that people instantly recoil. Working with old elements from old buildings is what will keep it special."
Webb is aiming to open the Treasury in October, with the full restaurant and bar following in the winter.