Compared to this time last year, Portland’s dining scene is looking downright rosy, even as we head into the darkest days of the year.
After 18 painful pandemic months, a growing number of well-known local restaurants are starting to fill their dining rooms to capacity, reopen shuttered locations and even debut brand-new eateries.
Kachka, chef Bonnie Morales’ exceptional tribute to her Belarusian roots, has been one of the most cautious kitchens in operation during the COVID-19 outbreak, first serving customers in cabanas spread out across the parking lot and then preparing take-home dinners when temperatures got too cold to remain outside.
Limited indoor dining returned this past spring, shortly after shoppers were allowed to browse the aisles of adjacent grocery-deli Lavka, and now the primary restaurant is fully open for sit-down service, including the bar top. Morales has also welcomed guests back into the building’s second dining room, reserved for regular dinner service Friday and Saturday. All customers must show proof of vaccination.
And if that isn’t a strong sign of optimism, Kachka has officially greenlit partying: You can rent the second dining room for private events. The restaurant is also reviving its epic New Year’s Eve dinner—reservations are already open.
Before fully reopening this month, Kachka’s management team used a recent break to take a food-driven field trip to Uzbekistan. Expect the influence of that experience to find its way onto the menu—we’re told that plov (the country’s signature dish traditionally made of rice, meat, onion and carrots) will make an appearance soon.
Another popular name in the restaurant industry, Bamboo Sushi, has finally reopened its Northeast Alberta Street location for the first time since the 2020 pandemic lockdown.
The business shared on its Facebook page that an unexpected maintenance issue at the shop on Southwest 12th Avenue provided the opportunity to move that team to the temporarily shuttered property for a soft reopening.
Bamboo Sushi Northeast will officially launch Saturday, Nov. 13 with limited hours, for the moment: 4-9 pm Saturday through Monday.
Finally, just a block from there, Pearl District restaurant and wine bar Arden debuted its little sister café, Wild Thing, late last week at 1483 Northeast Alberta Street. The entirely plant-based menu centers on build-your-own bowls with a base of brown grains or mixed greens, that’s then rampaged by fruits, vegetables and nuts from all shades of the color wheel.
Wild Thing has been a three-year-long project in the making from Arden owner Kelsey Glasser, as Eater PDX first reported. Chef Sam Smith, who helms the kitchen at Sweedeedee, serves as a consultant, developing menu items and bowl toppings that will be updated every season. The café also serves its very own label of canned wines and cold-brew coffee made in collaboration with Never Lab.
For now, Wild Thing is open 10 am to 3 pm Wednesday through Saturday, though Glasser expects to expand those hours and add a breakfast menu.