A new restaurant in Portland’s Sunnyside neighborhood wants to become your regular drinking buddy.
Old Pal, founded by Jeremy Larter (formerly of Ken’s Artisan Pizza and DOC) and Emily Bixler (owner of jewelry and sculpture line Boet), began operating in late July at 3350 SE Morrison St.
That location previously housed Hobnob Grille, which closed this past winter after a 13-year run. The owner sold the space Feb. 21—coincidentally the same day it opened in 2009—announcing on Facebook that he had been suffering from long COVID after contracting the virus in October 2020, which made running the business a challenge.
“I reopened us this year in hopes that I would be able to work on my health condition and get the Hobnob hobnobbing again simultaneously,” the post stated. “As it turned out, I was doing both poorly.”
The decision was made to focus on personal well-being, and the Hobnob owner teased that the incoming restaurateur had decades of experience in hospitality. Now we know who that is.
Larter, who also owns the catering company Field Day Feasts & Gatherings, graduated from culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., and worked alongside chefs along the East Coast before moving to Oregon in 2001. He decided to make Portland his home, and took on nearly every role he could in the restaurant industry, including server, bartender and kitchen manager.
The move to caterer happened in 2013, when Field Day was founded with a focus on seasonally driven dishes. Now, Larter is using that experience to launch his own brick-and-mortar. Old Pal’s menus also shift throughout the year, depending on what’s in season—but you can always expect a handful of vegetable-heavy plates and plenty of tiny, tinned fish.
The flavors of late summer can currently be found in a stone fruit and pickled blueberry burrata; heirloom tomato gazpacho; and risotto with lobster mushroom, sweet corn and smoked onion. Offerings from the sea include smoked oyster with a crème fraîche dip, wild mackerel, sardines and a daily oyster happy hour, where the bivalves go for two bucks each from 4 to 6 pm.
Drink options range from beer to wine to cocktails—yes, you can even order the restaurant’s eponymous drink thought to be invented in the 1920s made with rye, Campari, and Dolin Dry vermouth.
Old Pal is open 4-10 pm Sunday-Monday and Thursday and 4-11 pm Friday-Saturday.