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Portland's Restaurant Apocalypse?


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#1 crepeguy

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Posted 23 January 2016 - 11:42 AM

http://munchies.vice...ce=munchiesfbus

I mostly agree with Kurt Huffman's assessment on this, but I'd like to know your thoughts.

#2 StMaximo

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Posted 23 January 2016 - 12:03 PM

Apocalypse? Frankly I am amazed at how many restaurants there are in this town and that they seem to stay open. Seems like OP has found a sweet spot. Most of the ones that have been closing seem to be either more expensive or in an odd niche. Some places just don't seem to click and then some people in this town seem to know which place is going to be the next it spot and lead the way.

 

I do wonder about the business skills of some of the folks as well. Sometimes it seems like a place is making great food, but i wonder about the business end of things with staffing and other expenses.



#3 nervousxtian

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Posted 24 January 2016 - 07:26 AM

Kinda of a knock on Tanuki there by Kurt.    Not sure why he saw fit to point them out as grubby and unrefined.

 

I'll take 10 Taunki's over another ChefStable spot.    Not that his spots aren't good, but they rarely transcend into great.



#4 ExtraMSG

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Posted 24 January 2016 - 12:05 PM

This was my response on Facebook:

 

 

There are some important points in here for people in the restaurant industry, especially chefs and restaurateurs. I disagree with a few points, however:


Kurt says that the industry here is maturing and that's resulting in higher standards -- that the food has to be good and interesting. We may just have different definitions of what "maturing" means, but I see it as the opposite.


I think Portland reached peak a few years ago and in some ways is on a downward slide. I don't necessarily blame Californians, but I do think there is a cultural shift to blame, whether it's generational or a change in the type of people who are now coming to Portland or just a general national/international trend that Portland is just a part of or what.


It would be nice to say that the standards for quality -- execution, service, ingredients, concept, etc -- are all higher. I don't see it that way, though. I think the way we're becoming more like "mature" restaurant cities -- New York, San Francisco, etc -- is with more trend- and hype-chasing. PR matters a lot more than it used to. Branding matters a lot more than it used to.

 

Look at a street like Division. You have all that development and yet restaurants -- good restaurants -- are closing and suffering. In the past if you had an area develop, the rising tide would lift all boats. Instead now, though, it seems to focus even more attention on a few places that people are already familiar with. The big brands get busier, but it doesn't trickle down to the lesser-known places. In fact, it may actually hurt them because people pass them by to go to the big brand nearby.

 

To some degree, I think it's true that a restaurant has to be "interesting" -- or rather, have a gimmick. But it can't be too different. Instead, it has to be familiar but hipsterfied.
I like Bunk Sandwiches a lot. But when I first heard about Tommy doing a sandwich shop, it was a NY-style pork store with Brian Spangler. I still love that idea. As fun as Bunk is, a quality NY-style pork store, like Faicco's, would be better, imo. I like tradition. And I think these traditional foods often have advantages from years of figuring out what works. I think a very good, traditional cuban sandwich, eg, is much better than a pork belly cuban sandwich. But the traditional would not sell more than the pork belly version because the market likes gimmickry. The market wants that Cool Ranch Doritos taco even if it's not as good as the plain taco. Thus, Salt & Straw. Accessible with a gimmick is the template for many of the most successful places in Portland right now. Pinolo will never even have 1/10th the business of Salt & Straw a couple blocks down the street, not only because of branding and PR, but because of concept. It's just too normal, even if Salt & Straw's best ice cream isn't as good as Pinolo's worst.

 

I do not see this as a sign of maturity.


I think the people in the restaurant industry are as good as they've ever been. Tons of talent out there right now. Probably too much for such a shitty career choice. I don't think the customer base has kept up at all and I don't think the media has either, nor is the media trying to educate the customer base, if they even can be in an era where Yelp dominates.


The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#5 ExtraMSG

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Posted 24 January 2016 - 12:11 PM

Kinda of a knock on Tanuki there by Kurt.    Not sure why he saw fit to point them out as grubby and unrefined.

 

I'll take 10 Taunki's over another ChefStable spot.    Not that his spots aren't good, but they rarely transcend into great.

 

Kind of, kind of not.  You never know exactly how an interview is edited, either.  They're usually pared down A LOT from the actual conversation.  I think Kurt said this was a 2 hour interview.  It would be 50 times longer if everything was included.  (I wish in this digital era journalists would put up unredacted podcasts of their conversations.)

 

Tanuki is one of those places that is unrefined, kind of grubby, etc.  The thing that makes it great is that the food is not.  The food is top quality in a dive sake bar atmosphere.  I don't know if Janis would choose the atmosphere or not if she had unlimited funds and resources.  But she might.  I have no problem with that.  It's probably the type of place she'd like to hang out in: top notch food, cheap drinks, no pretensions.  I don't think there's any problem calling the place unrefined.  Refined places don't have zombie porn.  The food, though, as we all know, is much more refined.  I think of it as Janis's Playhouse.

 

I don't know if Kurt intended to say the food itself is unrefined.  I doubt it.


The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#6 nervousxtian

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Posted 24 January 2016 - 05:49 PM

Oh, I'm not arguing with you that the description fits... it's just a dick move on his part.

 

I mean he called the experience of Tanuki grubby.    I mean, it might be endearing to call a place a dive.. .but calling a joint unrefined and grubby is kinda not something you need to put out as an example..    

 

Nice response though Nick, was that on your personal page?  Did you get a response?

 

I do think you nailed it with the gimmick, theme, hipster-fy a trend..   also a legit cuban would for sure be better.

 

Portlanders seem to really embrace the grubbiest of experiences.



#7 pwillen1

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Posted 25 January 2016 - 06:25 AM

I don't think apocalypse is the right word. I see this more as a seasonal adjustment, a growing pain, in the low season of tourism. More places will close and more will open. This is just a correction in a longer term expansion.


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#8 nate

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Posted 27 January 2016 - 10:23 AM

Places come and places go. It seems like there's always hand-wringing about whether various events mean the end of life as we know it, or not. I'll miss some of the places that are closing. Others won't bother me in the least. A ton of new places will open; some will be awesome, some will suck, and many, regardless of whether they're good or not, won't make it past the first year or so (I don't envy those of you in the food service industry). There will also always be overrated places that do great business but just as many underrated places that do just fine too.

 

Can I consistently find great lunch options for under $10?

 

Can I find great everyday dinners for under $20 (sans drinks)?

 

Once a month or so can I splurge and spend $100-200 on a really great meal for two?

 

Can I do all of these things while exploring new (to me) establishments and new (to me) cuisines and not just relying on the same dozen places?

 

As long as I can keep answering yes to those four questions, I think the Portland food scene is fine for me. Until the whole town is overrun with Applebees and Cheesecake Factories, I'm not going to be too worried.