By Jamie Caulley
In the space between the culinary shores of restaurant dining and food cart eating lies The Ocean—a group of micro-restaurants located at the corner of Northeast 24th Avenue and Glisan Street.
“You’d have to be living under a rock in this town, not to notice the exposure to food carts,” Ocean developer Kevin Cavenaugh explains. “(But) there are elements of that reality that aren’t wonderful,” he continues, citing wet, breezy outdoor seating and the clash of Porta Potties with fine food.
The Ocean is Cavenaugh’s experiment in designing spaces that solve those issues while allowing food entrepreneurs to serve affordable, high-quality food in a comfortable setting. Below is a micro-look into the businesses Cavenaugh has invited to swim in The Ocean.
Basa Basa • www.facebook.com/BasaBasaPdX
After seventeen years owning and operating Caprial’s Bistro in Westmoreland, the famous culinary pair—Caprial and John Pence—are back in the restaurant scene after three years absence, this time with an unlikely subject. “It is KFC. Korean Fried Chicken,” John says with a laugh.
Battered, double fried and tossed in one of John’s three handmade sauces, they offer a simple but tasty take on the traditional wing.
Almost as interesting as the food is the restaurant’s name, which refers to a mythical Japanese character, “a fire-breathing chicken monster,” explains John. “When it swoops down and attacks its prey, its wings make the sound basa basa.”
24th and Meatballs • www.24thandmeatballs.com
For the love of the meatball, owner and chef Adam Berger opened his meatball shop in July 2012, after owning nearby Tabla Bistro for ten years.
Inspired by Berger’s Jersey upbringing, the menu features classics, such as Italian meatballs and spicy pork meatballs. But it also hosts some unique Portland-style meatballs, such as gluten-free chicken balls and vegan balls made with a house-made seitan and combined with lentils and brown rice. Of course, no Portland meatball would be complete without a Northwest kale salad by its side.
The interior is casual with wall art by local artists Richard Jones, Matt Stanger and Ian McWilliams. Endless ball jokes bounce around in the artwork, as well as between customers and even with the seasoned staff.
“Sometimes it is intended and sometimes it is not intended, but it is always funny,” states Berger.
Uno Mas • (503)-208-2764
Aptly named after the frequent pleas for one more, Oswaldo Bibiano has quieted customers requests for more taco options at his two other Portland restaurants, Autentica and Mextiza.
Bibiano, who grew up in southern Mexico, brings his regional food experiences to Uno Mas. Many of the restaurant’s tacos are inspired by Mexican street food, such as taco de chicharron (crispy pork skins, pico de gallo, cilantro and chilies) and basket, or steamed, tacos. His family’s influence shows in the hongo al ajillo (wild mushroom) taco, made for Bibiano as a youth by his grandparents.
All in all, twenty different tacos and half a dozen house-made sauces are served in the small, brightly colored space.
Bibiano explains that he wanted to bring those traditions to the place he has called home for the past sixteen years. “I want to give it to Portland, because I love this city,” he says.
Slowburger • http://www.slowburger.net
The Slow Bar burger, touted on several top-ten lists as Portland’s best, has found its sea legs and headed off for a space of its own.
Slow Bar opened in Southeast Portland nine years ago. Although the bar was successful, once its burger achieved famed status, Slow Bar was forced into a restaurant scene never part of the initial intention.
“Slow Bar is supposed to be a bar,” states owner Rob Hemmerling, referring to the fact that the business was never intended for children.
Now, at Northeast Portland’s Slowburger, there is a place for families to enjoy a burger together. Offering more burger options, including a seasonal burger, a veggie burger and mini-burgers, Slowburger keeps the tavern-like feeling with draft beer, wooden bar counters and a toasty outdoor fire pit.
Tails & Trotters • www.tailsandtrotters.com
“The pig is a generous creature. It is our responsibility to respect and celebrate that,” states Mark Cockcroft, co-owner of the butcher and sandwich shop, Tails & Trotters.
His business partner Aaron Silverman came up with the idea for Tails and Trotters in 2004 after attending a slow-food festival in Italy, where he discovered the world’s best charcuterie came from pigs finished on a diet of acorns, mimicking wild pigs that forage nuts as a fat source for winter.
Putting a Northwest twist on the centuries-old practice, Tails & Trotters’ pigs are finished on a diet of hazelnuts.
“It also happens to make them really, really tasty,” Cockcroft explains about their pigs, raised at Pure Country Pork’s farm in central Washington.
Not truly a micro-restaurant, Tails & Trotters’ 1,500 square feet are mainly occupied by coolers and aging rooms. Its small retail space fits right in at The Ocean, with a menu of soups and sandwiches that Cockcroft states are, “always going to have a little kiss of pork.”
Pie Spot • www.pie-spot.com
Now here is the place to stuff your pie hole.
Barely acquaintances four years ago, Ashley Ragsdale and Jessica Woods already have left the food cart kiddie pool to swim with the big fish in their new, full-size bakery. Pie Spot’s cupcake-sized, self-contained pie holes were initially designed for farmer’s markets—eliminating the waste of paper plates and plastic silverware with a mini-pie you can eat with your hands. Yet, the sweet and savory pie holes work just as nicely with real plates and forks inside the new bakery at The Ocean.
Pie Spot is expanding its offering with the addition of cream pies by the slice, scones, cookies, gluten-free pies and, of course, pie’s best friend—coffee.