Saturday, March 02, 2013

Quick Hits: Clyde Common, Theory, Relish

Whether you call it luncheon or lunchin', Clyde Common is a downtown gem where business guys in suits (Are there really still offices where suits and ties are de rigeur?) settle in at the large common tables next to hipsters with short-sleeved plaid shirts and flapped hunting caps. The menu offers something for everyone, from simple salads of seasonal greens to big meaty sandwiches with house-made condiments to hearty entrées and hand-made pastas.

I was there for a casual ladies' lunch with a good friend, the only downside to the whole experience coming as the place filled up and the volume increased with it. That began the ever-escalating upward slope of noise, where, to be heard, everyone starts talking louder, etc., etc. Not to get off on an cranky rant, I'll just note that it's best to go when it's not crowded if you need to catch up with an old friend. The upside, of course, was that the food was terrific, particularly my squash and ricotta agnolotti in a luscious cream sauce sprinkled with candied walnuts. Heaven! Also, we weren't in a particular hurry, so eventually the business guys had to get back to the office and the hipsters migrated to the Stumptown outlet next door for their afternoon caffeine fix, leaving us to comfortably finish our conversation.

Details: Clyde Common, 1014 SW Stark St. 503-228-3333.

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If you have kids or you're meeting a friend for lunch who does, it's a natural. But even adults needing a quick, fairly inexpensive noontime meal are going to find it a desirable option, particularly since every seat in the house has a million-dollar view of the river and downtown through the soaring walls of windows. And as soon as the weather warms up a bit and the patio opens, you'll be able to dine riverside on the patio.

Inside, it's set up like a modernist cafeteria, with stations for kid-centric comfort food like meatloaf and mac'n'cheese, another for ethnic street food, a full deli and even a gorgeous wood oven where you can build your own hand-thrown pizza. And did I mention a full pastry case and coffee bar? All of it is dedicated to serving fresh, local and sustainable food, with most dishes made to order.

So where is this paragon of modern dining, you ask? Shockingly, it's a new restaurant called Theory inside…wait for it…OMSI, the city's science museum-cum-kid heaven. Run by the forward-looking, award-winning Bon Appétit food service that's been revolutionizing so-called institutional food for years and overseen by executive chef Ryan Morgan, they've even got a full bar and tap list and are set to start regular happy hour service soon. Count me in for a cocktail on the patio when the sun comes out again.

Details: Theory, 1945 SE Water Ave. 503-797-4000.

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The McMenamin brothers proved that Portlanders will go just about anyplace for a burger and a beer, opening pubs in somewhat unconventional locations like, say, an elementary school, the county poor house, even a funeral home.

Now the Moreland neighborhood has its own version of Portlandia-style quirk in the form of the recently opened Relish Gastropub, located in the former Wilhelm's funeral home building. It had been converted into a now-closed music club before being bought by Marla and Akhil Kapoor, who wanted to open a neighborhood-friendly, reasonably-priced place to serve fresh, local and seasonal cuisine (like their sturgeon-mussel stew, above*). A recent stop at their bar featured a surprisingly extensive and well-curated tap list, a wide selection of wines by the glass and a tempting range of cocktails. Dining rooms are intimate, and happy hour had several small plates that were promising. Be sure to ask to see the elevator they're using to haul the kegs up from storage, which used to be the casket elevator.

Details: Relish Gastropub, 6637 SE Milwaukie Ave. 503-208-3442.

* Photo of Relish sturgeon-mussel stew from their blog.

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