Tilt in the Pearl District

A recent addition to the Portland landscape Tilt currently operates two locations.  One on Swan Island in north Portland and another in the Pearl district.  A third location on east Burnside will be opening soon.

I’ve been to the pearl location several times now and I can say that the experience loses nothing by repetition.  Squarely on the corner of 13th and Everett, Tilt is among good company with restaurants such as Hamlet, Oven and shaker and Vault Martini.

Inside the decor is spartan with chrome and black in abundance and the odd piece of industrial equipment squarely situated for flavor.   There is a seating area and a long bar with numerous stools, booths and a ping pong table.

The menu is heavy on the american standards of hamburger, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and pie.  Despite the greasy spoon similarities the menu is exquisitely prepare and each portion is of a quality that knocks you off your stool.  The burgers are huge, juicy and filling.  The sides and appetizers are equally robust.  I personally recommend the bacon tots.  The tots are made fresh and each is a tiny wad of deep fried potato that delights and stuffs you like a thanksgiving turkey.  They come in 6, 12 and 18 pieces but beware as they are each huge and stick to your ribs.

Pie is the other serious offering here.  Everything sweet from cinnamon rolls to tarts is on offer but Pie is king and like any good late night diner you can get a slice of just about anything hot, a la mode, or even done up as a milkshake.

Now, you might ask why I would bring all this to my blog.  The answer is simple, they have possibly the second deepest bar I have seen in Portland.  Many places can get by with a smaller selection of more complex items but sitting in Tilt you can start picking out great bottles for ten feet in either direction and still not see everything they’ve got.

The cocktail menu appears to be seasonal, with about 10 unique options every season.  Their winter menu was still on board when I first went and I had the opportunity to drink something made with rum, nocino and lime that gave me new ideas.   In the spring I had a little coupe called a night swim that involved a basic martini splashed with vanilla syrup and creme de violet.  Everything I have had there is complex.  Flavors from bitter to sweet play in a wonderland of presentation and selection.

More tellingly the bartenders are never coy about what they are using and when asked to make a bourbon milk punch for the Hopboxer they gamely took down the recipe and presented an excellent cocktail in reply.

I look forward to their east Burnside location finally opening as I want something closer to my work and home where I can take friends and family.  My downtown options were previously locked in but I think that given the quality of the food and the much better selection I’m moving Tilt to the top of my list when it comes time to pick a restaurant.

Bar Review: Kask

One of those hidden gems in the Portland landscape is a tiny bar called Kask.  Situated on the back side of the Grüner restaurant on SW 12th it is so small you could blink and miss it.

With the bar it couldn’t have more than 25 seats in the entire place.  It is tight and close, dark and loud.  All of which is totally irrelevant.  The minimal decoration is all on the walls and around the front window.  There is some fantastic chalkboard art on the walls and behind the bar, but really what catches the eye is the bar itself.  It’s a smooth but uneven wooden bar that has character coming out the eyeballs.

Once you’re seated you’re in the power of a squad of well dressed cocktail masters.  The night I chose to visit was mid week and it wasn’t busy so we were able to bogart the attention of at least one of the two on duty at any time.

Their appetizer menu is short, but even item on it is crafted with precision.  The beet pickled, deviled eggs were purple and fantastic.  Their meat and cheese plate is presented on the menu front and center.  At $10 for two items and $18 for four it is a rather expensive appetizer.  I don’t think it’s intended for more than one person, the size of the portions wasn’t big enough to keep you going for long.  What is does do is play merry havoc with your taste buds.  The cheeses are all pungent and wonderful, the meats salty and thin.

Their antique looking bar menu breaks down drinks into base spirits and then gives three or so each of shaken and stirred.  Every single one we tried was amazing.  They have their skills in hand and know exactly what they’re doing.  Everything from their $5 daily punch to their negroni flip is worth taking out for a spin.

Their stock of bottles behind the bar is impressive compared to many places I’ve been.  I think only Oven and Shaker has a bigger stock from the places I’ve reviewed.  Their new bar manager was on hand that night and he was more than willing to indulge my curiosity with a couple of off menu choices.

I was able to order an original aviation with Creme Yvette , and we made up a cocktail on the spot with Coole Swan, House Spirits Coffee Liqueur, and cherry liqueur.  They didn’t have any Galliano but I think they will the next time I go.

I’m going back as soon as I can, hope to see you there.

Bar Review: Jolly Roger – Johns Landing

Parked comfortably between I-5 and the Willamette river in a trendy semi-residential neighborhood the Jolly Roger appears to be a happy place to kick back.

I arrived in the company of friends, with nothing much in mind.  Adjust expectations accordingly.

I would classify this as a Beer Bar.  In the beer friendly environs of Portland the microbrewery is almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks.  It is therefore curious to find places where the PBR and bud light still reign supreme.  There were taps of various well known and well like concoctions but nothing that struck me as being particularly unique.  I’ll let the HopBoxer expand on that at some point.

The bar itself seemed to be poorly laid out for the space.  The door to the walk in freezer was situated smack dab in the middle of the bar area.  This means that shelves have to be built around it, and when the door is opened you can’t traverse the bar putting fully 3/4 of their inventory on the other side.  There was a nice selection of a couple of things. They seemed to have their Svedka selections down pat and more than a few top shelf items to round out.  All of their one off items and liqueurs seemed to be afterthoughts rather than solid inclusions.

Their drink menu offered something nice, each of the staff was allowed to make up a cocktail and put it forward for the public.  A nice touch that gives you an idea of what different people like.

The down-side of this appears to be the limited staff.  I saw two people on staff on a busy pre-holiday four day weekend, with only one behind the bar at any given time.  I chose an interesting sounding drink from the menu and when I asked for it the bartender didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.  I pointed it out on the menu and was told that it was a new menu and they weren’t all familiar with it yet.  When she made the drink she mistook one of the ingredients and I had to point it out to her, not sure how you misread splash of cream as splash of *cran* but there you are.

The atmosphere wasn’t bad, the inside seemed a bit cramped but there were plenty of seats outside on the sidewalk under an awning.  I’d go back just to give them another try but I don’t think it’s going to make anyone’s bucket list.




Bar Review: Oven and Shaker

I had the opportunity to have brunch at Oven and Shaker with my mother, Valerie.  During the Northwest Foodservice show I was privileged to meet Ryan Magarian one of the fine minds behind the place and it inspired me to check the place out and see some of his philosophy in action.

First impressions were nice, it was clean well decorated and lively even at 11:30 AM.  Lots of dark wood, big mirrors and the emphasis on the view out the big front windows as well as the impressive bar.

I wish I had my better camera to really capture the size of the bar on this place.  It’s not so much the seats but the rack of liquor behind the bartenders that impresses.  Looking down the row was a who’s who of local favorites, oddball things I haven’t had a chance to try yet and curious selections.  Everything from the Clear Creek Eau de Vie Douglas fir to the selection of bitters was on display and made for a fun side game looking for specific things.  The only thing I couldn’t find that surprised me was a lack of Galliano.  Not a common thing for sure but with the amount of one offs in the selection it was a small surprise.

I had two drinks, a Pineapple train wreck and a Botticelli,  and my mother a French 75 and a coffee.  Here is the drink selection for the day we went, It changes frequently so expect something new by the time you read this.


The brunch menu was nice and we picked the Ham Plate and the Eggs Purgatory.

I liked the Ham, really wished for more of the biscuits and less of the pimento cheese.  The eggs were great, a little focaccia and marinara.  Mom said the coffee tasted a bit sharp, like they were using espresso beans in the roast, but I think it was more likely the french press.

I would have loved to try a full pizza and will certainly look to get something more substantial next time I go.

I can’t seem to convey how impressive the bar actually was.  Every station was perfect.  All the bitters, juices and items you could need and not a movement was wasted.  I didn’t see the bartender make anything from off the shelf but he did a number of drinks including the three we ordered without having to move a foot.  There was only one guy on duty that morning but there were easily three other stations ready to go for the evening crowd.

The volume of good quality ingredients on that shelf was intimidating.  I hope to one day have a bar that looks that complete.  I could probably have pulled out anything in my current repertoire and had it made in a flash.

The syrups and honey that they use in a lot of their signature drinks really intrigue me and I think next time I go I’m going to try to sample them on their own.  One of my current plans is to start making some more unique simple syrups and growing my own herbs to use in making things like a chocolate mint demerara syrup.

In addition to the alcohol there was an entire shelf of bar guides, cookbooks, mixology manuals and even a whiskey and spirits for dummies.  I can’t say that they’re all for show, Some are pretty well thumbed and there were some pretty major names on there.  (The PDT Cocktail book, Flavor bible and a whole set of Food & Wine guides just to name a few.)

One thing that really interested me; I spotted my favorite vodka on a smaller shelf and knowing that Ryan had also been a co-founder of House Spirits it wasn’t surprising to see Volstead in his bar.  But what the bartender told me was that the whole shelf was the owner’s reserve and that they weren’t allowed to pour from those bottles.  I snapped a photo and there are some very nice and very rare things on there.  I couldn’t identify more than a couple but try it yourself when you go, it’s neat to get a glimpse into what a professional keeps in his private stock.