The Cafe at Pat's, Portland
Posted on September 21, 2011
by Joe Ricchio
With original chef Greg Gilman back at the helm, the Cafe at Pat's has been restored and re-opened, providing yet another great reason to damage your automobile traversing one of the many speed tables on Stevens Avenue.
It is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant, dimly lit with a beautiful wood interior, eclectic furnishings, and a random assortment of '70s music. It lacks any pretension whatsoever, offering a comforting environment for either a quick nightcap or a multi-course meal. To enjoy the latter on a recent Thursday evening, I elect to sit at the bar.
Much like the meat market on the first floor, the service is friendly, competent, and approachable. Pat's has amassed a large following of staunch regulars over the years, almost all of whom have now returned to fill the void left in their lives when the cafe closed down over a year ago.
Prior to examining the menu, I call for an Anchor Porter in an attempt to fill my own personal void. Its roasted malt aromas give way to rich flavors of bittersweet chocolate, caramel, and coffee, all of which are highly stereotypical for this style of beer but enjoyable nonetheless. After quickly drinking half of the bottle on an empty stomach, I remind myself that it may be prudent to eat a few pieces of crusty bread from Standard Baking Co., bestowed with a healthy dollop of whipped butter, in order to remain "even."
Though I have a sneaking suspicion that the portion sizes will be ample, I see it fit to order three courses, commencing with the spinach salad. Tomato, cucumber, black olives, pepperoncini, and a liberal block of sheep feta are served with a side of dressing that very much resembles, or might well have been, Thousand Island. The greens are very fresh, and along with the tangy pepperoncini they provide a refreshing crunch that fully compliments the salty cheese and olives.
Between courses, I investigate the outdoor patio, fully concealed from the outside world by hanging trees and brightly illuminated with several tiki torches. I am not generally a fan of dining al fresco, but this almost feels like being in your own personal tree house—a tree house attached to a bar, at that.
I saddle back up at my perch just in time for my second course, ravioli crisps. These intensely comforting, crispy little pillows of herbed ricotta are joined on the plate by wilted spinach, more cheese, crunchy walnuts, sweet and tart cherries, and scallions. To amplify the situation, I order a bottle of 2006 El Jamon Crianza tempranillo from Cariñena, Spain. Though the wine is perfectly reasonable and the dried cherry characteristics work with the ravioli, it is a bit one-dimensional, lacking the kind of "dirtiness" that I more often prefer in my Spanish red.
By now the other three bar seats have filled up, so when I receive news that a dining companion will soon join me, I relocate to the lounge, yet another little hideaway that makes one feel as if they have stepped into a different restaurant altogether. The decor here is almost tropical, with rattan furniture surrounded by candles and ferns.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with the ambience of this restaurant—it is soulful, sexy, brooding, and vibrant all at the same time. Everything appears both mismatched and perfectly in order, as if it had arranged itself naturally over a long period of time. In this environment, one can be happy regardless of what is in in the glass or on the plate, so long as both are full.
I snap out of my ambience- and wine-induced state as my entree arrives, a crispy charred pork chop covered in melted cheese and sautéed apples. This sits, perfectly cooked, atop basmati rice with grilled zucchini and yet more cherries. The classic combination of pork and fruit is further heightened by the addition of cheese, though the rice is slightly bland and could have benefited greatly from the addition of a sauce.
My dining companion rolls in, perfectly in sync with the arrival of ravioli crisps I have ordered for her. After a few drinks, I begin to get a bit anxious and ask for the check, an action that is met with a stern glare from across the table, causing me to reconsider and ask about dessert options. We decide to taste one of each—blueberry pie served a la mode and cheesecake with macerated strawberries and mint from Katie Made Bakery, as well as a slice of molasses cake from Rosemont Bakery. Though each is a solid offering, the moist and chewy molasses cake with sweet, creamy frosting is the most memorable for me.
It is important to keep in mind that, as of this visit, the Cafe at Pat's had only been open for about two weeks. Nothing about my experience even remotely suggested this to be the case, as each aspect was seamless and well executed. I look forward to joining the many regulars here for more ambience- and wine-induced ramblings throughout the fall and the long winter that follows.
484 Stevens Ave. | Portland | 207.874.0706