This post is long overdue, but I’ve been very, very, very busy for the past four months. In case you didn’t know, I finally opened my own bar – with my good friend, business partner and former Clyde Common head bartender, Benjamin Amberg. And now that I can finally get some fresh air, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
My boss has finally made the painful decision to close Clyde Common after a long series of pandemic-related setbacks and most of 2021 has been spent working on our Ninkasi Canned Cocktails, doing consulting work for various clients and brands, and generally trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Until the end of December, when I was approached by our now partners in KEX Hotel to Portland to open my own project in their hotel lobby. I love a hotel lobby bar, so I grabbed Benjamin and we started planning our dream lobby bar. And the end result is Pacific Standard.
I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve worked everywhere from really scary dive bars to fine dining restaurants (and everything in between). I migrated to gastronomy a long time ago because:
- Hours are better. Working until 4am every night just isn’t sustainable for anyone in the long run.
- The clientele is – in theory – better. I’ve seen brutal stuff in fancy restaurants, but that pales in comparison to the nightmares I’ve witnessed in bars and dive clubs.
- The product I can serve is better. I’m really good at pouring whiskey well and opening cans of beer, but I really enjoy working with delicious, high-quality produce every night.
But on the other hand, there are certain pitfalls of working in a gastro bar that I don’t do it love. Like a welcoming booth of people rolling their eyes at everyone who walks through the door. A station full of waiters ignoring their guests and playing on their phones. And finicky chefs who get bored of serving our most popular dishes and feel the need to take them off the menu.
These ideas therefore became the basis of our new concept: a bar-restaurant without a restaurant. We created the menu and cooking recipes ourselves, and hired a skilled team of cooking professionals to execute them. And bartenders are all responsible for the front of the house; we prepare the drinks, we manage the food, we clear the tables. It’s simple and elegant. So let me tell you a bit about food and drink!
This is not a small, bespoke cocktail bar, but a huge hotel lobby. The cocktail menu has therefore been designed to be easy for the customer to understand and quick for the bartender to execute – all while being incredibly delicious and fun. We spent six months developing and refining the drinks to be absolutely amazing, while only requiring a couple of taps from the bartender.
Low-alcohol and non-alcoholic cocktails feature prominently on our menu, and each drink’s ABV is listed so our customers have all the information they need to make informed choices about their beverages. We’ve also worked really hard to come up with a pricing that is, frankly, unheard of in post-pandemic cocktail bars. While I’m a firm believer in bar operators doing what they have to do to make ends meet, I’ve seen a lot of $20 cocktails lately and we wanted our bar to be affordable and a regular stop for our guests. We’ve also brought back happy hour, something that disappeared in Portland post-pandemic, and are offering the entire menu for $2 off from 3-6 p.m., every day of the year.
Our beers are all on tap and come from Oregon. We work with our friends, local craft brewers from across the state who make – in our opinion – the best beers in the world. We have eight faucet handles and can accommodate a wide variety of different styles.
We have ten wines on tap and the menu is also entirely local. Most winemakers do not put their precious product in barrels, so we work directly with them to obtain wines that are often not found in bottles. And we can offer them all by the glass since there is no deterioration thanks to our inert gas system!
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what a type of food is mine. I didn’t grow up with an Italian grandmother who made me fresh pasta by hand every Sunday. And we really thought about what kind of food to serve that would represent us well, but also be accessible, delicious, easy to execute, and pair well with the drink. And then it hit me.
I am a third generation child from the West Coast. I was born and raised in California and have lived in Oregon for thirty years. My father was born and raised in Washington, my mother in California. I’m obsessed with steamed artichokes from Castroville, California, near my home where I grew up. I crave mussels and oysters from Puget Sound. I breathe in the great drive-thru burgers of Southern California and the old-school steakhouses of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. I devour date shakes whenever I’m near Palm Springs. My summers have been spent enjoying the bounty of fresh Oregon berries.
The West Coast has its own particular food language, and I think there’s a larger conversation about classic West Coast food there that goes deeper than the typical farm-to-table discussion. Pacific Standard is not Alice Waters; It is James Beard.
So there it is. We are located at 100 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., inside the KEX Hotel in beautiful Portland, Oregon and we’d love to see you. Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be sharing some of our recipes here – both food and drink recipes. And yes, the cakes with chocolate chips are on the menu.