For over four years, the glass-walled restaurant formerly known as Lucier sat empty as a ghost town, a gilded riverfront marker of the economic times (and the power of the press). On February 14th, the space will reopen as Quartet—and with new management and name comes a new menu, a new soundtrack, and a new plan for the neighborhood. I sat down with managing partner Frank Taylor of Keeler Hospitality Group to talk about his vision for the space, and how he plans to overcome the restaurant's storied past.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
At fifteen, my first job was washing dishes in a hotel restaurant in Houston, Texas. I washed dishes for fifteen days, then the executive chef promoted me to a line cook. I'd always been passionate about food, but my mentor, the hotel restaurant manager at that first job, told me to stay in school and follow my dreams instead of staying in the kitchen. Through college I worked seven years at Holiday Inn in Houston, then higher brands like Marriott and Double Tree, running hotels. When I moved to Portland a few years ago, I fell in love with the city and knew I'd stay, so I got into restaurants with Paul Keeler, my partner.
How are your plans for Quartet different from your other restaurant, Portland Prime?
Portland Prime is a great downtown steak and chop house, but Quartet will be something special. From the first day I walked into the Quartet space, I felt our concept was right for Portland, right now. The Quartet menu is approachable, contemporary American cuisine. Chef Adam Kekahuna will be sourcing food from local growers, ranchers, and purveyors. Music is a passion—I have deep roots in the industry—which is why I want live music nightly at Quartet. It'll background music, though...this is NOT a jazz club. Who knows, we might get some big names to stop by. In fact, yesterday I had a 20 minute phone conversation with Stevie Wonder. He's an old friend.
What is your vision for the waterfront community?
We just want to enhance what is already here and be good neighbors. We want our neighbors to think of us as 'their' restaurant. I think the westside riverfront is the most exciting area in Portland right now, and at Quartet we want to create a reason for people to flock to the area all year, day or night.
The previous tenant of the building now home to Quartet famously failed. What will be the key to succeeding this time around?
The [Dussin Group] had a great vision for the restaurant, but many things contributed to the closing. The difference for us will be creating a friendly, welcoming restaurant that's fun and approachable. Yes, it's still an elegant, upscale setting, but it won't be a stuffy fine dining experience. I think opening up the bar area, which we have done, is major. We want the bar—specifically happy hour—to be a focus for neighbors and visitors alike. Hospitality is the most important thing, making everyone feel welcome and taken care of. We aim be a part of the Portland lifestyle, and take part in cultural and charitable activities, and not sit apart.
When you're not sampling menus at your own restaurants, where do you like to eat out in Portland?
I go to Irving Street Kitchen and Bluehour a lot. I really like and admire what Bruce Carey does with Bluehour—the ambiance, the setting, the service, the food. I also love a great burger and fries—I try them all over town. Mostly recently, at Matador...surprisingly good. For breakfast, it's Mother's or Three Degrees by the river, to just relax and take in the view.
1910 SW River Drive
Opening Thursday, February 14th