Restaurant veterans (and road trip fans) Jenny Nickolaus and Chris Whaley—who have put in time at Michelin-starred Las Vegas palaces, celebrated barbecue joints, and pop-up dinners under the New York High Line—are ready to put their travels on hold to settle into their latest venture, The American Local.
Inspired by izakaya-style after-work watering holes in Japan and patriotic union halls of the early 20th century, The American Local offers an eclectic mix of regional American drinking food accented by Asian ingredients and melting-pot preparations—like a bowl of poached chicken and noodles that lands halfway between rich ramen and the soup your mom makes during flu season, Netarts Bay oysters with togarashi and cara cara oranges, and pork belly skewers with sriracha and maple.
It's east-meets-west bar food (with a strong emphasis on the west) that makes you thirsty in the best of ways, mashing up ingredients like crab cakes, foie gras-laden poutine, beignets, Parker house rolls, burgers, and brisket with Oregon-grown wasabi, Portland-made tofu, miso, and kimchi-style fermented turnips. "It's a playful intertwining of our multicultural society," says Nickolaus. "We're having fun with the flavors we like, and the ingredients we're proud of."
The drink menu from bar director Brett Adamson mirrors the culinary focus: an eclectic assembly of craft beers from around the country—think Portland's Breakside Brewing alongside Abita from New Orleans and California's Mad River Brewing—alongside kegs of local wine, Oregon-made Momokawa organic sake on tap, house-made sodas, and old school cocktails.
The 50-seat, red-white-and-blue eatery occupies the former Cafe Pallino space at Division and SE 30th, anchored by a locally-sourced wooden counter that connects the bar and open kitchen, an abstract mural inspired by the Oregon highway system, and salvaged red lanterns marked "Public Works of Portland." Like those union halls of old, expect communal tables, affordable prices, and a healthy dose of workingman's pride.
The American Local is set to open to the public on Wednesday, January 15. Check out our slide show of photos from opening week, and head in yourself to get a taste of the restaurant's global ambitions.
The American Local
3003 SE Division
Tuesday through Thursday, 5-10 pm
Friday and Saturday, 5-11 pm
Sunday, 5-9 pm