Hebberoy, however, did not have an artist’s proclivity toward poverty: In 10 days, he would raise $260,000, with a business plan Howitt says was, "essentially, a one-page manifesto. He basically said, ’You’ll get paid back on a monthly basis–your money plus interest. And you’ll get free food and VIP status.’"
In addition to Howitt, Hebberoy wooed a growing list of patrons, which included several PICA board members as well as other prominent arts philanthropists around town. "We felt that Portland needed this," says Howitt. "Portland often gets this categorization: that you can smoke pot and drink coffee, but we don’t really care if we’re doing anything that’s cutting-edge. But there are a lot of us who want to push the envelope, in the Portland way. Michael’s appeal was, ‘Guys, this is not the French Laundry or something in New York; we’re going to put us on the map in a way that is authentic to us.’"
It was the sort of dining room that one regularly saw in Soho, but that had never before appeared in Portland.
In fall 2003, the Hebberoys and Brownlow formed an LLC, allocating half the restaurant’s equity to Brownlow and half to the Hebberoys. Neither party had put up a dime. Before the interior had even been completed, the Hebberoys threw a pre-opening party. Investors and friends gathered; members of local band Pink Martini played; and the Peter Greenaway film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover was projected on one wall. The buzz was already deafening by February 2004, when Clarklewis, the city’s first truly industrial-chic restaurant, finally opened. It was the sort of dining room that one regularly saw in Soho, but that had never before appeared in Portland. On opening night, when a fuse blew, Brownlow cooked by candlelight.
Clarklewis was an overnight sensation. And if customers had to acclimate themselves to retro portion sizes ("small," "large" or "family"), hipper-than-thou servers, "recommended reading" printed on the back of the menu, deafening acoustics and a level of lighting more suited to the bedroom than the dining room, Brownlow’s cooking lent Clarklewis the undeniable substance it needed. The ever-changing menu offered dishes such as mussels with shaved fennel and conserve of chiles; a "peasant salad" of bitter lettuces, roasted fresh-cured pancetta and coarse-shaved parmesan; and silken house-made pastas. During the day, whole hogs and lambs were butchered in the open kitchen, in full view of the ladies who lunched.
Whether in response to Brownlow’s extraordinary food, Michael Hebberoy’s fluffing of the press or some combination of the two, the Oregonian named Clarklewis its Restaurant of the Year less than three months after it opened. Within the year, the Hebberoys and Tommy Habetz had partnered to create a new restaurant venture–Gotham Building Tavern–which would be housed in the space then occupied by the coffee shop they’d been running. Troy MacLarty, formerly of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, took over at Family Supper, his presence helping to incite a near conflagration of press, including an eight-page spread in the January 2006 issue of Food & Wine in which Michael Hebberoy was dubbed a "food provocateur."
Meanwhile, Hebberoy continued to expand the scope of the Ripe empire, by hiring novelist Matthew Stadler as his "writer in residence"; bringing in late-night DJs at Gotham Building Tavern; throwing more and more clandestine suppers at undisclosed locations; and conceptualizing a new line of seasonal GBT (as in Gotham Building Tavern) gins with the Portland distillery Medoyeff.