Filling a void left by Alberta Street Oyster Bar and Grill, which recently closed, the new Eat oyster bar is offering an array of raw oysters and seafood entrées that top out at $15 in homey, intimate surroundings on N Williams Avenue. Newness helps, but strategy is paramount. The West End eatery Clyde Common, for instance, has seen an increase in business courtesy of owner Nate Tilden’s two-tier pricing. “You can come to my restaurant and spend $15 on a burger and beer,” Tilden says, “or you can splurge and go all out.”
Longtime restaurateurs are sharpening their game, too. Every other Thursday, East Side cuisine pioneer Castagna is offering four-course dinners with wine pairings for $45. The ever-thriving Navarre, recently dubbed “restaurant of the year” by the Oregonian, now seems nearly clairvoyant given its $28 multicourse tasting menu and flexibly priced tapas-style dishes.
These success stories offer hope. As natural selection weeds out the dinosaurs, the successful adaptations are proof positive of the existence of two kinds of people: a savvier Portland diner who knows that high-quality cuisine can be found at any price point, and a tougher brand of restaurateur—one who puts the food before the four-course finery. “A lot of us got tired of the way traditional restaurants work,” Nate Tilden says. “We’re trying to change that model.”