1014 SW Stark St 503-228-3333 clydecommon.com
Clyde Common offers a warm antidote to the era of Twitter and Gmail: the pure joy of the face-to-face encounter. Oh, there’s also spectacular food. At this bright, open restaurant, your order may very well be based on the recommendation of a new friend from across the table. And whatever you choose—the pimento-dusted popcorn, perhaps, or the chicken-fried chicken livers—could become a favorite. Other restaurants may have imposed communal tables on their clientele, but only Clyde understands the careful calibration of space, service, and voyeurism that allows diners to feel cozy while eating with strangers.
Close contenders: Beaker & Flask, Toro Bravo
This is a place of happy accidents, and its provenance is no different. Upon arriving in Portland in 2004, chef Jason Barwikowski earned his locavore stripes at Paley’s Place, sharing the line with Gabriel Rucker (now of Le Pigeon) and Ben Bettinger (now of Beaker & Flask). He left to start the ambitiously offbeat Gotham Tavern, where he worked with Beast’s Naomi Pomeroy. He then met Nate Tilden and Matt Piacentini, and together they opened Clyde Common: Domestic and Foreign Cooking. The restaurant’s Spanish, Italian, and Moroccan flavor profiles typically adhere to a short list of favored notes that Barwikowski simply calls “earthy, fishy, salty, heady.”
The tagliarini with crab—a dish inspired by Chez Panisse’s Paul Bertolli—is a study in salty and sweet, the freshly made pasta combining with bright lemon juice, pickled Calabrian chiles, and scallions for a treble-note counterpoint to the savory Dungeness crab. Grilled trout comes with a smoked beef tongue and Nicola potato hash, made even more decadent by a sunny side up egg and a béarnaise sauce. Barwikowsi is particularly adept with lamb: skewered and grilled, its smoky sweetness is offset by salty ricotta salata, buttery shell beans, and a crisp salsa verde. Chase it with one of pastry chef Danielle Pruett’s desserts. The caramel-tomato tarte tatin is an entirely unprecious rethinking of a pastry staple. It’s good enough to steal from your neighbor, although you could probably just as well ask. —EH