DUANE SORENSON AMBLES AROUNDthe dining room at his newest venture, the Woodsman Tavern, his 5-month-old baby slung over his shoulder, high-fiving the hungry groups tucked away in their dark, paneled booths. At more than six feet, he towers above the crowd, sporting a shaggy mane and rumpled plaids while spouting his favorite aphorism: “rad!” But don’t let his disheveled air fool you—Sorenson thinks big and bold. In 1995, the Stumptown Coffee Roasters owner traveled the world to find the best coffee beans, paid the highest prices, honored the downtrodden plantation farmer, and proceeded to change the coffee conversation entirely.
4537 SE Division St Portland, OR 97206
Now, after conquering New York’s coffee market with Stumptown’s expansion into Manhattan and Brooklyn, he’s back in Portland with his first food project: a casual SE Division Street watering hole and dining spot with an attached food market. The plan? Source all three according to the Stumptown model. “Just like with coffee, I want to know where oysters or beer or wine or hams are coming from, and who is totally awesome and the best,” he says. “It’s what tickles my fancy.” It’s hard not to fall under Sorenson’s spell, even as the kitchen struggles to find its footing.
Inside the Woodsman, Sorenson’s vision looks branded by Made in Oregon. Dark woods dominate the room, servers take orders in suspenders, and Sorenson’s vintage collection of oil paintings covers the west wall, sketching the bucolic peaks and landscapes of Oregon’s majesty. The state’s bearded forefathers would feel at home amid these thick slab tables, cast-iron table legs, and atmospheric Edison bulbs. The space isn’t new or groundbreaking; instead, it embodies the hospitality of a corner tavern and the comforts of a neighborhood joint that’s been around for years.
Nothing screams Oregon more than the Woodsman’s seafood bar—a showcase of the freshest West Coast oysters around. Light-shelled, delicate Kusshi from British Columbia and creamy, sweet Yaquina Bay oysters rest next to chilled Dungeness crab legs, fiery orange and full of sweet, luscious meat. As he did with the coffee farmers in Kenya and Indonesia, Sorenson shucked, slurped, and interviewed his way from Oregon’s shoreline up through British Columbia to discover the succulent secrets of our coastal bounty.
Meats undergo a similarly rigorous screening process. The carefully assembled “Country Ham Plate,” for example, is an exquisite trio of porcine delights: ribbons of smoky and mellow Johnston County ham from Smithfield, North Carolina; salty slices of Benton’s from Madisonville, Tennessee; and silken, gossamer folds of La Quercia from Norwalk, Iowa, arrive with crackling Little T bread and quick-pickled collard greens.
Still, this is no one-man show. Sorenson curates not just ingredients, but local talent, from the front of the house to the back. Chef Jason Barwikowski made a name for himself with edgy, rustic cooking at Clyde Common and Olympic Provisions. His wife, Carly Laws, roams the floor as gracious general manager and wine director, offering approachable, affordable bottles. Bartender Evan Zimmerman, an affable, geek-chic mixologist who gained a reputation at Laurelhurst Market for signature house-smoked ice blocks, has put together a flawless, whiskey-forward cocktail menu. Next door, Noah Cable, also a partner in farmers market sensation–turned–downtown pie shop Lauretta Jean’s, stocks the Woodsman Market, prowling local farms and selecting produce and flowers for the storefront.