In 2009 and 2010, cooks Arlin Smith, Andrew Taylor, and Mike Wiley convened, one by one, in the kitchen of Hugo’s restaurant to work with award winning chef Rob Evans. Little did they know that within a few years they would take the reigns from their mentor and preside over one of Portland's finest culinary institutions.
As I’ve noted before, the lunch hour used to be a dismal prospect in downtown Portland. The sundry sandwich shops and take-out havens ruled, and the notion of a proper lunch out was like flipping a coin and hoping for heads.
That has changed dramatically as Portland’s restaurant scene becomes exponentially finer.
When I stopped smoking nearly 15 years ago, that inimitable pairing of morning coffee and cigarettes became history. My routine was further amended by needing only one perfect cup of coffee in the morning as though without other incentives. But lately I’ve rediscovered the joys of an afternoon coffee break and have been frequenting Portland’s many cafes where the art of coffee making is in fine form.
What appealed to me so much about the newly opened El Rayo Cantina is its unyielding charm as a casually elegant venue for inventive Mexican cooking that’s typical of cantina-style fare. Call it Mexican comfort food.
When Chef Brian Davin and his wife Steffie opened the exceedingly engaging Schulte and Herr restaurant on Cumberland Avenue in Portland last fall serving breakfast and lunch, word spread fast that we had a culinary wunderkind in our midst. This was no doppelganger for heavy Germanic cooking, but rather the chef showed an exceedingly light touch in his interpretation of his homeland’s classics.