Aaron and Faith Dionne are working parents who are all too familiar with the hurdles of getting dinner on the table each night. That might surprise you, considering they're both professional chefs -- alums of venerable Higgins restaurant downtown even. But, yes, even chefs struggle with finding the time and energy to make dinner at home.
So when Aaron and Faith decided to embark on opening a restaurant of their own, they added a twist to help bridge the gap between cooking at home and eating out. Their restaurant New American, which opens Nov. 21, has an emphasis on take-out family-style meals that you can order and pay for from your phone or computer.
"We're combining slow food with the convenience of takeout," says Faith. "We've invested $20,000 in our website. It's really important and something that will make us different."
The site is mobile responsive and connected to the restaurant's tablet menus and point of sale system, "So you'll be able to see up to the minute what's available," says Faith. If a dish runs out or they have to switch from one ingredient to another, they can make those changes to the menu immediately. "Everything will be updated at the same time. Ordering online will be the same as if you were sitting down looking at the menu."
But there are other perks to the system, too: "You'll be able to filter the choices if you're vegan or gluten-free. You can rate your experience, which will give us feedback on the menu. You can reorder. And you can pay, so all you need to do is park and walk in."
Think of it this way: It's a full-service, family-owned restaurant serving dishes built on seasonal ingredients delivered each day from local farmers -- but it has the take-out convenience of a corporate chain. It offers big portions meant to be shared family-style, but it's not a supermarket hot case where the food has been baking under heat lamps for hours.
"It's Higgins meets Applebee's" says Faith.
The cornerstone of the menu is the churrasco grill, on which they'll cook rotisserie chickens and marinated grass-fed tri-tip from Carmen Ranch carved to order. Guests mix and match from the menu of side dishes and salads to complete the meal, whether it's for one person or four.
The tap program includes six beers, five wines and a hard cider -- and even a root beer. And all are available by the growler or 750-ml bottle to take home. "We're using a lot of friends for this program," says Faith. "It's almost a personal project."
Faith is also the founder of artisan chocolate company Bees & Beans, and is using the restaurant as a production space and retail outlet. "I'll be doing the desserts. And I'll have a little micro store. I'll be able to offer some of the things that have a loyal following but aren't available wholesale anymore, or have a short shelf-life like truffles."
For now, the restaurant will be open for dinner only, with brunch and "after-school happy hour to come."
New American (grand opening Nov. 21): 2103 N Killingsworth St, Portland
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Friday and Saturday)