Last July we got word that the old Red Lion Hotel was getting a major makeover to become Hotel Eastlund, and chef/restaurateur David Machado was on board to lease space and develop its two restaurants. So, with about two months to go before they open, we checked in with Machado to get the details.
The first restaurant is Citizen Baker, a ground-floor bakery and cafe that will serve hot breakfasts, and soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch and happy hour. "It's going to be a full-service artisan bakery," he says, "with croissants and breads. It'll hopefully attract the Lloyd District office crowd."
But his main focus is up on the top floor, where he plans to open a beer-focused American restaurant called Altabira, staffed mainly by Nel Centro alums. "I'm trying to take brewpub and sportsbar to the dinner house level," he says. "Those casual places always have the same set of things. I'm trying to do something more sophisticated, but not too sophisticated. We might have a lamb shank but it might have coffee in the sauce. And we're looking around the U.S. for classic dishes, it could be a gumbo from New Orleans or barbecue from Texas. Whatever dish resonates with beer."
The 16 beers on tap will all be from Oregon, with as many from Portland as possible, plus bottles from Europe. And the glass-enclosed keg cooler, stacked two or three rows high, will be a focal point in the dining room. "Usually they're away from everything," says Machado, "but it's going to look pretty cool and be part of the decor."
The old rooftop swimming pool is long gone, but the giant patio in its place is getting a makeover too. With seating for 103 people, it will have wind protection, outdoor heaters and firepits. And a new exterior elevator means you can take an express to the top, without having to stop to let hotel guests on and off in between. "I didn't want any barriers to access," he says.
Opening a hotel restaurant is familiar territory for Machado, who opened Nel Centro in the Hotel Modera (reborn from a 60s-era Days Inn) back in 2008. And he likens the Lloyd District, an "underserved and underutilized area of Portland," to what SE Division was like years ago when he pioneered its dining revolution with Lauro Kitchen. Sure there's food to be had, but it's "all fast food and national chains," he says. "There hasn't been anything for years. But there's a lot of stuff being built, thousands of units going up. A hotel like this with a hang factor can really change things."
Altabira and Citizen Baker will open about two weeks apart in May when Hotel Eastlund debuts.