Today is the day Produce Row's many fans have been waiting for: The venerable industrial east side pub is back in action after going dark for 8 months.
To recap, previous owner Alan Davis surprised the city by closing the popular spot in early September after a 40-year run. It was meant as an "extended hiatus" while he looked for new owners who could keep the ProRow spirit alive. Salvation came in April, the form of new owners Josh Johnston and James Hall. The duo have a knack for preserving Portland institutions, first with Paddy's Bar and Grill downtown, and most recently the Cadillac Café on NE Broadway. The duo also own three popular bars that represent their own original concepts: North 45 Pub on NW 21st, Circa 33 on SE Belmont, and The Station on NE Alberta.
After spending a month assessing the books, cleaning things up, moving the vent hood to create a more efficient kitchen, Johnston and Hall are opening the doors to Produce Row today, with a new, more laid-back menu that harkens back to an older version of the Row.
"There was a point when this place had a really successful menu and it got off track and went a little too fine dining," says Johnston. "We're giving the customers what they want. We have some nods to the past. The sandwiches people will remember most: the House Special, which was more or less like a Philly cheese steak. Another throwback is Rocky's Favorite, which is a nice Italian grinder sandwich with salami and mortadella. There was Vinny's Red Eye Chili. We were able to track down the original owner who gave us the original recipe."
The beet salad is back, as well as some new entrée salads topped with chicken or steak. There are also more classic American comfort food dishes like fish and chips, meatloaf, mac and cheese, and steak frites. For dessert, there's ice cream waffle sandwich that gets spread with peanut butter before being topped with homemade vanilla ice cream and chocolate and caramel sauces.
To drink, the 24 taps are dedicated to coveted craft beers in Oregon and beyond. "Everybody wanted to get a handle in here," says Johnston, "so we have some stuff that's been hard to get in Portland, like Russian River, Barley Brown's, Crux, Dogfish Head."
He says they've kept the beer and whiskey pairings, bringing in local whiskey expert Stuart Ramsey to design the new pairings menu. There's also a new lineup of signature cocktails. "The big hitter for the cocktails is the Produce Row Whiskey Ginger, which has bourbon, ginger puree and local ginger beer," he says.
As for the space, thankfully it looks pretty much the same. "Alan did a really nice job when he remodeled," says Johnston. "It's just gorgeous. We always say if it's not broke don't fix it."
Produce Row: Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. until late. Happy hour from 4 p.m. 7 p.m.