If Oven and Shaker is hopping, the wait for a table can be long. To take the ache off the wait, the staff encourages determined pizza eaters to enjoy a drink somewhere nearby. As of an hour ago, the staff can now point guests to their sister bar, Hamlet, located just around the corner.
The latest project from the Oven and Shaker trio of chef Cathy Whims, cocktail expert Ryan Magarian, and Kurt Huffman of Cheftstable, Hamlet is not meant to compete with the restaurant, but to complement it. That's why the menu is narrow: It's a lot of ham from all over the world, hand-cut, vertically sliced and dressed up in lots of different ways, to be paired with with craft cocktails that lean hard on sherries.
So why ham?
For Whims, it seemed like a natural fit. She's been around it her whole life. When she was a little girl growing up in the South, country ham was frequently served to her with her breakfast biscuits, and as a chef who specializes in Italian cuisine, she's never met a prosciutto that she didn't like.
Likewise, her right hand man, chef Jun Robles, has a thing for ham, too. His appreciation for it stemmed from a trip to Spain as part of a Spanish language exchange program through OSU. He admits that when he returned, his Spanish was just meh, but his knowledge of Spanish ham had blown up.
Of course, there's room on the menu for a Spanish ham (iberico, naturally), which is joined by hams harvested from acorn-fed pigs from Iowa, as well as a picante ham and some speck.
And Whims says Magarian's craft cocktails were created to pair with each of these ham's natural umami flavor, including cocktails like the Kojo (sherry, gin and falernum), the Daydream (sherry, tequila, Combier and maraschino) and the Melon vs Meat (sherry, tequila, chili liqueur, lime, homemade honey syrup and extracted cantaloupe juice).
Rounding the menu out are sandwiches called bolillos, small plates (pickled vegetables, biscuits, peanuts and olives), a handful of draft beers (imported and local), a Spanish hard cider and innumerable bottles of wines.
So if you've got tickets to Portland Center Stage show and the wait for pizza is a long one, you can always walk around the corner for something to get you through the play, and return for your pie once the curtains drop.
Hamlet: 232 NW 12th Ave., 503.241.4009; Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays