After months of planning, consulting, and construction, Taylor Railworks will serve its first diners today.
The approximately 50-seat restaurant is the collective effort of former Little Bird executive chef Erik Van Kley; his life partner, Gabriella Ramos (Nostrana, Toro Bravo, Yakuza Lounge, and Le Pigeon); and former Little Bird front-of-house manager Daniel Neely.
Just as the name suggests, Taylor Railworks is situated where the railroad tracks meet Taylor Street in the Central Eastside Industrial District. The restaurant is both spacious and cozy, with reclaimed and weathered wood as a central theme, from the original supports from the Plow Works Building to the cork floors and the finely sanded Doug fir chef's counter.
To this, Taylor Railworks adds a granite bar top and some granite tabletops, and Jeff Whitaker, whose handiwork can also be found at Bunk, Pine State Biscuits, and pretty much every John Gorham joint, sculpted metal accents into every cranny.
Highlights from the dinner menu include:
spicy popcorn, with dry jack cheese. grilled octopus, cooked to order, with pea tendrils and heirloom tomatoes. Alaska King Crab with candied bok choi, Grand Central bread, fish sauce butter, and (yup) wet naps ($35 for a half pound, $60 for a whole). a spicy crab salad sandwich on brioche, with pickles and homemade chips. the Tumbleweed, which is based on the classic cocktail with cinnamon ice cream and honey-spiced cashews. Ramos says this is essentially an edible drink.
For now, Taylor Railworks is only serving dinner, but Ramos and Van Kley say brunch could be a possibility come 2016.
The opening comes on the heels of three nights of invitation-only engagements, including one sponsored by Portland Food Adventures. Commenting on these special dinners, chef Van Kley said, "We designed a fun menu that's fun to produce. Midway through one of the services, we looked up and we were just laughing [because it was so easy]. We were having the time of our lives."
Since this is not how most chefs describe dinner services, we asked for an explanation. Van Kley said that the design of the open kitchen played a big role: It's been ergonomically designed with an emphasis on economy of movement.
Taylor Railworks: 117 SE Taylor St., 503.208.2573; Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday