Since opening on the side of Mt. Tabor, Southeast's extinct volcano cone, last July, Coquine has gotten the love from pretty much everyone. Eater Portland named it its 2015 Restaurant of the Year, and the restaurant was also a 2016 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant and named The O's 2016 Restaurant of the Year. To see how Coquine rode the friendly seas of critical success, Eater caught up with owners Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski, who revealed the perks of being a renowned restaurant with humble ambitions.
"We've collectively learned how to dance together in this space," says Podbielski, speaking on how the Coquine team became a well-oiled machine over the past year. The key was dialing in consistency, which remains one of Coquine's fundamental ambitions, both in the kitchen and on the service side. "We workshop dishes and cocktails until we're happy with them," says Podbielski. "Sometimes this is a one-day project; sometimes it can take a week or two."
Among surprises, Millard and Podbielski say they didn't realize just how much the neighborhood would embraced breakfast and lunch. "We thought most people would just want coffee," says Podbielski. Breakfast and lunch are now a counter-service affair, delivering dishes like fried egg sandwiches, a seasonal hash, four or five lunchtime sandwiches, and salads and soups.
Since Coquine is a neighborhood spot with just ten indoor tables, the last year was a bit of a balancing act between keeping its neighbors happy and responding to success. Podbielski says they decided to offer counter service for lunch and full service for dinner "to keep the restaurant a casual and convenient gathering place for the community."
This, of course, involves being able to get a table, and for dinner, Coquine often has more tables than its online reservation system may show. "We only reserve tables indoors," says Podbielski. "We keep our patio and bar seats, as well as a little bit of dining room space, for walk-in diners." So unless it's raining, you'll likely be able to get a seat if you arrive before 5:30 p.m.
Can't handle the early arrival time? Podbielski reveals Coquine has just started to accept names for its waiting list by phone, starting at 3 p.m. Just put in your name, and you'll receive a text when your reservation is ready. "That's an advantage to being so small," says Podbielski. "We can really fine tune the experiences we offer to each diner."