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One Year In: Taylor Railworks Deconstructs Its ‘Borderless Americana’ Cuisine

Chef Erik Van Kley is holding a microscope up to American food culture

Look Inside Taylor Railworks, Now Open In Inner-SE
The open kitchen at Taylor Railworks
Dina Avila

Serving upscale plates by Little Bird alum Erik Van Kley, Taylor Railworks opened with a veteran restaurant staff in inner Southeast’s warehouse district in September 2015, and it has since received significant reviews for the critics. To see how Taylor Railworks has grown up its first year in business, Eater caught up with Van Kley and his partner in business and life Gabriella Ramos (Nostrana, Toro Bravo, Yakuza Lounge, and Le Pigeon).

On the Atmosphere: “We seem to be a date spot for a lot of diners, who then keep returning,” says Ramos. “We have a lot of regulars who send or drag their friends in, who in turn send or drag their friends in. The majority of our business has been built this way.”

On the Food: “We keep coming back to the foods of our youth, those experiences that made us aware that eating does more than just nourish the body,” says Ramos, offering examples like elotes con crema (Mexican-American grilled corn and spicy mayo and cheese), fettuccine Alfredo (Italian-American), and General Tso's chicken (Chinese-American).

On the Techniques Behind the Food: “We approach these first loves,” says Ramos, “by asking more nuanced questions about why the flavors work together.” This way, a classic dish can dramatically transform into a quintessential Taylor Railworks menu item.

Case in point is the grilled octopus with uni butter and Korean chili noodle, which Van Kley says is rooted in fettuccine Alfredo. First, he saw a connection between Parmigiano Reggiano and uni, which are both packed with umami flavor, and then, he found a way to make cheese and sea urchin go together by treating the Parmigiano like salt, diminishing the cheesiness while adding even more umami to the dish. The grilled octopus is now one of the restaurant’s most popular plates.

Taylor Railworks

117 S.E. Taylor St., Portland, OREGON (OR) 97214 Visit Website

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