The time has finally come: Bullard, the two-year-anticipated restaurant from Top Chef darling Doug Adams, will finally open December 15, and the newly released menus reaffirm a truth about Adams Portland knows to be true: He loves meat. No, Bullard isn’t a barbecue restaurant, Adams says — there’s no 18-hour brisket, no pulled pork sandwiches. It’s not a Tex-Mex restaurant, with dinnertime queso or chili con carne. It’s a meat restaurant, with some vegetables, a handful of fish dishes, but overarchingly, tons of methodically selected cuts of local beef, pork, and lamb.
“I’m really proud of how picky we are with what meat we cook, from farm to what muscle on the animal,” Adams says. He chose his lamb shoulder for its intricate mesh of muscle, which creates an assortment of riblets and cuts to carve. His burger is a 30-day-dry-aged brisket cut from Nicky USA, which makes for a “fuckin’ beefy” burger seared in beef fat. He’s a purist when it comes to choosing a pork chop, firmly avoiding fattier versions in favor of the “pop” of a lean cut. “It’s not pork belly; it should be lean,” he says.
Still, Adams knows he’ll probably piss some pitmasters off. The way he does his famous beef ribs, which he serves as a set of three massive, slow-cooked ribs for four-to-six guests, would make Texas barbecue purists want to “punch [Adams] in the face,” in his words. Specifically, Adams liberally seasons his ribs for 12 to 16 hours, adding a mixture of dried chilies, cayenne, cumin, and coriander to the ribs before they hit the smoker for another 12 to 16 hours. They arrive with a set of house flour tortillas, a quintessential component of dinners at Adams’ childhood home in Bullard, Texas. The lamb is even more involved, smothered in a paste of garlic, anchovies, calabrian chilies, basil, mint, cilantro, olive oil, and citrus zest, served with warm olives and sweet peppers.
Yesterday, the Oregonian ran a First Look of the restaurant space, noting a specific beloved dish’s absence from the dinner menu: fried chicken, a Doug Adams staple. Adams has a fried chicken sandwich and thigh on the lunch menu, and fried chicken will join the dinner menu one day a week — not just yet, however. “When I was at Imperial, I was doing boneless skinless thighs. I thought I was going to be hung by my toes for it,” Adams says. “I have so much respect for [Mae’s] Maya [Lovelace] and other folks — making perfect bone-in fried chicken is so hard.” Instead, Adams serves a spatchcocked “San Antonio chicken” at dinner with green sauce and bread-and-butter jalapeños.
The fried chicken isn’t the only star on the lunch menu. Adams went meat-and-three style for daytime dining, with a choice of a protein, two sides, and “Texas caviar” — the famous black-eyed pea salad. The buttermilk-fried chicken thigh is one of six proteins, including slow-smoked barbecue beef, smoked pork belly, and grilled cauliflower steaks. Typical meat-and-three sides like macaroni and cheese or creamed corn make no appearance on Adams’ menu, however; the closest he gets is with a smoky-onion braised green and herbed potato salad. Other sides include a masa cake with cotija, slow-smoked cabbage with pickled mustard seeds, and turnips with chile oil and chives.
Adams brought along bar manager Daniel Osborne when he left the now-closed Woodsman Tavern, who decided to tackle a similar level of simplicity and Oregon-Texas style for the restaurant’s beverages. The two curated a 12-ounce beer can selection like a wine list, with most cans hanging in the $3 to $6 range. In general, the menu works in threes: Three versions of an old fashioned and a negroni, three shots with fancy picklebacks, and three fancy margaritas, plus a pitcher for those inclined. “Daniel is such a pro,” Adams says. “Pitchers of margaritas here, it’s exactly what you want.”
Update, December 17, 2018, 3:01 p.m.
This story has been updated to include information about the restaurant’s lunch service.
• Bullard [Official]
• Bullard [Instagram]
• Bullard, ‘Top Chef’ finalist Doug Adams’ Texas-inspired Portland restaurant, opens Saturday [O]
• All previous Bullard coverage [EPDX]