Almost a year after announcing the closure of RingSide Grill, RingSide has decided to close its Fish House in Southwest Portland. The high-end seafood restaurant, which has been open for seven years, will close in Fox Tower August 12, with discounted bottles wine up until its final day of service. Partner Craig Peterson says a fellow Fox Tower tenant made an offer on the space, and the team decided to focus its full attention on the Steakhouse.
RingSide Fish House opened in 2011 as a sort of experiment. When the longtime-celebrated steakhouse RingSide Steakhouse went through a renovation in 2010, the restaurant moved into the Fox Tower location temporarily as construction finished on the original location. The temporary steakhouse became the Fish House, with opening executive chef Johnny Nunn (Verdigris and Corzetti). While RingSide Steakhouse, which has been open for about 75 years, is known for classic steakhouse fare, the Fish House is a touch more experimental: Grilled octopus arrives with black garlic aioli and pine nut butter, and entrees range from classic Columbia River salmon with asparagus to chirashi sushi bowls with yuzu kosho tare.
“Seafood is hard,” Peterson says, sitting in the brick back room of RingSide Steakhouse. “If I order a medium-rare steak at a steakhouse, everyone sort of agrees on what that is. But when we say opaque or well-done for fish, not everyone knows what that means or what they want.”
Peterson, a third-generation co-owner of RingSide, grew up in the restaurant business, peeling potatoes for his father when he was a kid. By the time he was 15, he was working four nights each week at the steakhouse. The Fish House was arguably the youngest of the businesses; the grill, which opened in the ‘70s as RingSide East, reopened as the casual version at the Glendoveer Golf Course in 2015; the restaurant closed in 2017 when Tom Cook put an offer on the building as a Von Ebert Brewing location. In both cases, the Peterson family agreed to sell buildings after interested entrepreneurs inquired — Peterson says he didn’t intend to sell either restaurant, but with none of the current partners’ children interested in the restaurant business, selling seemed like a logical step. “Our kids chose a different path,” he says, “and we’re comfortable doing what we’re doing.”
Peterson also attributes the decision to close to the neighborhood, saying developments in the last few years made it difficult to stay successful. As more hotel restaurants open with notable chefs — Matt Sigler’s Il Solito in Hotel Vintage, Vitaly Paley’s Imperial within the Hotel Lucia — he says the competition for high-end dining downtown, with its primarily tourist-driven clientele, has been stiff. “If you’re out traveling all day, unless you’ve gotta have fish, there’s a lot of stuff for you to get right on Broadway,” he says. “That was an uphill battle that we kept working on, and I’d imagine other restaurants on Broadway are dealing with that as well.”
A longtime member of the restaurant community, Peterson hopes to place all of his staff at new jobs at Portland restaurants before the fish house closes. Some of the fish house team will move to the steakhouse, but others have found jobs at other Portland restaurants; executive chef Jonathan Gill plans to stay in the Pacific Northwest, though no news yet on a specific location. The annual oyster shuck-off, a collaboration event with Headwaters and Southpark Seafood, will serve as a send-off party for the restaurant 4 p.m. this Wednesday at Director Park. All wine bottles will be available for 50 percent off until the restaurant closes.
• RingSide Fish House [Official]
• RingSide Fish House [Facebook]
• All RingSide Fish House coverage [EPDX]
• Inside Fox Tower’s RingSide Fish House, Opening Today [EPDX]
• Ringside Grill Is Closing This Month [EPDX]
• RingSide East is Officially Reborn as the More Casual RingSide Grill [EPDX]