In November 2013, pastry hotshot Ken Forkish decided to open Trifecta, a restaurant he hoped would become Portland’s grande-dame tavern: wood-fired fare, exceptional service, and a next-level bakery. “When I built Trifecta, I had an image of a place that would be Portland’s living room,” Forkish says. “I thought it would last for decades, maybe even outlast me.”
Instead, Trifecta will close at the end of the year, the Oregonian reported yesterday.
Forkish — the man behind Ken’s Artisan Bakery, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, and Checkerboard Pizza — announced that he will close the SE 6th Avenue restaurant, which operates one of the city’s best bakeries and serves one of the city’s best burgers. The news shook and perplexed the food service community and the restaurant’s regulars, who remember recent nights in its bustling dining room, its red booths filled with diners knocking back oysters and cocktails.
“They were probably in on a Friday or a Saturday,” Forkish says, but he doesn’t want to get into the specifics of why the restaurant will close. That being said, Forkish does allude to the simple cost of opening a restaurant of Trifecta’s scope: 5,000 square feet, with a wood-fired oven, an adjoining bakery, and a complete makeover for the actual space, which was once an auto upholsterer. “We didn’t lead with just food or just hospitality. We lead with everything, and it turns out that’s really expensive,” Forkish says. “It creates a really nice experience for our guests. The whole idea was that would be one of the many reasons people would come in.”
People did come in for years, both as customers and employees: The restaurant’s current chef, Chris DiMinno, was an alum of New York’s famed Blue Hill at Stone Barns and local favorite Clyde Common; his predecessor, Rich Meyer, had spent 17 years as a chef de cuisine at Portland’s classic Pacific Northwestern restaurant Higgins. The bar has been home to massive cocktail service names, as well: Eem’s Eric Nelson was an opening bartender at Trifecta, and Colin Carroll of 5 & Dime was the mind behind the restaurant’s “wood-fired cocktails.”
But beyond the actual restaurant, Trifecta’s adjoining bakery, known for its shattering croissants and crusty baguettes, is another loss; Forkish says Ava Gene’s, St. Jack, Ox, and Le Pigeon all used Trifecta products. It’s unclear if those restaurants will switch to Ken’s Artisan Bakery or not, but Forkish says that Ken’s already uses the same recipe for croissants as Trifecta. However, some of the bakery’s specialized pastries will disappear with the bakery when it closes. He says all three of his other businesses will remain open. Stay tuned for details on the restaurant’s closing event December 31.