Steps inside the posh Woodlark, diners swerve left into the entrance of Bullard, Doug Adams’ scorching-hot new restaurant. But a few feet away, Adams’ other establishment chugs along, pairing his burgers and bar food with goofily named, beautifully executed drinks.
That’s Abigail Hall, the pet project of his business partner, Jennifer Quist. Named for an Oregon women’s suffrage activist and the early women’s reception hall that used to inhabit the space, Abigail Hall pairs its floral walls and pink accents with distinguished-looking armchairs and leather booths, covering its counters and mantle with candles. Even with a somewhat-vintage look, Abigail Hall is usually buzzing, with its guests pouring refills of martinis between handfuls of fries.
Still, with a menu that, at first glance, falls somewhere between a dive bar and a ‘70s California steakhouse, Abigail Hall surprises with unexpected heavy-hitters, from its dry-aged cheeseburger to its notorious vodka Red Bull gimlet. Here are the inside details on Abigail Hall’s retro bites and quirky drinks.
Large-format Martinis and Manhattans
When Abigail Hall beverage director Daniel Osborne spent a night at San Francisco’s House of Prime Rib, he was greeted with a question: “Martinis or Manhattans?” The server brought him and a few fellow bartenders shakers full of ice-cold booze, pouring drinks and leaving the rest for future refills. Osborne decided to bring the concept to Abigail Hall: He pre-batches and pre-dilutes both drinks, keeping them in the freezer to stay cold — they come out fast, and keep people cheery without waiting on other drinks. “It’s a quick pickup that it makes two, three, four people happy in 5 minutes,” he says.
Vodka Red Bull Gimlet
This is another Osborne drink that comes with a story: One night, he and Han Oak’s Michelle Ruocco were out at classic dive bar Holman’s drinking Vodka Red Bulls, and they started talking about how the drink needed a little extra citrus. “We always shoot bad cocktail ideas off each other, and I said ‘I’m going to make a vodka Red Bull gimlet.’ She said, ‘That’s so dumb, you need to do it.’” Osborne’s gimlet uses a Red Bull syrup, plenty of lime, and good ol’ Smirnoff vodka, served up in a coupe. Visitors will likely not pick up the turpentine notes most drinkers associate with Red Bull; instead, the drink is shockingly refreshing. It’s the classiest vodka Red Bull on the market.
Ghost Write the Quip
Osborne is constantly brainstorming cocktail names, writing down ideas like a comic working on a tight five. Several of Abigail Hall’s cocktail names are head-turners, but none of the names surpass this amaro-based cocktail’s, referencing the mid-2000s meme. The drink is far less silly: A combination of genever (a Dutch juniper spirit), anejo tequila, amaro, and bitters delivers serious depth, without getting into heavy dark-liquor territory. “I wanted to convey that there is a side of Abigail Hall that’s maybe a little cocktail nerdy,” Osborne says. “I love how simple it is, but it’s really complex. It’s the sleeper on the menu. I wanted to show that (Abigail Hall) is not just playful.”
When it comes to food at Abigail Hall, the menu stays pretty simple, sticking to West Coast classics like Dungeness crab rolls, smoked salmon dip, and Waldorf salad. Still, everything is coming from Adams’ kitchen — the Top Chef finalist is sending out shrimp cocktails and buttermilk chicken tenders while knocking out the beef ribs at Bullard. “It’s still all my food,” Adams says. “I wanted (Abigail Hall) to be super different than Bullard. It was more classic Portland stuff.” The old-school shrimp cocktail is a surprise, with no real bells or whistles — just perfectly cooked Wilder shrimp with tart and tangy cocktail sauce. “In Abigail Hall, I let the room tell me what it wants,” Adams says. “It’s what a good bar should have.”
While all of the dishes are coming from Adams’ kitchen, Quist’s influence is felt throughout the food menu, as well. The burger is an interesting mix of the two of them: Quist grew up eating In-N-Out burgers, so she requested a version from Adams. Adams made his version with dry-aged beef — the same he uses for Bullard’s burger, a version of a Whataburger — but he smashed the patty in a tortilla press to mimic the California chain’s burger. The crispy-edged patty gets a topping of American cheese, bacon, fancy sauce, and shredded lettuce — the basics of a classic American burger — all wrapped in foil with a smattering of fries. Paired with a quirky-named drink served at a marble table, it feels simply luxurious.