As Portland bars and restaurants prepared to re-open for dine-in service in early June, Robbie Wilson and Matt Davidson, co-owners of Botanist, knew that their cozy, subterranean bar wouldn’t work under the new social distancing guidelines. Luckily, their landlords had another space in mind: the sprawling rooftop patio next door, previously home to On Deck Sports Bar. So, while the basement bar remains closed, Botanist will move up to the patio, where it will eventually be joined by other restaurants, forming a sort of open-air food hall.
The first additional spot will be Havana Cafe, a Cuban restaurant from chef Pablo Portilla. Previously the chef at the now-shuttered taco joint Mi Mero Mole, Portilla will be cooking Cuban dishes based on recipes that he learned from his grandmother. Diners can expect dishes like cubanos and pan con lechon, plus sides like Cuban black beans, fried yucca, and fried plantains. The Botanist team will handle the cocktail menu for Havana Cafe, in addition to serving its own menu; while still in development, diners can look forward to a drink menu that Wilson calls “a marriage of sugar cane and agave.”
The patio itself is huge, seating 150 people, even with seven feet of distance between tables. “We put seating up there, seven feet apart from chair-back to chair-back,” Wilson says. “Even if people spread themselves out they’re still six feet apart.” In addition to drinks and food, Wilson plans on having live music twice a week, with smaller performances on Friday and larger, more well-known acts on Saturdays. Eventually the team plans to add Thursday night performances as well.
While they’re starting with just Botanist and Havana Cafe, Wilson and Davidson want to offer the kitchen to other chefs as a shared space, so that other restaurant concepts could operate out of it; Wilson likened it to the food hall Pine Street Market, only outdoors and with a single main kitchen. Additionally, the team plans on using the online local marketplace it developed, At Your Door, to deliver food kits created by the resident chefs, so that customers can cook their meals at home. “The goal of all of this is to create a map for restaurants to have multiple outlets.” Wilson says. “We want to lay out the foundation for restaurants to be able to make and sell their products.”
Havana Cafe will open sometime in mid-August, with other concepts joining down the line.