Wild Thing, the vegan, vegetable-focused grain bowl restaurant developed by Kelsey Glasser — the owner of wine bar Arden — and chef Sam Smith of Sweedeedee opens its doors today on NE Alberta Street. In this cozy, counter-service shop the team serves bowls of brown rice, mixed greens, or quinoa topped with a choose-you-own selection of roasted, steamed, pickled, and raw vegetables.
Grain bowl shops have risen in popularity in Portland in recent years. Glasser, who originally developed the concept specifically with Smith in mind, says that Wild Thing distinguishes itself with a smaller array of dialed-in vegetable dishes, almost all of which are cooked rather than raw. Smith spent time developing each topping, whether that’s the sumac cabbage, cumin carrots, or lemony Brussels sprouts. “Even on their own they’re interesting, put them together in bowl form and you get this next level of flavors,” Glasser says.
With five toppings out of a dozen options and any amount of the crunchy topping and house-made sauces, there are plenty of combinations for diners to play around with. Diners can also find add-ons, including Ota tofu and avocado. One thing not on the menu, Glasser notes, is any kind of fake meat. She says guests could visit every day of the week and never run out of new combinations.
Given Glasser’s background in wine, it may be no surprise that Wild Thing has its own label of canned wines. The team worked with Ryan Kelly at Dominio IV in Carlton to develop the the Dry White Wine — a single vineyard dry riesling — and the Pinot Lite, a light red wine made from pinot gris and pinot noir, served chilled. The cans are eight-ounces — about two moderate sized glasses — and can be taken to go or enjoyed on site. The team also collaborated with Never Coffee on a hazelnut-butter cold brew drink.
While the restaurant will focus mainly on takeout, there is room for dining indoors: a small counter seats four, with two smaller tables for a few more diners. The team is holding off on outdoor seating as we go into winter, but may add some if there’s demand for it.
Also still in development is breakfast and grab-and-go snacks. The breakfast menu is still being developed, but will likely have cold chia pudding, some kind of breakfast porridge, one or two smoothies, and some bars, according to Glasser.
Smith’s position at the restaurant is mainly consulting, as he still runs the kitchen at Sweedeedee down the street. However he will remain an active partner, helping to develop new menus with the seasons.
Wild Thing is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1483 NE Alberta Street. Once breakfast starts, it will open those days at 8 a.m.