Bit House Saloon, the tavern in a historic brick building on SE Grand, won’t reopen as its previous incarnation; instead, the bar will reopen as a collaborative restaurant, taproom, and cocktail lounge with an all-star team. Bit House Collective will incorporate the talents of bartender Natasha Mesa (Deadshot, Raven and Rose), chef Carlo Lamagna (Magna Kusina) and local brewery Pono Brewing, with a menu of drinking snacks from the Philippines, all manner of wild and creative cocktails from a team of bar veterans, and Pono’s signature style of light and fruity beers.
The team is working hard to emphasize the “collective” in the bar’s name. For instance, Mesa, a longtime Portland bartender, has gathered a crew for the bar that consists of bar veterans including Caitlin Hooker from Jacqueline and Anthony Bruno of La Moule and Quaintrelle, each who will have a chance to have their own style shine on the menu. “Everyone on the team has such a strength for making their own types of cocktails, and we all have such different styles,” Mesa says. “We’re really going to have a fun menu with so many different styles and flavor combinations.” She has also brought in some speciality equipment for a bartending “laboratory” of sorts, and will train the bar staff on how to use centrifuges, sous vide tanks, and other tools so that they might be able to mix and match their own flavors and infusions.
Lamagna has tapped two of his crew from Manga Kusina, chefs Danté Fernandez and Roberto Almodovar, to help run the food program as a team. The approach: casual Filipino drinking snacks that draw inspiration from other areas of the world, as well. The menu will be distinct from Magna’s more family-oriented cooking with items like waffle fries with crab-fat gravy and cured, grated egg yolk, or a longanisa sausage and grilled cilantro chimichurri in a pandesal bun as a kind of Filipino take on the South American choripan.
That collaborative spirit will extend beyond individual areas in the bar, with drinks and beers and food each informing one another. For example, Mesa has a cocktail on the menu inspired by the Filipino dessert “salad” buko pandan: The coconut milk and fruit jelly salad will be transformed into a boozy sort of boba tea with coconut, gin, pandan, tapioca, and coconut jellies. She’ll also have a host of boiler makers and drop shots, pairing shots of various spirits with Pono’s beers. Other drinks include an upscale take on a flaming Dr Pepper, an “adult” Capris Sun, and a Long Island iced tea with more “island” vibes.
Similarly, Lamagna and his team have created a smash burger with a fermented habañero and roasted-pineapple barbecue glaze inspired by Pono’s pineapple kolsch. It should go perfectly with a rum agricole and pineapple kolsch boilermaker.
Fans of the original Bit House layout will find a few changes, including more plants, a mural depicting tropical sights like birds of paradise, and Pono’s beer labels blown up and framed on the walls. The front room will retain its tufted leather seats, while the back room will offer a with a standing bar for easy socializing once things open up a bit more. Outdoor and indoor dining will be available from the start, as will to-go cocktails and food, with the opening offering tables primarily by reservation to avoid too much wandering.
The new concept will open March 3 at 727 SE Grand Avenue. Take a look at the food menu below: