clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Higgins Alum Is Running a New French Restaurant in Downtown Portland

Bistro Alder, within the Dossier hotel, specializes in French classics like escargots, moules Marinières, and steak frites, served with intricate cocktails

A white marble bar runs down the side of a restaurant with checkered floors and bistro tables.
Bistro Alder.
Bistro Alder
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

When looking at the menu at Bistro Alder, the new French restaurant open within the Dossier hotel, visitors may just see brasserie standards: steak frites, escargots, croque monsieur and madame. But for chef Aaron Dionne — formerly of restaurants like Pacific Northwestern destination Higgins and the late, great Carafe Bistro — this menu is actually quite personal. The frisée aux lardons, a salad with poached egg and bacon, was a favorite of his from his days at Carafe. His wife will often ask him to make her moules Marinières on birthdays or anniversaries. And the restaurant’s pasta, served with pistou and sheep’s milk feta, uses a dough he developed with his daughter. “There are some really familiar pieces to me on this menu,” he says.

Bistro Alder opened September 20 in the space formerly home to Vitaly Paley restaurant Rosa Rosa, which closed in the wake of the pandemic. Like its predecessor (and other Portland restaurants), Bistro Alder leans heavily on Pacific Northwestern produce and meat, sourcing from farms like Sauvie Island Growers, Pat n’ Tams Beef, and Taylor Shellfish Farms. “My first calls were to purveyors — what’s coming in, what do you have, can I get this,” Dionne says. “That’s what always drives my menus.”

Unlike many other French restaurants in Portland, Bistro Alder isn’t trying to be particularly outside the box — dishes are intentionally pared down to the essentials. Escargots comes with a classic parsley garlic butter and oyster mushroom breadcrumbs. The steak frites get a dose of shallot-tarragon butter. And the omelet gets little more than a house-made herbed farmer’s cheese. “I love the simplicity of the menu: focusing on quality, letting ingredients speak for themselves,” Dionne says. “The more simple something is, the more perfect it all has to be.”

While the food menu is inherently restrained, the cocktail menu gets into more involved territory. The bar’s take on a French 75 comes with a house-made gin hydrosol (think: mist), saké, and marionberry simple syrup, alongside the traditional lemon and bubbles. Many cocktails utilize a wide range of cold-pressed juices: The Shochu Collins swaps the gin for the aforementioned Japanese spirit, as well as cucumber green juice, cucumber-rice syrup, and cucumber-lavender bitters. Meanwhile, the 24 Carrot uses cold-pressed orange-carrot juice, pairing it with a house-smoked-alderwood-infused Espolon Blanco tequila. The non-alcoholic options here are also extensive, with everything from a brown butter cherry “cola” to an apple cider spritz with Oregon berry compote. Pacific Northwestern beer and wine round out the beverage menu, naturally.

Bistro Alder is now open for dinner, at 750 Alder Street. Reservations are available online.