Welcome to Dining Confidential, a monthly column in which local chefs talk about their favorite restaurants, bars, and cafes in Portland, highlighting their own restaurant’s ethos and sharing fun personal takes. Know of a chef you’d like to see featured? Let us know via our tip line.
After a jaunt into the world of breakfast and brunch, Jacqueline has returned home. In December, the colorful SE Clinton restaurant ended its daytime cafe operation Fair Weather, whose seasonal doughnuts and colorfully-garnished coffee cocktails made it a social media sensation. Although Jacqueline has settled back into its original concept, owner Derek Hanson believes the restaurant is in something of a renaissance.
“I think we’re probably busier than we were pre-COVID,” he says, sipping a cup of coffee in one of the restaurant’s window seats. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen the dining room’s puffer-fish-patterned wallpaper that Jacqueline is best known for its seafood, embraced with fannish fervor by its clientele, but what he considers to be the gems of the menu are hidden in plain sight.
“Everybody gets the crab toast and lobster buns,” Hanson says of his star dishes. “I personally am always super excited about all the farm veggies that we get. It’s something so fluid that we change all the time. ... That’s the coolest part, to me, about being a chef: sourcing those cool things from farmers we can make connections with. Especially in this COVID world. We’re in this together.”
That sense of connectivity and togetherness fuels his passion for the city’s food scene: the chef rattles off names of his favorite restaurants like old friends. In this edition of Dining Confidential, Hanson shares his favorite spots for family dinners, dates, and weeknight takeout. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Eater: You just ended Fair Weather for the foreseeable future. What are your recommendations for a nice morning now that it’s gone?
Derek Hanson: Fair Weather will hopefully be back someday. We might find another spot to do it. Cafe Olli is the new spot, they’re gonna crush it. Sweedeedee’s always been a standby for us and now that they have Sam (Smith) working there, he’s just pushing it to another level. Lazy Susan’s a spot where I had a great meal recently.
I assume you’re here at Jacqueline most of your life. Does that change what going out means to you now?
COVID really changed things. I was just getting to that point with the restaurant where I was thinking I could take a step back, and then boom! Right back into it. It’s been a little nuts.
If I’m not here, I have a kid, so we’re going a little more kid-friendly. I live up in Beaumont by Pip’s Original Doughnuts & Chai and Cully Central, that little Lao street food place in there. The larb they have is great, they have a vegan and a chicken one, and they also have, like, french fries, which takes care of the kid, too. But if it’s me and the wife going on a date night, we’re goin’ out and spendin’ money.
I feel like Fremont kind of gets lost in the shuffle.
A weird little strip, it is. I lived off of Alberta and Mississippi for twenty years and I just moved out there like three years ago. Hi-Top Tavern, we go there a lot. Bang Bang. Dirty Lettuce, the new vegan place that opened up. There’s some things happening up there.
Did you have any places on Alberta or Mississippi that were the old standbys?
What was the best date night place you’ve been to recently?
Last month we went to Scotch Lodge. I’m good buddies with Tommy (Klus), who owns that spot, and I think Tim (Artale) is one of the best chefs in town. He’s definitely one of the most artistic. I mean, his food is beautiful. He’s really cerebral and intelligent about how he does things — kind of like a Radiohead album for cooks.
What’s your takeout go-to been through COVID?
Do you have a favorite torta at Guero?
You know, I’m not the biggest meat eater, so I do the potato and the refried bean. The vegetarian ones are awesome.
Do you have any places for fellow non-meat-eaters?
Wild Thing up on Alberta. We’re good buddies with the people at Arden. Fermenter’s always great. I think that’s a very West Coast vibe that Portland is lacking a little bit, because we’re going so heavy on the meat and everything. This happened in 2008, too; right after the meltdown, it got super heavy, people were going nuts, and then it balanced back out. So I think we’re gonna get to that point again of, like, “Okay, I ate as much fried chicken as I could.”
Do you feel comfortable giving up a secret? Some place that’s not gonna be on a Top 40?
One of my old cooks is doing Pastificio d’Oro up in St. Johns. He’s doing all rolling pin pastas on Mondays and Tuesdays out of Gracie’s Apizza. If anybody makes it up to St. Johns, it’s worth it; it’s a fun trip. It takes a long time to get there, but I think he’s gonna carve out a little niche for himself doing really artisan pastas.
Jacqueline is open for onsite dining with proof of vaccination.