When people think of midcentury dinner parties, many imagine elaborate, kind of gross culinary exploits: gelatin molds, mayo sculptures, beef fizzes, meats accompanied by canned fruits in increasingly upsetting ways. But there was a post-war revelry in the dining of the era. Picture Don Draper-esque figures knocking back martinis while dessert carts roll past in some ornate dining room, or raucous evenings involving bubbling glasses of Champagne and trays of oysters Rockefeller, cocktail weenies, or caviar-topped blinis.
This is the sort of energy G-Love owner Garrett Benedict is trying to capture with his forthcoming cocktail bar, the Love Shack, opening next door this winter: unapologetically fun and over-the-top, with little old school flourishes straight out of a 1950s steakhouse, 1960s cocktail party, or a 1970s beach bar.
When Benedict opened G-Love in 2019, he was arriving in Portland following stints at several prestigious, Michelin-starred California restaurants, from the Restaurant at Meadowood to the now-closed groundbreaking vegetarian restaurant Ubuntu. The idea behind G-Love was open a polished restaurant that centered produce — Oregon-grown in particular — and deprioritized red meat-heavy entrees and mains. At G-Love, meals involve mushroom dashi, cast iron carrots, and cauliflower a la plancha with miso-lemon hollandaise. The cocktail menu, similarly, leans heavily on vegetables, from the Modern Love, pairing a dark rum blend with pumpkin, to the Maria Teresa with mezcal, bell pepper, and carrot.
The Love Shack will be a collaboration from a number of G-Love all stars: Andrew Lee, who was Benedict’s opening sous, will cover food with the chef; the larger cocktail menu is the purview of Quintin Scalfaro, who started at the restaurant in 2021. Shade Ruston, G-Love’s original host, will handle the front-of-house. The bar is meant to be a little more playful than its companion restaurant, either as a standalone experience or a bookend to a visit to its predecessor. “You can grab a couple bites before dinner at G-Love, or a nightcap at the Love Shack,” Benedict says. “We’re really throwing a super fun cocktail party every single night.”
When visitors arrive at the Love Shack, they’ll be greeted with a complimentary splash of sparkling wine, grabbing a seat at circular booths under a palapa-style roof in the center of the room, or near the glowing Venetian gold plaster backbar. As customers get settled, servers will roll carts around the space loaded with snacks — things like pickled onion rings, razor clam Rockefeller, croissant banh mis, or brioche waffles with caviar or lox. The bites are meant to feel like passed appetizers, and visitors can point and choose which appeal to them. “When you sit down, you’re immediately in the experience,” Benedict says. “You can kind of just jump right into it.”
Some cart offerings will include drink-and-snack pairings, like oysters with little bottles of sparkling wine, or a mini martini and a mini Chicago dog — Benedict’s working title for the latter is “An Itsy Bitsy ‘Tini and a Weenie,” or “the American Dream.” While the Love Shack will offer a variety of classic cocktails, the “beach bar” inspiration will appear here in the form of blended drinks, pebble ice, goofy glassware, and extravagant garnishes. In line with the team’s penchant for pageantry, bartenders will finish some drinks tableside.
“That post-World War II era, that crazy optimism, we’re leaning into that,” Benedict says. “It makes such an impact. ... A tableside tartare, it’s so memorable, and it’s something that I don’t see a ton of these days. But when I do go to a space like that, I love it, it’s awesome.”
The Love Shack will open in late January at 1645 NW 21st Avenue.