We partnered with with the team at Ned Ludd, a Portland restaurant that feels like home, to bring our Open Kitchen collection to life this season. Its cozy, casual vibe pairs perfectly with its rustic menu, which highlights peak-season produce and handcrafted, locally sourced ingredients. Read our interviews with the owners, chefs and partners behind Ned Ludd and try their original recipes here.
Jason French, chef/owner of Ned Ludd, fell in love with Portland the first time he visited Oregon — the natural landscape, the high-quality ingredients, and the emphasis on handcrafted products. Clearly, there’s something special happening with the city’s food scene. To learn more, we asked Jason to share his top picks for Portland eats and drinks — read on!
What inspires you about living in Portland?
When I came here I felt like I’d been here before. It was the most bizarre feeling ever. I love that the city is so in nature – there’s so much green space, and there’s never a view of the city without a river or a forest or a park. People take care to landscape and plant and garden. I love how the city is urban but has this really cool old industrial feel to it, which really resonates with me. I’m like a white-collar upbringing with blue-collar vein; I’ve always loved work. Portland’s past and quality of steel and timber make it feel like a cool, working city.
What about the food in Portland?
The food scene is interesting. People sometimes wish it was more cosmopolitan, but we’re not a very cosmopolitan city. If you look at 30 years ago, there were a handful of restaurants to go out to eat, but the backbone is blue-collar, not white-collar – lots of dive bars and beer halls and strip clubs. It’s very much shifting.
The food scene is still discovering itself; there are more restaurants opening now than ever before. It gives me a little bit of fear for the marketplace being overly saturated. Restaurants are hot and it’s cool to be a chef, more so than ever before.
Portland also has a heartfelt and casual core to it. I’ve never felt chefly competition here; we all have a really healthy relationship with one another. Most of us have worked together in various different forms. It’s all about not following trends and being more self-directed and doing it because you believe it’s better that way. There’s a sense of honesty with the food we put out, whether it’s pizza, sandwiches or beer. This group of chefs is a very honest group and representative of the traditional working ethos of Portland.
Then I would maybe ride my bike back down into town across Broadway Bridge and go to Olympic Provisions for a salad and a glass of wine and charcuterie. Or I would do to ChickPeaDX, a little falafel cart on the north interstate.
I would ride over to the southeast and hit Navarre in the afternoon, happy hour-style. They make very delicious European-inspired fare; it’s very simple and casual with a great wine list.
Then I’d head down to Southeast Wine Collective and grab some more wine and a snack. Then I’d need something more substantial, so I’d ride down to Ava Gene’s for a bowl of pasta. I live right behind Salt & Straw, so I’d finish up and go to bed.