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Fear not, Mallory fans, the new deLuxe guise is becoming

Weekend!Food: Taste
by: JIM CLARK, Once again, lunch makes the menu at Clarklewis.

Sentimentalists like me were saddened when the Hotel Mallory was sold and then reopened as the Hotel deLuxe (729 S.W. 15th Ave., 503-219-2094) earlier this year.

I had earned the right to feel sad about the Mallory closing. At one time I went there fairly regularly; in the morning to the dining room for the enormous, flavor-packed 'please allow thirty minutes' German pancake, which I still crave.

In the afternoon I went for a tuna or egg salad sandwich on white bread.

And in the evening I went to the hotel's bar, the Driftwood Room, for strong drinks and that disgusting, addictive popcorn.

My husband and I even stayed there the night before we flew to Portugal for our honeymoon.

So, sulking, I didn't step foot in the Hotel deLuxe for a few months. When I finally did, I was pleasantly surprised. I'd worried that it would have a generic, expensive hotel look but it doesn't. The lovely lobby's old-movie motif is (as my dad would say) neat. It's also slightly corny but in a way that makes it interesting and distinct.

More important, the Driftwood Room looks almost exactly the same as before except that it's no longer thick with cigarette smoke. And, under the direction of its bar manager extraordinaire, Terry McCarthy, the cocktails are excellent.

The most complicated drink I was willing to order at the old bar was a rum and Coke. I'm tempted to try everything on the cocktail list now, such as the Fellini, made with Cynar liqueur, vodka and fresh orange juice over ice.

With its muted lighting and curvy, cushioned bar, the Driftwood is one of the swankiest watering holes in Portland. It's so popular that on some nights, the party spills into the lobby.

Across the lobby, the hotel's new restaurant looks entirely different from the Mallory's old-fashioned dining room. Gracie's is an elegant and glamorous-looking space, with rich colors of cream and brown and black.

I had lunch there last month and can report that the chairs and booths are as comfortable as they look.

A new executive chef, Vincent Albiez, began Sept. 1 and has developed his own menus, which were unveiled at the beginning of this month. The breakfast menu includes omelets, Benedicts, a Belgian waffle, and both salmon and crab hash.

Lunch includes soups and salads, and classic sandwiches like the club and the Monte Cristo.

The dinner menu displays an affinity for fish, though there also are steak, lamb and pork entrees. Originally from Switzerland, Albiez moved to Portland in 1985 and worked at the Benson Hotel. Most recently he was executive chef at the RiverPlace Hotel.

I plan on checking out his culinary skills soon, but first I'm trying to figure out a way to bribe him into putting the German pancake back on the menu.

Gracie's is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and for brunch Saturday and Sunday. The Driftwood Room is open 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Visit www.hoteldeluxeportland.com for information.

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I also was bummed earlier this year when the Gotham Building Tavern closed. Not for sentimental reasons this time, but just because it was my favorite place for lunch.

Now, thankfully, Clarklewis (the only remaining restaurant in the Ripe group that included Gotham and Family Supper), has reinstated lunch, and I'm happy as a clam.

Perhaps I should say mussel, because that's one thing I ordered for lunch last Friday. The large portion included big, fat mussels in a slightly spicy, fragrant fennel and white wine broth.

I was tempted to drink the broth once we'd finished the mollusks. But I had to save room for divine tagliatelle, slippery egg noodles covered with a rich pork and pepper sauce.

I also shared a healthy salad of chicories, pancetta, walnuts and Parmesan. Since I'd already blown any semblance of moderation, I ended by fork fighting over chocolate soufflé cake.

If it seems like I'm raving, I am. The food was terrific and terrifically expensive, too - for two of us it was $64 before tip.

But the portions are generous, and I ordered from the expensive section of the menu. Sandwiches (including the fried egg reincarnated from Gotham) are $9 to $12. Plus we had a glass of wine and a beer. And, anyway, the lunch was worth every penny.

Some people spend a lot of money on handbags (you know who you are). I spend it on food and drink. To each her own.

Clarklewis (1001 S.E. Water Ave., 503-235-2294) is open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and for dinner 5:30 p.m. to close Monday through Saturday.

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