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Market forces at work: Pine Street Market


In the works since fall 2014, Portland's new food hall to revitalize Old Town when it opens in April

COURTESY: JENNIFER ANDERSON - The Pine Street Market is taking shape, set for an April opening.Poutine hot dogs topped with fries, gravy and cheese curds? Smoked Oregon ham soft-serve ice cream dipped in Oregon black raspberry Magic Shell? Braised oxtail with potato gnocchi?

Are Portland’s chefs just playing with us?

Maybe. But if it tastes good, do we care?

Portland’s food and drink scene has made a name for itself with this brand of creativity without bounds.

It’s all been tested on us, the brave public, through their food carts, rotating specials, pop-up dinners and any zany collaboration and event they can dream up.

Next month, nine of these brand-new-to-us food concepts will come together under one roof at Portland’s first official “food hall” — a trend popular in New York City, Los Angeles and many other big cities.

Pine Street Market promises to fill a gap in the dining scene downtown — one crowded by both food carts and nicer established restaurants, but fewer fresh, homegrown middle-ground options, like the buzzworthy ones with long lines spilling out onto neighborhood streets, from Southeast Division to Northeast Killingsworth, North Mississippi to Northwest 23rd.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Mike Thelin says he talked with 125 potential vendors at Pine Street Market, before settling on nine.“We’re bringing the soul back into the (central) city,” Mike Thelin, culinary creator of the project, said during a tour of the still-under-wraps site last week.

Thelin, who also is co-founder of Feast Portland, says he talked with about 125 potential operators before settling on the nine in place (barring a few who initially signed on but couldn’t make the timing work).

In the end, it came down to a handful of criteria he and the development team came up with.

One was that the vendor had to be Portland-based.

“A lot of out-of-town chefs wanted to be part of this,” he says. “We said ‘no’ to them.”

The only exception to this is the Tokyo-based ramen shop Marukin, which opened its first location in Southeast Portland (and the United States) earlier this month.

Marukin imported its specific style as well as its Japanese executive chef and kitchen team.

COURTESY: SITEWORKS DESIGN - The Pine Street Market will feature nine vendors.Thelin considers it an authentic, important addition to the market’s lineup, as a way to honor the neighborhood’s old Japan Town roots.

As a second criteria, Thelin says he wanted to fill Pine Street Market with fresh new concepts, not just another location of an existing spot.

“None of these concepts could exist anywhere else — all the restaurants had to be original,” he says. For instance, Olympia Provisions will open its spinoff, OP Wurst, at the market, as an outgrowth of its popular Frankfurter Friday tradition at the restaurant.

Co-owner Nate Tilden started the rotating special three or four years ago as a way to flex his creative muscles.

“It wasn’t part of a master plan, just cooks having fun and riffing on crazy hot dog dishes,” Tilden says. “Basically, we’re having fun with our food and decided to make OP Wurst a business to showcase the fun.”

Fun in Portland obviously breeds success.

Tilden is on a major roll; his Portland establishments include Clyde Common (currently a finalist for the James Beard Award’s Best Bar Program), Spirit of ‘77, Pepe Lo Moko, The Richmond Bar, and his other latest project, Bar Casa Vale, set to open this spring in Southeast Portland.

OP Wurst also will serve salads, charcuterie boards to go, champagne and beer, and hot dogs that will sit in a nice beer bath before they get slathered with toppings.

Third on Thelin’s list of vendor criteria: experienced operators only. In addition to building the best food culture, he also wants to create a model business culture. “We decided not to go with any first-time operators,” he says. “The market has its challenges, so it’s probably not a good fit for a first-time operator — this is still a new concept for Portland.”

Fourth on the list: Operators had to be team players, very community-minded and collaborative — for obvious reasons. They all share a common space, and are part of the Pine Street Market vision as a whole.

The market partners are, in fact, known for their over-the-top sense of community and collaboration.

Some of the other vendors include Kim and Tyler Malek of Salt & Straw, who will launch their new sundae and soft-serve “Wiz Bang” bar, and John Gorham, of Toro Bravo, Tasty & Sons and Mediterranean Exploration Grill, who’ll open Pollo Bravo. Gorham’s executive chef and co-owner of MEC will debut his own restaurant, Shalom Y’all, at the market.

There also will be a toast/croissant/pizza counter by Ken Forkish, a new Barista cafe called Brass Bar with its own new house blend, and a European-meets-Asian restaurant by former Paley’s Place chef Patrick McKee and Langbaan chef/owner Earl Ninsom.

Finally, the last criteria Thelin had is that none of the vendors will compete with one another. “It’s as if you’re looking at a big menu,” he says. Everyone shares in the glory.

Nearly as exciting as the food and the people is the space.

Siteworks Design's David Davies, Rob Brewster and Jean Pierre Veillet transformed the three-story, 130-year-old building into a warm, rustic space inside.

The original Douglas fir beams are seismically reinforced, and the 69 that were removed are being repurposed for market tabletops and counters.

Windows wrap all around the space, and a sunroof lets additional light shine down through the old horse elevator to the market on the ground floor.

There’s also a lot of purposeful design the public won’t necessarily see, including a common dishroom and busing and dishwashing system and a common garbage and recycling area that leads to the service entrance, for maximum efficiency.

The crawlspace has been remodeled to accommodate the building’s use as a food hall, allowing access to individual plumbing and electrical changes as needed.

Boxes, tools and equipment still cluttered the space last week as crews drilled in countertops and installed the guts of the market. In the center of the vendors soon will be Tilden’s hot dog stand and a common seating area for 200.

You’ll know when the market opens next month — just look for the lines spilling out the door.

Pine Street Market

Where: 126 S.W. Second Ave.,

When: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; open until 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

More: www.pinestreetpdx.com