This last week I had the pleasure of joining some very inspiring people for dinner at Besaw’s in the Alphabet District of Portland. Besaw’s is best known for brunch, and it’s completely ordinary to see their waitstaff serving coffee to people waiting outside in a long line for their names to be called. Dinner seemed to be a very casual affair however. I arrived early (as traveling anywhere in Portland during rush hour brings out the Chicagoan in me) and had a chance to look around the restaurant.
A quick search of Besaw’s on Yelp will tell you that they are KNOWN for breakfast or brunch. In a quick search, breakfast or brunch comes up 8 times more often than dinner–and that’s where my mind was when I walked in for dinner–low expectations. Did I expect the food to be good? Yes–it’s a well-known restaurant downtown. I was sure it would be able to hold its own for dinner, but did I expect it to be great? No. Besaw’s pleasantly surprised me.
The bar greets you as you enter Besaw’s and reminds me (for some reason) of one of my favorite places in San Francisco, Buena Vista Cafe. I still cannot put my finger on the parallel. It could have been the dark bar area with ample seating, the back bar setup, or just the “welcome home”-type of feeling I got walking in the door. Regardless–it was a good sign. The restaurant was dimmed for cocktail hour and not too busy. I sat in the main part of the restaurant, right across from the kitchen’s overflow–which sounds odd, but was really a neat setup as I got to see the full plates hit the counter before they were whisked away to the tables. Besaw’s also has a covered outdoor area in the back part of the restaurant, likely used most for breakfast overflow. Stringed lights and countless tea lights warmed the restaurant and made for a very cozy-feeling environment.
Dinner at Besaw’s
We started off with appetizers, sharing the fried pickles, mushrooms and polenta, and Besaw’s Board. The mushrooms and polenta were my favorite “appetizer” although I saw them more as a side. The polenta was cooked perfectly and reminded me of the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for cheese grits that Ktams likes to make for us (possibly because the difference between grits and polenta is …little to nothing). The Board was made up of their homemade focaccia, cheeses, and a light chutney–good flavors all around. The only appetizer that was disappointing to me was the fried pickles and chipotle dip. The dip lacked any kick and the fried pickles were too–airy? Does that make sense? I would have better enjoyed thick cut fried pickles with the aioli that was served with fries later in the evening.
Cana Flug does an exquisite job of keeping Besaw’s close to its roots. She maintains a high level for quality of her food, and she keeps presentation in check, whether that refers to the food or the atmosphere of Besaw’s. Her waitstaff was very attentive but not overbearing, and they were knowledgeable of the drinks and foods offered. The menu for dinner rotates on as much as a weekly basis depending what produce is available from their 21 gardens, and that ensures the freshest foods are set in front of you.
The thing to take away from this review of Besaw’s is that it is the epitome of high quality comfort food. So long as they remain consistent in their delivery of a balanced menu they will be considered a good dinner spot. What would take it from good to great? I think incorporating more flavoring touches in the dishes and possibly live entertainment in the evenings on the weekend could make a world of difference. They may already do this on occasion–I just thought a big ol’ bass player would fit very nicely in the corner of the main dining room. Price is also something that keeps coming up when I look through the menus. While I have no doubt that high quality food comes at a price, (just ask me sometime what my grocery “budget” looks like each month) I feel like that slight sticker shock might scare away some of the younger crowds Besaw’s might be wanting to invite in for dinner. If I were to head out on my own for drinks and a light meal, I would be well above $40 by the end of the evening, and although I would be just fine doing that every once in a great while, I cannot stomach that on a weekly basis.
Will I be returning to Besaw’s? Most definitely. Will I become a barfly there? Not until my raise comes through 😉
***This post was sponsored by Little Green Pickle. They are a PR company of amazing people helping local businesses create more buzz. I very much enjoyed my time with them and look forward to all possible opportunities to brainstorm or host events in the future.***