Portland, OR – Woodsman Tavern

Woodsman Tavern, Portland, ORLook, down in Southeast! It’s a bar! It’s a restaurant! It’s a tavern! According to Wikipedia, a tavern is a business establishment where people gather to be served drinks and food. Back where I come from (no, it’s not Kansas, Dorothy), a tavern is a place that sells low alcohol beer, and the food ranges from pickled eggs to microwave pizzas.

Neither of these definitions are apt to describe the Woodsman, an effort by Stumptown Coffee founder Duane Sorenson, and in fact, the Woodsman is next to the original Stumptown location, which debuted in 1999.Sorenson is often credited with being the godfather of the ‘next wave’ of coffee roasters and purveyors, and his Stumptown went on to open in other cities, and attract a large investment from a prominent private equity group.

The Woodsman serves creative Americana cuisine, and matches it with equally creative cocktails.

The stars of the show are American artisan hams and Pacific NW oysters, an unlikely pairing, it would seem, but one that works in the diners favor.

Mrs. Burgerdogboy and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary, and I made reservations through Open Table, which I always use (and you should too!).

Mrs. BDB started her ordering with one of Woodsman’s signature cocktails, the “Omaha Sour”, comprised of bourbon, lime juice, lavender, and vanilla sugar. A discriminating cocktailer, Mrs. BDB pronounced it fine, and polished off a couple.  I went with a Czechvar beer, which has been brewed in Bohemia continuously since the beginning of recorded history. The beer and cocktail clocked in at a reasonable $3 and $9, respectively.

On to the appetizers (“drinking snacks” on the menu), the Woodsman offers four at dinner, and we sampled them all: deviled eggs, deer sausage ‘pigs in a blanket’, Fried Pork Nuggets, and a Smoked Salmon Rillettes and pickled herring sampler.  All were tasty and aesthetically pleasing, my favorite was the deer sausage (in fact, we gathered some up from the Woodsman market, next door, on the way home), and the Mrs. enjoyed the pickled herring.

Next mi’ lady went with a dozen oysters, sampling 3 each of 4 different regional oysters, tops for me on the platter was the local Yaquina.   The oysters are spendy at $16 for 6, which is slightly more than other offerings locally, and since we moved to Portland from New Orleans, a bit of a hard swallow to us, on the price, where for $32 in NOLA, we could have consumed, depending on venue, anywhere from 48 – 128 oysters!   Nevertheless, Woodsman’s selections were superb.

I opted for the ham plate, a sampling  of four different American “prosciutto style” artisan hams;  from hog butchers in Iowa, NC, KY, and TN.  They are arranged in particular order on the plate, and our over the top competent and congenial server “Senna” recommended we consume them in order of ‘saltiness’, from left to right, and we might have, except of course, I opted to jump right to the end, looking for the most flavorful ham on the platter.

Especially high praise from me for the Iowa offering, La Quercia, as a former Iowa resident and terribly fond of anything pork that comes out of that state.

But they were all good.   As an afterthought, Mrs. BDB thought I needed an order of fries, which come with a  sriracha mayo providing a bit of kick as a condiment.  (Sriracha is a type of Thai hot sauce, made from chili peppers, vinegar, sugar and salt).

We polished off our evening repast with the Kale Caesar (tres European!), and it was a salad easy on the eyes and palate.  We lacked the capacity to even try the mains, but many of them sound intriguing, including the trout, and the “rabbit and biscuit.”   Note:  said biscuit came along with the ham plate, and was light, flaky, and imparted a nice smoky flavor as well.

Total tab for the evening, $120, including tip.   Some local reviews I have read have called it a “spendy” place, but we were more than satisfied.

There were no leftovers to take home, though both Mrs BDB and I would have been happy to invite server Senna out for an evening of sin and whimsy.  Her attention, knowledge and personality boosted great food to a memorable evening, and for that, we thank her.

Woodsman Tavern, Portland, Oregon

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