Living in Portland: Favorite John Gorham Restaurants

Radicchio Salad
Radicchio Salad

Just when I thought spring had come, and I was celebrating the blooming of flowers and the lengthening of days, Portland decided to revisit winter. It’s gotten cold and wet, and a tad depressing. But despite that, I have something to cheer about—my son is coming home from school for a week. My husband and I plan to fill his vacation with very Portland activities, such as Argentine Tango (hmm, I’m going to have to write a blog about that one) and eating at our favorite neighborhood haunts.

My Living in Portland section features a few of those destinations, but I’ve yet to add a blog about the John Gorham restaurants we frequent, until now. John Gorham owns several restaurants in Portland including Toro Bravo, which serves Spanish-inspired tapas; Tasty n Sons, a ‘new American diner’ that prepares Pacific NW versions of international breakfast dishes; and Mediterranean Exploration Club (MEC), which embraces Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. There is also Tasty n Alder, Plaza Del Toro, his gastronomic society, and the soon to open Pollo Bravo in Pine Street Market. While his restaurants have different themes, they all serve family style and encourage sharing, my family’s favorite way to eat.

Toro Bravo

Toro Bravo, graced NE Portland in 2007 and quickly became a family favorite. But we were not the only ones to love the place. It became so popular, wait times for a table sometimes hit the two hour mark. If you didn’t mind the narrow community table in the entrance, though, you could order drinks and tapas off the menu long before you got a private table. If I could afford it, and eat that much, I’d order everything on the menu, but, alas I can’t. There are, however, a few must-order items: Radicchio Salad, French Kisses, Salt Cod Fritters, Fried Spanish Anchovies, and Oxtail Croquettes. And I don’t think I’ve ever gone to Toro Bravo without ordering the Olive Oil Cake.

Tasty n Sons

ShakshukaOf all the restaurants in Portland, we probably dine at Tasty n Sons more than any other, partly because it is in our neck of the woods, but mostly because they serve one of the best breakfasts in town. My family loves breakfast, especially when we can eat it after noon any day of the week. While there are many items on the menu, every time we go there for breakfast we must order the Radicchio Salad (which is completely different from the Toro Bravo version) and the Shakshuka, a dish of eggs stewed in vegetables that’s popular in Israel. At Tasty n Sons, they stew the eggs in tomatoes and peppers, and the result couldn’t be any more fabulous. But Tasty n Sons serves more than just breakfast, they also serve dinner and a late-night happy hour, which makes it a great place to dine after an evening Tango class.

Mediterranean Exploration CompanyTurkish Coffee

There’s so much to love about MEC from the atmosphere to the menu to the fact that it’s walking distance from Portland Center Stage. It’s a great place to go after a play for dinner or just dessert. My favorite dinner items include the Octopus, Lamb Ragu, and yet another version of Radicchio Salad. But my all-time favorite things to order there: Turkish coffee and chocolate covered pistachios. Talk about making your heart sing!

Yup, we’re John Gorham fans. So much so, my son just told me that when we pick him up at the airport, he expects us to take him directly to Tasty n Sons for breakfast.

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