I arrived at Portland’s a little before the lunch hour to have a sit down with owner Dylan Bethge. Unlike many privately owned downtown restaurants, Portland’s exudes an upscale richness rather than downtown funk. Dark woods and deep color schemes invite a feeling that this is a deal-making hangout… a bit like Victor’s in the old days of Phoenix. It’s classy without being too pretentious and has a comfortable, neighborhood feel.
Dylan joined me and we talked a bit. He and his wife Michelle opened the place in 2001. Michelle grew up in the food business and Dylan too has a rich background having been in management with Tarbell’s, Starbuck’s and Houston’s.
I started out asking about how the light rail had affected his business since he’s located right on Central near one of the stops. He said it was “pretty ugly” for a while. However, many of their clients work downtown… lots of politicos, attorneys and such. (My initial thought of this being a “deal-making place” turned out spot-on.) In addition to the executive clientèle, Portland’s has a strong neighborhood following.
The menu is pretty down to earth with just the right amount of flair to excite the taste buds. Dylan says their food choices are customer motivated. He and Michelle focus on wowing their clients, not the gourmet food critics. When asked about the chef he told me that he and Michelle take care of the back end. Both are passionate about good food and have the skills to ensure a consistently fine product.
I can’t forget to mention the bar side of Portland’s. Although talked about as a wine bar, they actually have it all including a fine assortment of scotch… the always popular choice of business types. The wine bar is extensive with a variety of solid names and many boutique wines including Joel Gotts wines.
I really like the Bethge’s commitment to community. Having grown up in Phoenix, Dylan cares about this town. He and Michelle buy as much of their fare as possible locally. Schreiner’s Sausage and Four Peaks Brewery are but a few of their local suppliers. In addition to vendors, they support local artists by rotating a variety of artwork on Portland’s walls.
Dylan and Michelle have a great place… one that makes our downtown better and offers a bit of distinction. Next time you are wondering where to have a fine meal with great ambiance, give Portland’s a try. Having tried it once, it will be on your short-list of places to dine when heading downtown for an event or work.
105 West Portland Street
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Open Weekdays 11am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Sat 5pm-10pm