This post is long overdue, but I’ve been very, very, very busy these past four months. In case you haven’t heard, I’ve finally opened my own bar – with my good friend, business partner, and former lead bartender at Clyde Common, Benjamin Amberg. And now that I’m finally able to come up for air a little, I’m excited to tell you all about it!
My boss finally made the painful decision to close Clyde Common after a long series of pandemic-related setbacks and most of 2021 for me was spent working on our Ninkasi Canned Cocktails, doing some consulting work for various clients and brands, and generally trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Until late December, when I was approached by our now-partners at the KEX Hotel in Portland to open my own project in their hotel lobby. I love a hotel lobby bar, so I grabbed Benjamin and we began programming our dream lobby bar. And the end result is Pacific Standard.
I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve worked everywhere from really scary dive bars to fine dining restaurants (and everything in between). I made the move to fine dining a long time ago because:
- The hours are better. Working until 4AM every night just isn’t sustainable for anyone long-term.
- The clientele is – in theory – better. I’ve seen some rough stuff in fancy restaurants but it pales in comparison to the nightmares I’ve witnessed in dive bars and clubs.
- The product I get to serve is better. I’m really good at serving well whiskey and opening cans of beer, but I really love getting to work with delicious, high quality product every night.
But on the other hand, there are some trappings of fine dining bar work that I don’t love. Such as a host stand staffed by people rolling their eyes at everyone who walks in the door. A station full of servers ignoring their guests and playing on their phones. And temperamental chefs who become bored with serving our most popular items and feel the need to take them off the menu.
So those ideas became the base for our new concept: a restaurant bar without the restaurant. We created the food menu and kitchen recipes ourselves, and hired a skilled team of kitchen professionals to execute it. And the bartenders are all in charge of the front of house; we make the drinks, we run the food, we clear the tables. It’s simple and elegant. So let me tell you a little bit about the food and drinks!
This is not a tiny bespoke cocktail bar, but a huge hotel lobby. So the cocktail menu was designed to be easy to understand for the guest and quick to execute by the bartender – while being unbelievably delicious and fun. We spent six months developing and fine-tuning the drinks to be absolutely incredible, while only requiring two or three touches by the bartender.
Low-proof and alcohol-free cocktails are featured prominently on our menu, and the ABV of every drink is listed so that our guests have all of the necessary information to make informed choices about their drinks. We also worked very hard to come in at a price point that is, quite frankly, unheard of in cocktail bars post-pandemic. While I firmly believe in bar operators doing what they need to do to make ends meet, I have seen a lot of $20 cocktails lately and we wanted our bar to be affordable, and a regular stop for our guests. We also brought back happy hour, something that disappeared in Portland after the pandemic, and offer everything on the menu for $2 off from 3PM-6PM, every single day of the year.
Our beers are all on draft and are local to Oregon. We work with our friends, local craft brewers around the state who make – in our opinion – the best beers in the world. We have eight tap handles and can host a wide variety of different styles.
We have ten wines on draft and the list is entirely local as well. Most winemakers don’t put their precious product in keg format, so we work directly with them to get wines that often can’t be found in a bottle. And we can offer them all by the glass since there is no spoilage with our inert gas system!
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what sort of food is mine. I didn’t grow up with an Italian grandmother who hand-made fresh pasta for me every Sunday. And we really wrestled with what kind of food to serve that would both represent us well, and also be approachable, delicious, easy to execute, and go well with drinking. And then it hit me.
I am a third-generation West Coast kid. I was born and raised in California, and I’ve lived in Oregon for thirty years. My father was born and raised in Washington, my mother in California. I’m obsessed with the steamed artichokes of Castroville, California, near where I grew up. I crave mussels and oysters from Puget Sound. I inhale the great drive-thru burgers of Southern California, and the old-school steakhouses of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland. I devour date shakes every time I’m anywhere near Palm Springs. My summers have been spent enjoying the fresh berry bounty of Oregon.
The West Coast has its own special food language, and I think there is a larger conversation in there about classic West Coast gastronomy that is deeper than the typical farm-to-table discussion. Pacific Standard isn’t Alice Waters; It’s James Beard.
So there it is. We’re located at 100 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, inside the KEX Hotel in beautiful Portland, Oregon and we would love to see you. Over the next few weeks and months I will be sharing some of our recipes here – both food and drink recipes. And yes, the chocolate chip cookies are on the menu.
29 Replies to “Introducing: Pacific Standard”
I’m coming to this post late, but congratulations. I truly hope after a few months everything is going well at Pacific Standard. (Great name.)
Re: not being Alice Waters, but James Beard — I wish someone would open a spot that’s Angelo Pellegrini. I don’t think that place is Pacific Standard, but I just wish it were *some* place.
Thank you Jake!
Everything about Pacific Standard is smart; the drinks, the menu, the glassware, the way they are made, AND the prices HELLO! The food is inevitable given the people who chose it and the place where they are, and the fact that each item is comfort food for someone. Blue Ribbon in NYC did something similar and they became the post-shift go-to for every industry person in the city. The best part is Ted Breaux and had the good luck to stumble into the joint the week it opened. I’m sure the KEX team are pinching themselves at their good luck in finding Jefferey and Benjamin … hoping they are not dreaming.
Dale, thank you so much!! This means the world to me, and it was so nice having you and Ted in on opening week.
Portland is my happy place and I spent many joyful hours in CC sipping Bourbon Renewals (still heartbroken so much has gone). I’m long overdue a stay in thr city and will most certainly carve out a few hours to visit.
I’ve followed you and your career for quite some time. Congratulations on building your dream and making it come true. Pacific Standard sounds like a place people want to hang out and enjoy high quality drinks and food without the pretense – so welcome in today’s world!! Can’t wait to stop in…
Simon from overseas (tiny lovely Switzerland) here! I just wantet to let you know that I’m very happy for you that you finally opened your own bar. As a home bartender and very interested reader of all your books and your blog I was very sad as I heard about your story during the pandemic. Therefore I am more than happy now to read the good news. If I will ever make it to Portland for what reason soever, I will definitely visit your bar!
I wish you all the best! Keep on living your dreams!
Greetings from tiny Switzerland
Thank you, Simon! And I agree, Switzerland is lovely and one of my favorite places in the world. Cheers to you!
Very interested in that 68 Olympic recipe. Hope to make it out one day!
Love this news – your approach to the craft has always been a refreshing one, glad to see it in its next incarnation.
(Even if the best version of your Amaretto Sour was prepared for me by one of your Pepe le Moko bartenders who told me not to say anything… I think we’re past the statute of limitations on my vow. Immersion blender took it up a notch).
Anyway, can’t wait to be back in town for a visit.
😂😂😂 I don’t know why you were sworn to secrecy – we were always very open about the immersion blender hack at Pepe!
Love the ideas behind you new bar (and your books, website, cookies). We’ve gotten into making Ramos Gin Fizz’s around here so hopefully your passion fruit version is something you end up sharing. Curious: we recently tried the method where you use an ISI whipper instead of shaking and liked the results. Have you given it a go yet?
Yes, I’ll eventually be sharing all the recipes here when I get time! Haven’t tried making a Ramos in an iSi whipper if that’s what you’re asking – it probably wouldn’t work for a high volume environment such as ours anyway!
I can’t be happier that you are back in the game, and from my couple visits, you’ve absolutely knocked it out of the park.
Do not sleep on the food people! If allowed I would eat my body weight in the French Onion Dip…
This all looks amazing. If I lived in the states or in western Canada I would be along asap. Sadly who knows when or if I’ll ever have a chance!
I have also experienced the ABV secrecy of winemakers. It’s not like they haven’t measured it! It’s the law to put it on bottles, but apparently not websites.
Anyway, pet peeve: with no drink volume listed, how useful, really, is the ABV in determining how much alcohol is in the drink? You’ve got 6 or 7 different glasses shown but the only volumes listed are the wine pours. That said, I love that you list ABV, and I get it that you might not want a number heavy menu.
We’re not looking to cover the menu in math, only to provide the pertinent information. The vast majority of cocktails come in between 3-4 oz before dilution so we think the ABV is useful enough.
Can’t wait to visit next time I’m in town!
Everything looks great congrats! I really like the idea of no and low proof drinks featured prominently. I also think everyone should list abv on cocktails, as is very common for beer and wine. The food and reason behind it all makes sense. Great work!
I obviously agree with you! I’ve found that those wine ABVs are harder to come by when we’re picking up mostly-unmarked kegs, unfortunately. But fortunately wine tends to mostly hover around the same ABV and doesn’t have the wild fluctuations that beer and cocktails have.
Will your famous Egg Nog make a menu appearance for the holiday season?
Congrats. Would be coming tonight but for the 700 mile distance, but next summer in Portland will be there for a ramos passion fizz.
Have learned much from your website before I even knew you were famous.
I’m still trying to figure out when I can get up to visit. I can’t wait!
Oh, there is so much to like here about what you’re doing, and why. Congratulations. I love getting to see your work, and getting to hear what went into it. That French Onion Dip is calling to me, and the Passionfruit Ramos Fizz, and about a dozen other things.
Thanks, Humu!! We’re looking forward to seeing you back in Portland again soon!
That’s awesome. Congrats Jeffery! I am really looking forward to checking you out when I’m in town. Will you be spending any time behind the bar or are you passing the baton for good?
Haha oh no, I still tend bar full time, just as I have for the past quarter century. You can find me there most Mondays-Thursdays, except for when I’m getting called up to do other work elsewhere.
Congrats – I look forward to visiting next trip to Portland
Thank you! Looking forward to having you in.