From the Right at the Fork website:
“David Machado was one of our favorite guests. He’s helmed Portland’s most important restaurants, among them The Heathman and Pazzo. We talk a bit about those days and why hotel restaurants are his thing, generally speaking.”
Hannah Wallace of the Oregon Business Magazine talks with Chef David Machado and others about the Portland dining scene and why everyone you know is eating out. Read what Chef Machado has to say below.
Oregon Business Magazine / October edition
September 23, 2016
Written by Hannah Wallace
“The Portland dining public is way more sophisticated today than it was 25 years ago,” observes longtime Portland chef David Machado, whose former restaurants Lauro Kitchen and Vindalho were the first to colonize Southeast Division (in 2003 and 2005, respectively). Today, at his two restaurants Nel Centro and Altabira City Tavern, he sees chiefly two main demographics: boomers and millennials.
“Those boomers have traveled. They’ve had that pasta that you serve on the menu — they’ve had it in Italy,” Machado notes. Many of these boomers have also taken cooking classes and watch more than one cooking show, he says. Portland millennials, too, are well traveled; they’ve been to all the latest restaurants in New York and San Francisco, and they want to stay on top of the latest spots in their hometown, too.
“They are college educated, have a good job, are married — or not. But they’re experimenting with food, ordering hand made cocktails and wines.” Add these two groups together and you get a group of curious, adventurous eaters who want to eat out all the time.
“Everyone is just so much damn smarter about food,” says Machado. On-demand and sharing economy trends are also helping fuel the frenzy; today, when people want food, they want it now. Restaurants — co-eating venues, as collaborative economists might say — fit the bill.
There’s no authoritative statistic on which demographics eat out the most in Portland. But Zach Hull, vice president of business development at Boulevard — the software company that designed Chew, Kurt Huffman’s new restaurant loyalty app — says almost 50% of Chew’s 6,000 active users are between the ages of 25 and 35 (25% are in the 35 to 45 age group).
It doesn’t hurt that the price of eating out at a nice restaurant (or food cart) is still relatively affordable in Portland, when compared to other major American cities. “The price that you pay for a meal, an entree in a restaurant today, is the same or less than you did 10 or so years ago,” says Machado. In Portland, he adds, there are certain benchmarks you can’t exceed.
“Portlanders don’t like to spend more than $30 on an entree, or $14 or $15 on an appetizer.”
Creative dishes paired with Oregon’s best craft brews
Autumn is all about the beer. Oregon craft beer to be precise. Please join us this fall for a series of fun, inventive dinners that we’re cooking with some of the best craft brewers around our state. On tap is a 4-course gastropub style menu, by our chef de cuisine, Luis Escorcia. Luis’ menu will be paired with many of the seasonal craft brews being produced that month by our guest brew masters. It’s an exciting lineup, have a look below.
Call us at 503-963-3600 to make a reservation.*
Dates and breweries
- Wednesday, September 28th – Commons Brewery
- Wednesday, October 19th – Pfriem Brewery
- Wednesday, November 9th – Worthy Brewery
- Reception begins at 6:30 PM
- 4-course dinner 7:00-9:00 PM
- 20 seats available
- $75 per person, drinks, food and gratuity are included
Please join us, we’d love to see you.
*Please do not use Open Table to make a reservation for this event.
“When it comes to location scouting, some say Machado has a crystal ball for establishing the next hot spot — on Southeast Division, in the Lloyd District and in Nel Centro’s part of downtown before they all saw their Renaissance.
He’s constantly reflecting on the past and looking ahead.”
Bread & Brew: Enjoy the views, brews from Altabira’s patio
June 8, 2016
by Jennifer Anderson
Nel Centro, David Machado’s other restaurant, also has an outdoor vibe
It’s patio season for restaurants, and Altabira City Tavern boasts one of the city’s best.
Smack dab in the middle of the busy Lloyd District with views of the city skyline from six stories up, the covered space outside the main restaurant at the Hotel Eastlund — with heaters, sofas and a swanky urban vibe — has grown into a hotspot for Rose Quarter crowds, business people and happy hour groupies alike.
But David Machado never expected the patio to be a “scene,” as he puts it.
As owner of Altabira — which marks its first birthday this month — he built the patio simply as an extension of the dining room, which serves 16 local beers on tap and a beer-forward, locally sourced, seasonal menu.
However, “when that patio unveiled itself last summer, it kind of shocked us,” the 61-year-old restaurateur says. “People would sit on the couch with their martinis, tapping at their social media. (We thought) what if it flips into a drinking scene and the food part goes away? It got a little concerning.”
In other words, the crowds came out — en masse — for Portland’s newest patio, as we are prone to do.
And it got rowdy. But then it calmed down.
And now as it heats up again, Machado is bracing for patio season at Altabira and his other restaurant, Nel Centro, located downtown at the Hotel Modera.
Both are large restaurants, close to 300 seats apiece, serving a specific niche of tourists and locals alike, which Machado is keenly aware of.
“We’re an enigma; we’re not a hotel restaurant,” he says. “We just happen to lease space in a hotel, which is a nice safety net.”
At Nel Centro — which just celebrated its seventh birthday — the patio is warm, inviting and feels like someone’s backyard party.
A major part of the demographic are arts patrons coming downtown for a show; in fact they often run cocktails based on an opera or ballet title, like a “Magic Flute” procecco and “Sweeney Todd” bourbon drink.
With a relaxed vibe and wine-forward, Euro-centric menu, it turns into a different beast in the summertime when everyone’s hankering for that perfect happy hour experience.
“People are the most aggressive and dogged about access into the patio,” Machado says. “They want sunshine; they want to feel nice; they want their food and beverages at a discounted price. It pushes us at both places.”
In fact Nel Centro first opened without a happy hour, but started one six months later due customer demands.
Luckily, Machado takes the patio as a serious challenge. “We’re trying to provide real service all the way through,” he says. “The patios — they’re a gift and a curse.”
With deep roots in Portland’s restaurant world, Machado has seen what works, and what doesn’t.
In addition to Altabira and Nel Centro, he owns Citizen Baker, the street-level bakery and cafe next to the Hotel Eastlund that also turns one this month.
But this isn’t his first rodeo. With roots in San Francisco’s food community in the 1980s, Machado moved to Portland in the early 1990s and opened several beloved restaurants that have since closed, including Pazzo Ristorante, Lauro Kitchen, Vindahlo, and recently The Heathman Restaurant.
He also opened Southpark Seafood Grill, which just reopened after a major renovation.
In 2009, he was the Oregon Restaurant Association’s Restaurateur of the Year, and he’s been a past board member of the Portland Farmers Market, International Pinot Noir Celebration, Share Our Strength, Travel Portland and the Portland Jazz Festival, as well as being active in numerous other organizations.
As he looks toward retirement, he has a lot of dreams.
As a guitarist and huge music fan, “I want to be the first person who does food and music successfully,” he says. “Nobody’s done that. That’s always simmering.”
Also, he’s a heavy traveler, visiting Europe every six months with different friends and family members, including Julie, his wife and restaurant partner of 31 years.
Not surprisingly, the food is a huge part of his travels: “Everything has to be scripted. I can’t go anywhere without knowing where I’m having lunch and dinner.”
So what does it take to run a successful restaurant in Portland?
Machado says humility is key: “I could make a deal next week, open a restaurant and go out of business in the next six months. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is a damn fool.”
When it comes to location scouting, some say Machado has a crystal ball for establishing the next hot spot — on Southeast Division, in the Lloyd District and in Nel Centro’s part of downtown before they all saw their Renaissance.
He’s constantly reflecting on the past and looking ahead.
As Baby Boomers age, Millennials globetrot and social media levels the playing field about food knowledge, Machado has seen the rise of food trucks, local artisans, pop-up dinners and what he calls the “rebel restaurants,” with their farm-dug beets and half-hogs broken down in the kitchen that morning.
As he looks to the future, Machado hopes that Portland’s gentrifying inner city doesn’t lead to such a rent increase that young chef/owners are priced out.
The low barrier to entry “has made us a great food city over the last 20 years,” he says.
Michelle Glass, who’s worked as Nel Centro’s general manager since it opened, says she appreciates how Machado is “never needing to be part of the cool kids, just focusing on good food and drinks, on what people are looking for without chasing the latest trend.”
Now that new hotels, restaurants and businesses will soon pop up all around Altabira in the Lloyd District, Machado couldn’t be happier. But he’s not resting on his laurels.
“We have to execute,” he says. “I’m not driven by money, fame or power. I can care less. If the restaurant’s full, I’m happy.”
Check it out:
• Altabira, 1021 N.E. Grand Ave., www.altabira.com
• Nel Centro, 1408 S.W. Sixth Ave., www.nelcentro.com
Artslandia at the Performance
May / June 2015
“Other restaurants and hotels were pulling back their arts support, and arts groups were struggling,” says Machado. “I knew Nel Centro’s long-term fate would be tied to the performing arts groups downtown. We wouldn’t make it unless they made it, so we did a lot more than just feed people before and after shows. We offered restaurant patron programs, donor receptions, anything the arts groups needed.”
Warm Ricotta and Beet Salad
Chef David Machado
“Nel Centro” is Italian for “in the center,” and the perfect description for the restaurant David Machado opened in the heart of Portland’s theatre district at the depths of the nation’s recession. “It was a hard time to start something,” Machado notes, but what seemed like a risky business decision was actually the restaurant-business veteran and Jazz Festival board president’s calculated vote of confidence in the performing arts.
“Other restaurants and hotels were pulling back their arts support, and arts groups were struggling,” says Machado. “I knew Nel Centro’s long-term fate would be tied to the performing arts groups downtown. We wouldn’t make it unless they made it, so we did a lot more than just feed people before and after shows. We offered restaurant patron programs, donor receptions, anything the arts groups needed.” As the arts groups have revived, refilling the nearby Keller, Lincoln Hall, Portland’5 and the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with eager patrons, Nel Centro has thrived.
1/2 pound ricotta
1/2 pound large red beets
1/2 pound large gold or chiogga beets
3 large oranges, either cara cara or blood oranges, skin and pith removed, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 cup baby arugula
1/4 cup citrus vinaigrette (recipe below)
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread hazelnuts out on a baking sheet in an even layer, place in oven, and toast until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, lightly crush hazelnuts with the flat side of a knife.
Scrub beets under cold running water to remove any dirt. Lightly coat beets with olive oil and place in a large baking dish, cover with foil and bake until beets are tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.
Remove from oven and cool at room temperature. Slice both ends of the beets. Gently rub a damp towel over skins to remove. Cut into 2 inch pieces and set aside.
Turn oven broiler to high. Place ricotta into a small glass baking dish, season liberally with salt and fresh cracked pepper, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Place under broiler until a deep, golden curst is formed and cheese is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine beets, orange segments and baby arugula. Toss with citrus vinaigrette, and season to taste with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
Mound the tossed salad in the center of a chilled plate, top with warmed arugula and garnish with toasted hazelnuts.
Citrus Vinaigrette for Beet Salad
Makes 1 Quart
1/2 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 each large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine vinegar, orange and lemon juice, minced shallot and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until fully incorporated. Cover with either plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid and refrigerate. Store for up to 2 weeks.
The Portland food pro on his new Hotel Eastlund eateries, beer, and why hotels love chefs.
By Kelly Clarke
For three decades now, David Machado has been building and running large-scale food operations that strike a balance between serving as a home away from home for travelers and a destination for locals.
He’s best known as the man behind Hotel Modera’s successful pre-theater haunt Nel Centro; others trade memories of drinks at his Southpark wine bar or Italian grub at Pazzo, the venerable downtown fine diner he built and ran for Hotel Vintage Plaza in the 1990s (just one of six Kimpton properties he launched). And longtimers still get positively weepy reminiscing over the chef’s independent project, Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen, the neighborhood bistro that made SE Division Street a destination before Pok Pok charcoal-fired its first game hen.
His latest salvo is the sky-high beer-centric restaurant Altabira City Tavern and smaller Citizen Baker cafe, a double-barreled blast for the Modera team’s new Hotel Eastlund, located right across the street the Oregon Convention Center. The two eateries may help transform the rapidly changing Lloyd District from a fast food wasteland to a chic dining go-to. On the eve of Altabira’s debut, we asked the food insider about beer, bread, and why a chef can be a hotel’s best friend.
1. YOU’VE BEEN IN THE HOTEL FOOD GAME FOR YEARS. WHAT DO ALTABIRA AND CITIZEN BAKER BRING TO THE TABLE?
With Altabira, I wanted to move out of the euro-centric, wine-based Mediterranean thing I’ve been doing for years. Every time there’s beer, for the most part, it’s in a brewpub or sports bar setting—very burly or clubby. What about a real restaurant that does dinner and a nice job with the menu, creative and fresh, but that aligns with beer? We’re working with dishes from some traditional beer cultures—England, Belgium, Germany—you can’t not do that. Pork schnitzel, a rabbit pot pie, smoked brisket…homey stuff that goes with beer and has connection with beer culture. Also, charcuterie—pate and rilletes, duck liver mousse. I’ve had to caution the kitchen about sugar and salt. It’s easy to start salting and curing and brining everything and soon enough everything becomes a ham! I’m trying to strike a balance.
We’ve gone as micro as we could on our 16 taps: Commons, Coalition, Breakside….We didn’t do any national brands, didn’t even do the regional brands that made Portland famous. We tried to choose producers in NE and SE Portland; operations that are around [the hotel]. There’s some people doing incredible work in beer right now—the balance and quality of the beers, making old recipes contemporary. My model customer knows some things about food, about beer and wine, and is traveled and educated. But when it comes to these young people making beer in Portland that I have on tap, they’ll be, “I just didn’t know.”
2. WHAT ABOUT CITIZEN BAKER?
I hadn’t opened a cafe since Pazzoria in 1994 or ’95. And I felt that if we were gonna do a café, we might as well do everything from the ground up—baguette, levain, beer bread, focaccia… It’s a tight program, we’re doing five or six things really well and we’ll leave it at that. Our pastry chef Natalie Harkness’ work is incredible—the apple strudel; her strawberry rhubarb hand pie. It’s tough to kick off an artisan baking program, but we got the starters right and figured the ovens out already. A bakery is very much a live operation; it’s a whole different world.
3. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OPENING A NEIGHBORHOOD AND A HOTEL RESTAURANT?
They are completely different experiences—the lifestyle, who comes in and eats there. At Lauro, we came in as fundamentalists: we cooked what we wanted, said hi to everybody, and then went home. When you get in these bigger situations, you have to think of travelers, business people, people going to shows and sporting events…it’s a different model.
When the Modera owners came to me in 2008 to open Nel Centro, they had some criteria: they wanted a local chef that could come in and operate as a draw from the community. They wanted more than a service for guests, they wanted to create a destination for the city. That’s becoming more and more common. It’s often said that a hotel is a very profitable capitalist model except for food and beverage. But we’re in a cycle where savvy hoteliers are looking for independents [chef-operators] to lure in because a hotel is enhanced by the chef. That’s a big shift.
4. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR NEW NEIGHBORHOOD?
Hotel Eastlund is in a neighborhood that’s never had any fresh or real food—just formulaic chains. Having to eat here for the last two months while overseeing restaurant construction has been brutal—it’s just Red Robin and Denny’s; remnants from the Portland’s old Highway 99 of 30 years ago. But now, the whole neighborhood is in this massive state of flux. There was no master plan, it just happened that we got in right before all this major development. I hope it all works out; that we did the right thing. That saying is true: opening a restaurant is like birthing a baby, you say you’ll never do it again. And then you do.
June 16, 2015, 10:55am PDT
Portland Business Journal
There was music and dancing, food and drinks. There were sunny, sweeping views of downtown Portland and the West Hills.
And there were close to a thousand people enjoying it all.
The Hotel Eastlund, a former Red Lion hotel in the Lloyd District that underwent a $15 million remodel, officially opened its new doors last Wednesday evening with a festive grand opening party. The event included a ceremonial ribbon cutting, appetizers and drinks from chef David Machado, who has two restaurants in the new hotel, and musical entertainment from a few different acts, including U.K. soul singer Andy Abraham.
The reborn hotel is a project of Grand Ventures Hotel LLC, a subsidiary of Seattle’s Posh Ventures. The developer was also behind the Hotel Modera, a once-rundown hotel at Southwest Clay Street reborn as a modern boutique hotel, much as the Hotel Eastlund has been.
by Chad Walsh
June 15, 2015
The beer-centric rooftop restaurant features 16 all-Oregon-brewed beer taps and a 103-seat patio with sweeping views of downtown and the West Hills.
Altabira, the new beer-forward restaurant perched atop the Lloyd District’s newly christened Hotel Eastlund (née, the old Red Lion Hotel) officially opens for business today.
Altabira’s design takes advantage of of a couple of natural amenities: a view of downtown and the West Hills and, via plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows, all the natural light a restaurateur could hope for.
If you include the bar, the dining room seats nearly 100 guests—a number that more than doubles if you consider Altabira’s 103-seat open-air rooftop patio, complete with fire pits for when the weather turns cold.
As fas as drinks and eats go, expect 16 taps, all of which are dedicated to Oregon beers, as well as dishes like beef tartare, braised rabbit and vegetable pie, pork cutlets with potato-arugula salads and sides like onion rings served with green goddess dressing.
Altabira City Tavern: 1021 NE Grand Ave., (503) 963-3600, Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; Tavern, 2:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 2:30 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, 4 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays and 4 to 10 p.m. on Sundays; Dinner, 5 to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 5 to 10 pm., Fridays and Saturdays, 4 to 9 p.m., on Sundays
All photos by Dina Avila