Through the years, I have watched John Gorham build his Portland food empire, one delicious restaurant at a time. His business model it interesting, as he serves different cuisines, but they all have delicious dining in common.
The John Gorham empire expands
It all started with Toro Bravo which is Spanish influenced, although not in the strictest of ways. Tasty and Sons and Tasty and Alder soon followed. Then Tasty and Sons morphed into Tasty and Daughters. They are excellent brunch spots, serving upscale and creative twists on traditional items like poached eggs, and French toast.
By the time he opened Mediterranean Exploration Company (MEC), an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant in the Pearl a few years ago, he was Portland rock star chef and it immediately became a hit.
It wasn’t long before Gorham opened a food booth, Shalom Y’all in the new Pine Street Market . Pine Street Market was designed for downtowners grab a bite to eat during business hours. And as usual, he delivered a tasty meal, this time of Israeli street food with Shalom Y’all.
Less than a year later, I heard he left the food market to give Shalom Y’all a home for itself. And from the crowds that I saw gathering to eat there, we could conclude that it was a wise decision to do so.
I popped in and sat at the bar one evening and was immediately greeted by the bartender who was passionately mixing drinks and taking food orders. A quick look at the menu and I was in heaven, even if it was an indecisive one. The whole menu is based on the idea of tapas. Some of the tapas offered, I had seen and eaten at Tasty and Son’s and MEC. So, while each of the restaurants has a distinct identity, there are certainly some overlapping themes.
The main theme being that the Israeli street food is sumptuous
And served in a casual and unpretentious environment, and expertly seasoned. I am a sucker for Middle Eastern dips, and their muhamara grabbed me. It’s based on roasted red bell pepper and the finely chopped walnuts complement it flavor wise, as well as provide some unexpected texture. But the pomegranate molasses is what makes it pop. I rarely cook with fresh pomegranate, because who has time to deal with the seeds? The molasses is a concentrated juice, syrupy in consistency, a little sweet and a lot of tang. Added in the correct proportion, that sweet tangy flavor fills but does not overpower the muhamara. Yum.
I saw them cooking fresh pita in an oven live with flames. It came out piping hot, with charred bits that directly touched the fires. And that wonderfully aromatic scent that only can be had with freshly baked bread sent me over the edge. And I am willing to bet the farm it will do the same to you. Need I say more.
The bartender sold me on their special. Green beans, with olive oil, capers and currants. The green beans were charred before they were baked, which added depth to an ordinary vegetable (I will need to try this trick at home). At the core, a pretty simple set of ingredients. Yet this dish was an example where the total was greater than the sum of its parts. I often have capers and currants in the pantry, but never thought to pair them.
I watched this pita bread come out of the over and straight to my plate (and straight to my mouth)
And what about the name Shalom Y’all?
I shmoozed with the bartender and got a little bit of the backstory of Shalom Y’all. He said that they left Pine Street Market, because it was the only place they had that was not a sit down restaurant, and Gorham really wanted to offer that component to his patrons. Obviously, they have enough of a following and experience that this transition was a success. So much so that Shalom Y’all now has a sister restaurant on east side. It is Israeli street food with a deliciously expanded menu.
Essentially, Shalom Y’all is like MEC in terms of quality and types of dishes, but with less capacity for seating and a condensed menu. I would recommend dining here when you are not craving the full-on dinner experience. Although I should mention that they serve brunch on weekends as well. I actually love the Mediterranean diet and can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And in this case, brunch! And you don’t have to wait for two hours either, as you often do in Portland. This is a HUGE plus in my book.
And the name of the restaurant? Well, one of the investors of Shalom Y’all is Israeli (who lives in Portland) and he wanted the restaurant named after his parents’ family farm in Israel.
In googling John Gorham, I read a some articles about a couple more restaurants he is planning on opening in the area. So the empire continues! Y’alla is coming to Multnomah Village this spring. And it will be a fusion of Eastern European Jewish food, as well as the traditional Middle Eastern fare. My interest is officially piqued! I can’t wait to include them on a Portland Food Tour. I plan to make the rounds of his empire, and Shalom Y’all will get multiple visits. Eating that pita is a downright religious experience.
- 1128 SW Alder
- Portland, OR 97205
- (503) 333-6123
- 117 SE Taylor #101
- Port land, OR 97214
- (503) 208-3661
This is the downtown location (which happens to be around the corner from Tasty and Alder)