As anyone who owns a highly profitable circus, Bee Gees albums, or a three-legged goose that lays three golden eggs every three hours well knows, three is a lucky number. So it seemed inevitable that baker/restaurateur/James Beard and IACP Award-winning author Ken Forkish’s third venture would be a smashing success, and from the looks of the hungry mob hanging out by the woodpile in the bar come suppertime, it is.
Like his other two ventures, Ken’s Artisan Bakery and Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Ken’s Trifecta Tavern boasts the requisite lines out the door, dough-based divinity and high quality beverages, with one key difference—the miles of red leather booths that line the ruddy-walled, industrial chic L-shaped former auto upholstery shop. Oh, and the raw oysters. And the pimento cheese toast. And the $75 “Big Ass” steak. So I guess technically, there are many key differences, all good.
Executive chef Rich Meyer‘s menu is the eclectic eater’s dream—your meal could be anything from oyster stew and a pickled green tomato BLT to cheese grits and rabbit fricassee to chicken liver toast and classic steak frites, with dessert running the gamut from a transcendent hot fudge sundae to baba au rhum. So if you have a friend who’s always craving something completely opposite of what you want, you no longer have to begrudgingly acquiesce to their yearnings or have two consecutive dinners at different restaurants, you can just go straight to Trifecta, and your friend can order the deviled egg quartet while you lick a pile of garlicky grilled marrow bones clean.
And if you have a dining partner who eschews meat, everyone will be happy, they can dig into the ember-roasted carrots with maple hazelnuts and sherry gastrique, autumn greens salad with a soft-boiled egg and fat crunchy levain croutons, and smoked farro with roasted beets and pickled mustard, while your pimento double cheeseburger drools all over your best white winter sweater and a half dozen hollandaise-blanketed Oysters Trifecta murmur something about being yours, all yours.
Bread is complimentary, and they’ll just keep bringing it as long as you’ll eat it, which boggles the bread-loving mind, really. Supremely fresh, it’s just as sublime as you’re thinking it is based on prior experience with Ken’s Artisan Bakery’s breads. “Fresh-churned” butter is $3, but olive oil is $0, so those opposed to paying for their butter can quit squawking (I’m looking at you, Dad) and just opt for the lovely grassy olive oil provided.
Trifecta’s pastry chef, Eve Kuttemann, formerly of Castagna, is stellar—her tall, dark and handsome German chocolate cake caused a minor commotion at our table upon arrival (and by minor commotion, I mean that Michelle stood up in our booth and pulled a Tom Cruise-on-Oprah’s-sofa freakout when she tasted it), and the hot fudge sundae is drenched in one of the richest dark chocolate and peanut sauces I’ve ever known.
The ethereal pumpkin mousse is both airy and terrifically rich, and you have to poke through a layer of salted butterscotch to get to it, which makes me think we should have to go through a layer of salted butterscotch to get to things more often. Like, if I had to wade through salted butterscotch to get into the DMV or post office, I’d probably be way more likely to renew my car registration and mail things on time. On the drink end of things, bartender Eric Nelson is a local favorite, and the cocktails are winners, as is the wine list, which helps explain the perennially packed bar.
When the restaurant first opened, warm-from-the-oven croissants and nun’s farts could be had at the tiny adjoining grab and go bakery counter, but that is no more, because Trifecta has temporarily suspended morning pastry operations. You can buy loaves of fresh-baked bread in there beginning at 4pm every day, though, and according to Eater PDX, the pastry case and coffee service will rise again in 2014. Here’s a picture of it to hang on your vision board in the meantime.
Based on my first three visits, Ken’s got a winning Trifecta here, just be sure to make reservations before you go, because I wouldn’t bet on getting a walk-in booth at peak dinner time, unless of course, you’re packing your lucky three-toed rabbit’s foot.
Trifecta Tavern * 726 SE 6th Ave. * 503.841.6675 * trifectapdx.com * Daily 4-10pm * Reservations advised