Dark times no more as empty Portland restaurants fill up

Dark times no more as empty Portland restaurants fill up
Expansive windows overlook the Willamette River at Quartet, in the former Lucier Restaurant space at 1910 S.W. River Drive. Photo by Cathy Cheney, Portland Business Journal.

Word that one of Portland’s most prominent restaurant buildings — the former Lucier spot at Riverplace — sold last week reminded me to revisit an old story.

Last fall, I reported that four large-format restaurant spots had been sitting empty for months or even years.

It seemed to bode ill for the downtown dining scene that spaces that once contained McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, Pinot American Brasserie, Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Lucier were dark.

The story wasn’t a hit with civic boosters. The Portland Business Alliance registered its disappointed, telling me several deals were in the works and that it wasn’t worried about the state of downtown retail leasing.

It turns out the PBA had a point.

Three of the four spots have been reoccupied since I wrote the story.

Lucier — the building that sold last week — is now Quartet, led by Frank Taylor and Keeler Hospitality Restaurant Group. Last week, an investor group led by Portland attorney John Stewart paid $2.75 million for a condominium interest in building, 1910 S.W. River Drive, from developer Jack Onder. The building originally cost $8.5 million to construct and equip.

Lardo and Blue Star Donuts opened in the former Pinot American Brasserie spot, 1205 S.W. Washington St., in the new Twelve | West building that is home to Indigo Apartments and ZGF Architecture.

Microsoft Corp. debuts its new Portland retail outlet at the former Macaroni Grill, 300 S.W. Yamhill St. at Pioneer Place on June 21. The '90s alternative act Weezer is slated to make an appearance.

Of the four large-format vacancies, just one — the ex-McCormick & Schmick’s spot — is still dark.

And the list doesn’t end there. Megan Doern, spokeswoman for the business alliance, was kind enough to share a list of food-related businesses that have or will soon open in downtown.

There’s Raven & Rose at the Ladd Carriage House, Tasty 'n' Alder at Southwest 12th and Alder, Marquee Bistro at 200 S.W. Market St., Punch Bowl Social AND the Yard House at Pioneer Place, and any number of food cart operators setting up shop in brick-and-mortar locations — like Brunch Box and Addy’s Sandwiches, to name two.

Portlanders have lots of choices when it comes to dining out she said. And the choices are expanding.