Talking PDX with our Neighbors at Grain & Gristle
In this series, Urban Nest sits down with local PDX business owners to talk shop about what makes their store or business fit so well with Portland. Learn about new neighborhoods, new businesses, PDX community and more!
Grain & Gristle: A Discerning Farm-to-Table Experience in North East Portland
One of the (many) things that makes our city such an incredible place to live is the strong and unwavering presence of sustainable and farm-to-table ethos that we see reflected in the actions of our local businesses. Grain & Gristle on NE Prescott is the result of this passion for local self-sustenance combined with an exceptional pub menu and bar program. Read on for our interview with Chef and Operations Manager Ben Meyer.
UN: How long have you been in business?
We opened in December of 2010. So, it has been just over 6 years.
UN: For you, what is most important about the customer experience?
The most important part of a customer experience, for me, is that they love the food. Great service will elevate a meal, but it will not fix bad food.
We are an ethos-based restaurant - we buy all of our ingredients from local farms, ranches, and small producers. We fight to make sure our staff have benefits, good pay, livability, etc. - but we don’t force that down the diner’s throat. We hope that people have a fantastic meal and a wonderful experience, and come back for that. If they are interested in our sourcing, our craft, or our employee care, then great! We will talk about that stuff all day. But, for the average diner, we want to make sure they love their meal.
UN: What is most unique about your business?
We source our food from local ranches, more consistently than almost any other restaurant in Portland. 100% of our beef and pork come from our dedicated ranches, here in the Willamette valley. We buy them whole, butcher them, cure them, smoke them, or process them and supply both of our restaurants from those animals. We don't cheat, by buying extra meat from big purveyors. We make sure that our menus work to utilize all of the cuts from those animals.
We also buy our vegetables from local farms. And we rely on those vegetables to get us through the whole year. We don’t fall back on produce from far away to get us through the Winter. We are certified by the FDA for canning and processing, so we can safely can and pickle vegetables to get us through Winter.
It is very important to us that the wealth that is generated through our business goes back to truly support the farmers who produce our ingredients, and the staff that works so hard to bring it to your plate. That community is special.
UN: How would you describe the community that surrounds your business?
We have an amazing community around us! We sit in the heart of a residential neighborhood that has supported us since the day we opened. We have watched that community grow up a lot since we opened as well. We watched a lot of our customers buy their first homes there, and then start their families there. We now have a daily hour where the whole restaurant is filled with young families. They filter out and then we get our main crowd later, when our regulars fill the bar stools into the night.
We were lucky enough to open before Alberta really grew into itself. So, we have established ourselves as the neighborhood place, off the main path. And we are really proud of that.
Many of the folks in our neighborhood are designers, and work downtown. But we also have a lot of older, established Portland families.
UN: What do you think makes your business a great fit for Portland?
We work really hard to keep up to our ideals. That kind of ethos-based business is part and parcel with Portland life. We hope that folks feel like they are voting with their dollars when they come to us.
UN: What is your favorite thing about Portland?
My favorite part about Portland life is knowing the people that make, grow, or distribute everything I use on a daily basis. Having been here almost 20 years, I have made deep relationships with amazing people who work really hard to do things the right way. And I can get almost everything I need from them.
It also doesn’t hurt that we have mountains, beach, desert, and forests right at our doorstep.
UN: What part of town do you live in, and what do you love about it most?
I live in Cully, proudly. I have lived all over the East side in my years here, but we laid down roots in Cully 8 years ago. We have larger yards, big gardens, and a lot of open space. We are close to both of our restaurants, and can walk to get most of the things we need. It is more diverse, and full of working families. We love it!