Gourmet Comfort 

Ken's Place Wins 1st Place

by Steve Lanning

The first thing that greets you at Ken's Place isn't a waitperson or receptionist. Instead, trays of delicious desserts, shake your hand and ask: "How are you today?" If you take your eyes off these treats and scope out the restaurant, you'll notice it's not very large. But, Ken's Place feels bright and open and has all the charm of a down-to-earth, mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall joint. However, the spoons aren't greasy. In fact, the flatware is Oneida Silver.

Here lies the dichotomy of Ken's Place; a dichotomy that makes the place so darn appealing. You see, the food at Ken's Place is gourmet. The prices are a little on the high side. Not--to quote a baby chicken--"cheap." Main entrees range from $8.00 to $17.75, but most are in the mid-teens. The wine list features numerous varieties of red and white, including two dessert wines. And yet, despite all these highbrow offerings, Ken's Place is friendly and comfortable with a warm French-country feel. The only thing that divides the kitchen from the customers is a happy lunch counter, where people converse with the cook. You feel like you're in somebody's home, and for an hour your dad's named Ken, and he's an amazing chef.

Ken's menu is divided up into two sections: Small Plates and Large Plates. The Small Plates include appetizers, soups, and salads. I recommend their signature Ladd's Rad Salad, which is, among other things, composed of fresh greens, pickled onions, cherry tomatoes, and carrots--a tangy melding of tart flavors. Other notable Small Plates are the moist Dungeness Crabcakes, Roasted Shitake Mushroom Bruschetta (bread, sliced, and grilled with garlic, olive oil and mushrooms), and cheese coated French Market Onion Soup.

On the Large Plates menu, you have a choice of six dishes. The 28 East Pork Chop is a thick-cut, scrumptious piece of meat. Blackened on the outside, the Chop is tender as the night on the inside. It is complimented by unique ginger applesauce, and melt-in-your-mouth scalloped Potatoes. Another great dish is the Iron-pan Seared Sea Scallops, which are served with a corn relish, chive butter, and frizzled leeks. You can compliment any of the dishes with tantalizing veggies like the garlic mashed potatoes, green beans with toasted almonds, sautéed spinach with garlic & oil, or roasted asparagus.

If the name Ken's Place sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it was formerly called Ken's Home Plate. The Home Plate, which had a second location on NW Glisan, was a bakery/catering business owned and operated by Ken Gordon. Gordon closed the NW store, and has transformed the Hawthorne location into a five star restaurant. However, for those of you in the marrying mood, it's good to note that Ken's Place does still offer catering services.

So if you're looking for high quality cuisine, but you're searching for that Whistle-Stop Café (a la Fried Green Tomatoes) friendly feel, then stop into Ken's Place. Because Idgie's got nothing on Ken's classy cooking.

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