Grüner had a hell of a first year. Our local critics gushed about the alpine eatery, GQ anointed it one of the best new restaurants in the country, and Chef Chris Israel was nominated for a James Beard Award (and hailed, by Elle magazine, as the "Cabbage King"). Your wait for a table, then, is hardly surprising. It was a wise move for Israel and partner Kurt Huffman to open up a bar around the corner.
But Kask is anything but a glorified waiting room; its identity is all its own. Instead of alpine chic, everything from the wine list to the woodwork celebrates small-scale American craftsmanship. Bartender Tommy Klus—back in Portland after a jaunt studying Scotch production—makes some of the best cocktails in Portland; his collection of vials (obscure bitters and tinctures and essences) puts most chemists to shame. While cocktails are on the expensive side, they stand up to any in town. But if you are on a budget, there's a nightly $5 punch that should manage to get you economically sloshed.
For a full meal, you'll need to head next door, but if cheese and charcuterie's your thing, Kask will take good care of you. The particulars vary from week to week, but their selections are obviously chosen with care, and accompanied with fruits, nuts, mustard, and preserves (and, thank god, Grüner's excellent pretzel bread). TONY PEREZ
Fri., Oct. 21, 3-5 p.m. 2011