HOLDFAST, Portland’s weekend-only multi-course parade of inventive modern fine dining, usually has at least a month’s waitlist for its $105, two-and-a-half hours of culinary performances. This, undoubtedly, is worth the wait and the coinage.
But if you’re operating with a bit more spontaneity or budget, chefs Joel Stocks and Will Preisch, along with bartender Adam Robinson, are giving Garfields like you and me a reason to stop hating on Mondays: Deadshot.
Mondays, usually the doldrums of eating out (oh-so-many good restaurants are closed on this already dreadful day), are sloughed off at the door to the rustic-chic dining room of Fausse Piste urban winery where Holdfast holds court Friday to Sunday. But Monday’s incarnation has the feeling of a speakeasy: candle-lit and populated with those who know about this semi-secret swirl of inventive cocktails and bar food from some of the city’s finest.
Robinson, who worked with Stocks and Preisch at multiple restaurants in the past, started talking with the pair about Deadshot while he was still abroad, bartending in Taipei, Taiwan. It launched on July 25, sending out cocktails laced with innovative but approachable ingredients and iterations of what I’m going to call “dream nachos”: bases have included pig ears, chicken skin, and chicharones in lieu of chips.
A good $30 per person will provide a cocktail and filling plates to share—along with access to Holdfast’s iconic cornbread madeleine (two for $6), with its savory and sweet redefining mix of lardo, honeycomb, and snowflake-light shavings of parmesan.
“The best part about Monday night is that it’s a change of pace from the rest of the week,” Stocks tells me via email. “It’s fun being able to chat, and get to talk to our customers more. There is plenty of interaction during a Holdfast service, but it usually revolves around what people currently have on their plate. At Deadshot we can just shoot the shit and hear about how their week has been.”
The menu of bar snacks is guaranteed to have both a meaty and a vegetarian mac and cheese ($11), like a recent buffalo chicken-inspired dish ($12) with just the right balance of Crystal hot sauce and blue cheese, with chicken skin crumbles on top for crunch (chicken skin is a wonderful constant on the menu), or a super-rich mac and cheese blend of fried mushroom, demi glace, and bone marrow ($12).
Robinson has free reign with the cocktails, and tweaks them often. The Switchblade ($10) is a lovely red hue, thanks to the addition of beet, which gives a depth to the gin, coriander, and kombu it’s served with. The Jack Nance ($10) sounds daunting, with a whole egg yolk and mustard thrown in the mix, but at its heart is a refined whiskey sour, inspired by San Francisco’s famed bar Trick Dog.
While elevated nachos and cheesy pasta are must-haves, there’s a lot of expected refinement (considering the chefs) to this bar menu. We were blown away last Monday by a $10 grain salad with 11 ingredients: farro, black Nile and pearl barley, dressed in a sauerkraut vinaigrette over caramelized juniper sour cream topped with charred Brussels sprouts and cabbage chips, puffed wild rice and sorghum, poached egg, and salt-cured egg yolk. Biting into the lush egg soaking into the grains, accented with acid and crunchy popped kernels of sorghum, feels like you’re getting away with something semi-illicit.
Even the small bites—fried togarashi prawn heads ($3 each); surf-n-turf deviled egg halves, one with whipped foie gras, the other cured in beet with smoked scallop ($5); and country ham with a pineapple butter and Aleppo pepper($7)—are masterful bites that your usual cocktail bar can’t approach.
The team is taking the holidays off, from December 26 through January 9, but Robinson’s got sous-vide-warmed bottled cocktails on deck, and who knows what little surprises Stocks and Preisch plan to pull from their holster. And don’t forget to end your Monday reverie with a $5 Deadshot—a service-industry baiting shot of Fernet and blackstrap rum. It’s pretty much required.