A WORD LIKE "seasonal" in the context of a new Portland restaurant barely even stokes a reaction anymore; it's all but a given. But the recently opened Harvest at the Bindery literally has an agrarian theme, complete with old iron farm equipment mounted to the rustic wood interior. Their work is about the yearly cycle of sowing and reaping, resulting in an intense, exclusive focus on the stunning array of food that grows in the ground.
Does that mean it's vegan? Yes, it does. But it's about as far as can be from the world of tofu scrambles and gooey fake cheese. There's nothing on the menu that exists solely as an inferior version of an animal product, and the vibe is more pro-vegetable than anti-meat and dairy. When Harvest subs squash spaghetti for noodles in a hearty carbonara ($14), for instance, it's because they want to, not because they have to.
Don't be afraid to show up at Harvest ravenous—despite a menu that's 99 percent vegetables, each time I visited I practically had to roll myself out the door. The array of carefully considered plates—such as a potato cake that eschews the prosaic with the addition of a pickled turnip cream ($6/$10; like many plates, it can be ordered small or large), and a simple Little Gem salad thrillingly dotted with petite shiitakes ($8)—encourages over-ordering. Three small plates and a salad, plus a shared entrée, are more than enough for two at dinner, and it's a good way to answer Harvest's style, this grazing.
- Aaron Lee
Meals here begin with warm house-made cornbread, served with a rich, delicious, soft nut spread that'll wipe the butter-longings from your brain. Consider it a prelude to the menu's Southern inflection—see the hearty tamale plate with a generous topping of pumpkin seed salsa verde ($14) and the pulled trumpet mushroom BBQ ($16). These sensibilities are thanks to chef Sean Sigmon, who became a vegetarian as a young man, but not before cutting his teeth learning how to cook at his family's BBQ restaurants in North Carolina.
It's health food in the sense that (outside of sauce-making and other in-kitchen manipulations) ingredients are largely un-tampered with—grains make most of their appearances in whole form, and much of the menu is gluten-free—but it doesn't shy away from indulgence. Sigmon and owner Jon Steuer clearly know how to wield the power of nut fat and the umami blast of miso.
Recently Harvest added a brunch menu to its dinner service, built mostly around biscuits, grit cakes, hoecakes, and country griddle French toast. A biscuit with housemade seitan arrived positively drenched in thick, savory mushroom gravy ($6)—I finished half of it before it even occurred to me to add some of the locally made hot sauce on the table. Harvest also offers its hash browns in casserole form, plain ($5) or with simple roasted veggies and greens ($9), as well as a more adventurous style with baked beans, smoked onion, pickled ginger, and a bright tomato gravy ($10)—it's a little weird, but it works.
- Aaron Lee
To wash it down, Harvest's drink list is aggressively regional—all but two of the wines on the bottle list hail from Oregon (the draft wines are credited to Coopers Hall), and those two holdouts are from Washington. In cocktails too (all $10), you'll find Aviation gin and Hot Monkey vodka nestled among recipes anchored by Old Overholt and Jim Beam (it's a Southern joint... you have to have a little Jim Beam). If you're laying off the booze, they've also got refreshing pints of Humm kombucha on draft ($5)—the pomegranate lemonade variety really hits the spot on a sweltering summer evening.
For all the inventiveness and attention to detail, Harvest's menu is poised for a complete revamp. Just as a farmer's life moves in accordance with the seasons, Harvest will make itself over in deference to the abundance of late summer and early fall. It's a healthful, natural practice to do so, and in Harvest's hands it's also an indulgence.
Tues-Sat 5-10 pm. Brunch Sat-Sun 9 am-3 pm. Full bar. Reservations accepted for dinner only.