Outside of a couple run-of-the-mill cafes, coffee shops and a puzzling density of run-down Chinese restaurants, North Portland’s Arbor Lodge neighborhood has little to offer in the way of good eats, especially with a family in tow. Still, much like the rest of Portland Metro, Arbor Lodge is bursting with new activity and development, and all these people have got to eat somewhere.
It’s a conundrum that Solomon Florea wants to solve with his new rotisserie house, The Coop. Located on busy Interstate Avenue, The Coop brings a breath of freshness to what used to be a seriously run down section of road.
Opened October, 2015, The Coop looks absolutely nothing like what came before it. It was a labor of love for Florea, as he and only one other person completely gutted the old building and rebuilt nearly everything. Outside of the saws he’s turned into decorations and the original ceiling beams, The Coop is almost entirely brand new.
From Condos to Coop
Originally purchased by an uncle in 2007, the building was supposed to be razed to make room for condos. Then the economy fell off a cliff, and over the next six years the properly fell into complete disrepair.
The building had become a waypoint for drifters and drug users. It was a blight on the neighborhood. With the property languishing, Florea and his mother purchased it from their uncle, intent on making good use out of it. It was then that the hard work began.
Due to the proximity of the MAX line, and a lack of curb space, the city forbade condos from being built on the property. Nor could the family sell it to another builder. “We had to come up with something,” Florea says.
After researching the area, he determined a rotisserie house was just what the neighborhood needed. Working as a full-time contractor, Florea had a perfect design plan in mind. Yet the project wasn’t without its fair share of problems.
“I had ten thousand dollars’ worth of tools stolen,” Florea says, somehow managing to smile as he says it. Apparently, he even had tools stolen while he was there working on the property. Still, he persevered.
The result is a lesson in polish and inviting aesthetics. With a spacious interior, a ton of windows and several large rolling garage doors, The Coop has a very open and airy feel, something that didn’t happen by accident. Although they only caught a couple weeks of good outside weather when they opened, this summer they plan to throw the doors open. “You get good air flow in here, and feel like you’re outside,” Florea says.
With a full bar and space for 40, two adjoining rooms provide the setting for a lively good time. After all, how can one not enjoy themselves around copious amounts of delicious meats and sides.
Home Sweet Rotisserie Home
Portland has its fair share of barbecue joints, but there aren’t many good rotisserie houses to speak of. The Coop makes it known the moment you walk in the door, with a giant six-spit flaming rotisserie looming behind the counter. It’s an appropriate visual representation of the taste of things to come.
One thing that is sure, Florea wants to make sure you aren’t leaving with an empty stomach. Meals come in large portions, yet still at quite affordable price points. Where they can, The Coop uses local products and operates in a sustainable fashion. They source from regional producers and never use meats pumped with growth hormones or antibiotics. It’s a commitment to quality that’s tough to maintain in this market.
“Not many know it, but poultry has gone up thirty-five percent in the last five years,” Florea explains. “People want the freshest, local ingredients, but you have to also be able to have a price point that allows you to provide the food.”
Still, The Coop’s commitment to delicious fare is obvious from the start. At the helm is Chef Brendan McCormack, who styles his offerings as “simple food, handled well and with a little bit of technique.”
The technique comes through as the meal starts without apology. The simply-named Mac n’ Cheese arrives in a heaping portion. Loaded with succulent pulled pork, bits of rotisserie meat, jalapeños, tomatoes, onion, garlic, paprika and house-made breadcrumbs, it looks as good as it smells. The four-cheese base is a mixture of gruyere, cheddar, fontina and parmesan. Put together, an explosion of flavor and creamy textures leaves your taste buds in comfort food heaven.
But while everyone loves mac n’ cheese, The Coop is all about the meat. A sample platter arrives with a hulking portion of meats, roasted beets, Brussel sprouts doused in a balsamic reduction and sprinkled with parmesan, dipping sauces and house-made biscuits. Most will feel full just looking at it.
A moist section of rotisserie chicken sits next to slices of brisket, pulled pork and ribs. The green Verde sauce is fragrant, light and provides an excellent complement to the chicken. The “Cock” sauce, called such because this isn’t a barbecue joint after all, is smoky, yet sweet. Composed of Cajun tarter, spices, Dijon mustard and a dash of horseradish, you may have to keep yourself from drinking it. It’s that good.
The coup de grâce arrives in the form of fried chicken and braised kale. Sure, a lot of really good food has preceded the fried chicken, but it’s the technique that stands out. Instead of breading and frying their chicken, McCormack fries it in tempura batter. The batter is light and airy, yet retains a satisfying crunch, while the chicken bursts with juiciness and flavor. Its fried chicken taken to the next level.
Are you a vegetarian worried you’ll be staring idly as your carnivorous friend tears into a juicy rib? Worry not, there are options for you. The Coop will substitute tofu on sandwiches and other applications, such as in the Mac n’ Cheese.
The fact is, whether you’re a meat lover or not, The Coop’s comfort food will leave you both stuffed and satisfied. “Tying food and flavor into emotions is very important,” Florea finishes. Without getting too emotional on you, we tend to agree.
Want to get in touch with your comfort food feelings? Swing by the burgeoning Arbor Lodge neighborhood and give The Coop a visit. They’re located at 6214 N Interstate Avenue in Portland, Oregon, and are open noon to 9:00pm from Tuesday through Thursday, and until 10:00pm on Saturday. They are closed Monday. For more information, give them a ring at 503.208.3046.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is longtime journalist and blogger with over twelve years of professional writing experience. After a long career as an entertainment and political columnist, William now spends his time expounding on Portland restaurants, Portland plays and Android smartphone apps. When he isn’t writing or eating, then writing about eating, expect him to be outside enjoying the natural splendors of his home in the great Pacific Northwest.