Firehouse Restaurant – celebrating family with fire

Disclosure: A portion of this meal was complimentary thanks to a gift certificate from Travel Portland, but I will always provide  my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may  be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my  own.

The irony of going to Firehouse Restaurant, housed in old Firehouse 29, an actual firehouse station, where you are then greeted with the scent of fire and smoke from their specialties- wood-fired oven, rotisserie and grill, is not lost on me. My experience was of rustic warmth of a neighborhood gem centered on family and community… and yes, some fire.

And then what/who put it over the top, Polar Bear. Polar Bear is a Maine Coon cat.

Let’s start at the beginning. From the outside, it first appears to be a refurbished trendy spot, with its bold brick red and black lines, and the sign with its modern lines representing this classic building’s structure. Even though it was autumn, the evening was still lovely so they had their firehouse garage door rolled open, and there were many people dining outside (ok, maybe not represented fully in my photos, which were taken when I was leaving), including some in their garden area under twinkling strings of lights like you were at a backyard party.

Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station

Inside, the open kitchen showcased the sights and scents of fire. It was cozy, with photos of the original occupants of the firehouse on one wall.

Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station  Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station Firehouse Restaurant, atmosphere of the restaurant in a restored Fire Station

I was driving, so I stuck with a yummy fizzy housemade soda, and F was impressed with the ability to get some German beers. We had 3 small plates to share, fried cauliflower with lemon creme fraiche, beets with salsa verde and hazelnuts, and aracini (that time it was with corn basil and mozzarella but I know they change it up). The beets were our favorite among the three.

Firehouse Restaurant, housemade soda  Firehouse Restaurant, fried cauliflower with lemon creme fraiche Firehouse Restaurant, beets with salsa verde and hazelnuts Firehouse Restaurant, aracini with corn basil and mozzarella

Then, for our entrees, F went vegetarian of course with handmade ricotta cavatelli with basil pesto, corn, Mike’s cherry tomatoes and pecorino, while I went with the wood grilled hanger steak with crispy potatoes, arugula and grana padano. I believe the steak is a regular menu item, but they change up the pasta.

Firehouse also has half a dozen wood fired Neapolitan style pizzas (you saw that gorgeous pizza oven earlier in the photos right?), but F and I cannot agree on pizza (he loves his oversauced with tomatoes) so that was a no go for my visit this time. As you can see, everything is simple, rustic family fare with fresh local ingredients like an Italian family transplanted here to the Northwest for a couple generations.
Firehouse Restaurant, handmade ricotta cavatelli with basil pesto, corn, Mike's cherry tomatoes and pecorino Firehouse Restaurant, wood grilled hanger steak with crispy potatoes, arugula and grana padano

It isn’t just the guests at the Firehouse Restaurant that are treated like family. This past August was their 5 year anniversary AND was the 100th birthday of the Firehouse 29 building, so Firehouse hosted a street fair to celebrate. They donated funds raised at the event went to The Pixie Project, a Portland-based animal adoption center and rescue, and Sauvie Island Center, an educational program increasing the food, farm and environmental literacy of the next generation through hands-on educational field trips to elementary school youth of Portland at their Sauvie Island location in Howell Territorial Park. The street fair was EXACTLY like you would expect at your friendly neighborhood block party, including a chili cook-off, pie auction, live music, dunk tank, sack racing, petting zoo, and pony rides!

They are back at participating with community tomorrow, with owner/head chef Matthew Busetto joining up with the Sauvie Island Center again. This time, he is leading a cooking lesson using ingredients gathered from the Grow Lunch Garden (a row tended and harvested by visiting elementary school students) and working with 7th graders from Sauvie Island Academy to prepare sopes (a chewy soft tortilla that is thick, sort of like if you decided to make mini pizzas), all from scratch using cornmeal and topped with a green tomato salsa and vegetable slaws, all made from ingredients gathered on the farm.

That’s right, he organized a block party with a dunk tank and  petting zoo AND teaches kids a recipe and the value of gardening. He’s like a cool uncle who lives in a old firehouse that you can go to anytime for dinner!

While we were dining, the Firehouse cat “Polar Bear” came to visit several guests. When I went to the restroom, as I admired photos of Polar Bear adorning the restroom walls, apparently Polar Bear decided to become F’s new date and took my seat and I worry that if I took any longer getting back whether F would have been so charmed as to ditch me for Polar Bear.

Firehouse Restaurant celebrating Polar Bear, the Fire House Maine Coon cat Firehouse Restaurant celebrating Polar Bear, the Fire House Maine Coon cat

That evening we were among a few tables that fawned over Polar Bear and took photos with him like he is a celebrity chef or owner here. Actually, considering he seems to be in the center of the framed photos by the business cards perched right by the open kitchen, maybe that’s not untrue. Like going to a celebrity owned restaurant, it’s probably a matter of luck whether you get to see him. As we enjoy the unreal perfect October autumn weather we are having right now, with colorful and crisp falling leaves yet sunshine and 70 degree temperatures, the Firehouse patio is still usable, and offering the best tables. But the patio and Polar Bear are probably in limited time only mode now.

Still, that night his presence really underlines the warm family feel of Firehouse Restaurant. That’s right, Polar Bear really sealed the deal in feeling like I was at some Italian family’s home as Polar Bear visited each of the tables like this was his place and he was checking on each table’s well-being, and if you wanted to reach down to pet, fine, or not, he’d continue on his way unobtrusively.

Firehouse Restaurant celebrating Polar Bear, the Fire House Maine Coon cat Firehouse Restaurant celebrating Polar Bear, the Fire House Maine Coon cat

Firehouse was on the list for Portland Dining month in June where you can try 3 courses for $29, but they offer that everyday as part of their menu: you get to choose any small plate, salad, and any entree, so you don’t have to wait until June! I do recommend making a reservation (we did so via OpenTable) because it is smack in a neighborhood and I believe enjoyed by many of the locals regularly, so sometimes there might be a wait… particularly if you have your heart set on that garden outdoor patio area when the weather permits. Though there is always the option of going to grab a beer across the street at Breakside or  The Oregon Public House while you are waiting I suppose!

Firehouse on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: A portion of this meal was complimentary thanks to a gift certificate from Travel Portland, but I will always provide  my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may  be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my  own.

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Comments

  1. That hangar steak looks amazing. I still have never been, but your post makes me wanna go! Especially that gorgeous outdoor space.

  2. I’ll have to put my vote in for that handmade ricotta cavatelli! Thank you for sharing about the street fair, too: what wonderful causes they chose to support! Wapato Island (now Sauvies) is absolutely brimming with amazing history and learning opportunities.

  3. I have heard lots of good things about Firehouse, but yours tops the cake! Everything sounds delicious…I think I need to eat lunch now.

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  1. […] Last year, in 2013 I visited and recapped as example Portland Dining month experiences dinners at Firehouse Restaurant, Quartet, Accanto, Urban Fondue, Fratelli (since closed but still a great example of what a great […]

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