A Visit to Radar Restaurant

There is a wonderful restaurant that just celebrated its 5 year anniversary on North Mississippi which is totally under the Portland food buzz radar – and that restaurant is Radar Restaurant. Radar does offer the rare reservations taken brunch, but in the meantime I visited and enjoyed tasting some of their evening snacks and dinner items with a few other media people recently. Here’s a more detailed look at Radar – a humble neighborhood gem with warm service and great food. You can feel a lot of the love from the owners who carry on connections to their parents and past within Radar’s walls in multiple ways.

The space inside is warm with brick and a view into the open kitchen from pretty much anywhere. The bar top looking onto the kitchen uses wood that comes from their farm.
Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

This matches the warmth of the service, which is led by owner Lily Tollefsen. Radar is informed by a lot of her childhood memories with her father and the legacy of growing up in her father’s seafood restaurant business in the Northeast. Besides the restaurant name, which is named for her father (Radar is his middle name- all her father’s siblings have nautical terms for middle names) it also  is everywhere in influencing  the decor. This is seen most prominently in a painting towards the back that anchors the restaurant, of a ship on the seas – its just one of the pieces of artwork from her father, and that particular painting he completed in one day.

The seafood influences also inform some items on the menu. The kitchen is helmed by her husband Jonathan Berube, who finds a way to recreate those Northeast comforts while also showcasing the bounty of Northwest ingredients.

Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

One pleasant surprise that is relatively new to Radar is their secret back patio for private parties. Hidden in the back of the restaurant, it’s a single table that works as a 12 top and is such a retreat! During our rainy cold day visit we only sat there for a short period of time, but I am definitely remembering this space for warm days.
Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

During my visit last week, I was able to try this Fairgame cocktail with rum, sherry, marmalade, lime, mint. It’s a nice transition between the sunny warm days of Indian summer and the move to crisp falls that has this lovely base of refreshing citrus with marmalade and lime and mint, but that earthy backbone of rum and sherry. Hurry in before it turns into winter and the seasonal cocktail is switched out!
Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

The cocktail went wonderfully with a small plate of Ras El Hanout Fried Shrimp with preserved lemon tartar and shishito powder, a nod to Lily’s northeast shrimp roots. These are so good that I even ate the tail, there was a perfect balance of the firm chubby shrimp meat and the crispness of the cornmeal breading outside.
Ras El Hanout Fried Shrimp with preserved lemon tartar, shishito powder at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Ras El Hanout Fried Shrimp with preserved lemon tartar, shishito powder at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

The snack plate of the Deviled Eggs three ways with bacon, piquillo, and trout roe is indulgent. Even though Radar seems like a cozy family owned restaurant, they make their own bacon, and that was my favorite of the three eggs, that contrast of the creamy egg and the thick salty sweet bacon.
Deviled Eggs three ways with bacon, piquillo, and trout roe at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Deviled Eggs three ways with bacon, piquillo, and trout roe at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

For even more richness, check out the Smoked Pork shoulder with grit cake and chile purée – their meat is so juicy and flavorful I could just eat that on plain white bread and be happy. You can find this same smoked pork shoulder on their brunch menu but with the grit cake updgraded to cotija grits and paired with fried hominy too.
Smoked Pork shoulder with grit cake and chile purée at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

Is there nothing this kitchen cannot make on their own, be it bacon, smoked pork, or their own Smoked Bluefish Pate with with housemade pickle and house bread? Apparently no. The house bread recipe is handed down from Chef Jonathan’s mom, who still bakes bread daily. Meanwhile, this Bluefish is also a special nod to Chef Jonathan past, having fished for Bluefish often while living in New York.

Bluefish Pate with with house pickle and house bread at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

Lily explained that most people on the Eastern seaboard disregard the fish because they are so plentiful and can be oily – but Jonathan knew his favorite fish was going to be on the menu even before the two of them opened Radar. Both Jonathan and Lily are proud to show off how delicious Bluefish is when smoked. In fact you can find the Smoked Bluefish on both their dinner and brunch menu! They use the same seafood purveyor as Lily’s dad did (he is New York restaurant veteran who worked on restaurants for 43 years until he retired in 2011). So much of the warm service you get in Radar you can tell is because Lily really grew up in a restaurant, so is just attuned to what is needed to make a satisfying dining experience.
Bluefish Pate with with house pickle and house bread at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Bluefish Pate with with house pickle and house bread at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

It’s more then house bread, pickles, bacon, Smoked Pork or Smoked Bluefish. New to their menus is also their own house gravlax. For brunch, it is in the form of Housemade Gravlax, Poached Egg, Potato Cake, with a Salad of Butter Lettuce with French Breakfast Radish, Scallion and Dill Dressing.

Brunch dish of Housemade Gravlax, Poached Egg, Potato Cake, with a Salad of Butter Lettuce with French Breakfast Radish, Scallion and Dill Dressing at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland
Image courtesy of Lily Tollefsen of Radar Restaurant

You can also get a taste for their housemade gravlax starting in November on their happy hour menu in a bitesize form of House Gravlax with crispy potato, creme fraiche, and fresno chile
House Gravlax with crispy potato, creme fraiche, and fresno chile for Happy Hourat Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

It’s not all smoked fishes here, they offer some great salads, like their Kale Salad with sultanas, mint, peanut dressing or their Butter Lettuce salad with radish, scallion, and green goddess dressing.
Kale Salad with sultanas, mint, peanut dressing at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Butter Lettuce salad with radish, scallion, and green goddess dressing at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

For more substantial protein plates for dinner, look to the Chicken Fried Trout with celeriac remoulade, iceberg lettuce, radish, pickled shallot, tarragon aioli, trout roe, and fun trout chicharrones, or the excellent (my favorite of the three) Steak Frites Bavette with house fries, bone marrow bordelaise, black pepper aioli, or the tender Beef Cheeks with pommes aligot and braised greens
Chicken Fried Trout with celeriac remoulade, iceberg lettuce, radish, pickled shallot, tarragon aioli, trout roe, trout chicharrones at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Steak Frites Bavette with house fries, bone marrow bordelaise, black pepper aioli at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Beef Cheeks with pommes aligot and braised greens at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

To pair with desserts, or if you just like nutty deep drinks, order the Night Owl cocktail with bourbon, coconib ramozzotti, toasted pecan bitters. This is always on the menu at Radar- the bartender admitted there might be a riot if it was ever rotated off. The drinks at Radar incldue some created by the current bartenders, as well as by Lily’s childhood friend and New York and LA cocktail guru Alex Day. Or go light and fun with the refreshing craft cocktail Lawn Party with Vodka, Aperol, Grapefruit, Cucumber, Lime, Bubbly
Night Owl cocktail with bourbon, coconib ramozzotti, toasted pecan bitters at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Lawn Party with Vodka, Aperol, Grapefruit, Cucumber, Lime, Bubbly at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

The Radar Rustic Apple Galette with calvados fennel ice cream, buckwheat honey is a fun slice that is thin, presenting almost like a dessert pizza. But, I favored the Chocolate Cherry Chile Pot De Crème with Churritos which is a great pairing with the Night Owl’s toasted pecan flavors with the chocolate, cherry, and heat of the chile.
Rustic Apple Galette with calvados fennel ice cream, buckwheat honey at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland Chocolate Cherry Chile Pot De Crème with Churritos at Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

Have you heard or been to Radar before? Which meal did you go for, and what were your opinions of their dishes, any favorites I should try? Which of these dishes that I tried would you order?
Radar Restaurant on North Mississippi, Portland

Radar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclosure: I attended a complimentary media dinner, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given and I plan to go back and dine there on my own dime. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.

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Comments

  1. As I was scrolling through and reading your notes, I was thinking with each dish, “Oh, I need to comment on that.” And then I’d scroll a little farther and think, “Oh, that sounds even better!” By the end of your post, I’d decided that we should get over there and eat a meal again soon. I “need” to try some of their Housemade Gravlax asap!

  2. Oh wow, I’ve never heard of this place. Haha and I’m with Renee above, everything looks fantastic. I just want to try it all! And that patio is adorable!!

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