THE DINING REPORT – LINCOLN – A Meal To Set You Free

Well, it’s been a long time since we had a real Restaurant Roulette dinner, early summer in fact. Obviously, the economy is doing anything but stimulating people’s desire to dine, and many people actually seem so wrapped up in the upcoming election, they can’t be bothered with frivolities like group dinners (I swear, someone told me that.) After living so long without my fine dining fix though, I was getting awfully antsy to darken the doorstep of some new and talked about eating establishment. Having seen their attractive space right before they opened, and hearing almost entirely positive comments about it, Lincoln seemed an obvious choice for our first fall dinner on the RR roster (hopefully we’ll manage 1-2 more before the next change in the seasons.)

IMG_0666I made it a point to give everyone plenty of notice for this dinner, almost a month, and by the early returns, I thought for sure I would manage to fill the table I had booked. It didn’t work out that way though, the table only ended up one person over half full, be it the economy, the fact that people have just fallen away from the group, or that many were busy this evening. That really didn’t matter though, our group of six was a nice size for conversing, and everyone was a seasoned pro who’s company I enjoy. That being said, however, even with only six people we had to speak really loudly to be heard, as once Lincoln got busy, it turned into a very loud space with not particularly good acoustics.

That complaint aside, Lincoln is a nice place. Someone asked me about the building, and I told them I thought it was new, but according the the WW Restaurant Guide that just came out, it’s a refurbished building. I don’t claim to be overly knowledgeable about Williams, up until about three years ago, unless you lived around those parts, there was really no reason to ever visit Williams, or its sister street, Vancouver Avenue (one way couplets,) except for a great many small businesses that had seen better days, there wasn’t a whole lot around there. Thus has been the renaissance of inner North and Northeast Portland though, where formerly Mississippi, Russell, Alberta, Albina, and Killingsworth were sad streets of a bygone era, now they are the places to be for hot restaurants, interesting little shops, and young home owners hoping to still find a deal in an up and coming (most of those places, up and came already) neighborhood surrounded by people just like them. It seems like once Pix hit Williams a bit over three years back, there was no turning back, now you have the brewpub run by Old Lampoc, the always admired vegetarian haven Nutshell, just a few doors South, and now the first really talked about, fine dining joint on Williams, the earnestly named Lincoln (and yes, I read it was named after THAT Lincoln, everyone’s favorite tall bearded chap. Too bad he was a Republican.)

If I was to compare the vibe and feeling of the space, I would have to say that of all the restaurants that RR has visited, I suppose Lincoln reminded me most of Vindalho. Mainly, parts of the color pallete, all the glass, and the high ceilings, but also a feeling of modern but still warm and inviting. There is much attractive recycled wood inside Lincoln, which I read came from odd sources like old chicken coops and tobacco shacks from Tennessee or somewhere unusual like that, perhaps the Rebuilding Center has confiscated all of our local recycled wood products. IMG_0672Wherever the wood came from, it looks really great in this incarnation, Lincoln, with its lovely burgundy walls, wall candles, and soaring open ceilings (probably what wrecks the acoustics) is a welcoming place. Wood and stainless steel melded nicely together. Also, my vibe when passing through to visit the restroom (very pedestrian) was that the side street dining room with the garage doors and large gray booths have a slightly more modern feel than the Williams side with the smaller wooden tables, bar area and flickering candles.

I was relatively tardy arriving this evening (second to last) and by the time I got there, the opening beverages were at least partly consumed, so I didn’t really see what was ordered. I know Jody had something with bitters in it by the distinctive orangey-red color, and my guess would be “The Don Draper” a concoction of bourbon, muddled orange, brown sugar and bitters. Although certainly not to my tastes, as someone with a distain of both bitters and bourbon, I think Jody originally found it interesting, but it seemed to wear out its welcome about 2/3rd way through, and she didn’t finish it (OH MY GOD, someone not finishing their liquor!) I decided to take the “Elderflower Gimlet” for a test drive, a drink composed of Aviation Gin, St. Germain, lime juice and simple syrup. It certainly was not a bad drink, it just didn’t call out to me, and the liquidity was of a certain syrupy/oily consistency, something I notice in many cocktails nowadays but don’t find that refreshing. (Many of the martinis at Bartini are like this, and while I find their cocktail list admirable, especially at Happy Hour, I rarely order a repeat performance of a drink there.) (more…)