When the news broke that restaurateurs John and Renee Gorham would be opening a new restaurant, we here at Schoolhouse were excited for a number of reasons. First of all, there was the fact that the new restaurant (called Tasty n Daughters) would be located in one of the most beautiful and distinctive dining rooms in Portland. Second, the Gorhams are something like the first family of Portland brunch, a city that arguably does brunch better than any city in the country.
But what really made us excited is the unique relationship we’ve maintained with the Gorhams’ recently closed restaurant, Tasty n Sons over the last several years. “Tasty n Sons has been a Schoolhouse favorite for celebrating our collection launches for years.” says Director of Marketing + Brand Kirsten Nieman. “We were sad to hear they would be closing, but we were even more relieved to hear we would have a new restaurant at which to enjoy the Gorham's incredible food.”
So when Renee offered to give us a tour of their new restaurant one Friday morning before opening for brunch service, we eagerly drove across town to see the new space for ourselves. Simply put, the Tasty n Daughters space is stunning. In a dining room long considered one of Portland’s most attractive (the space was originally dreamed up by Stumptown Coffee Roasters founder Duane Sorenson) the Gorham’s have taken a light touch with the decor.
Rich woodwork, warm brass tones, and aged plaster walls give the space a historic but masculine energy. Big street front windows, on the other hand, provide enough clean natural light to cut right through any potential stuffiness.
Instead of ripping out the perfectly worn hardwood floors (brought over from the east coast) or modernizing the patina'd brass bar top, the couple has focused on changes that would help the space be more functional. “We really wanted to keep the bones of the dining room, but the restaurant had no economy of motion,” says Renee. “I’m not sure if we made that term up but a lot of our changes were to add economy of motion. So we added things like banquet seating and high tables which improve the flow of traffic and the way people move in the space.”
It’s no surprise that Tasty n Daughters has been an instant hit - the Gorhams have been all-stars in the Portland dining scene since the notion of a Portland dining scene commanded any respect at all. They opened their first restaurant, the Spanish tapas spot Toro Bravo, in 2007, a year New York Times writer Eric Asimov dubbed “Portland’s Golden Age of Dining and Drinking.” Toro Bravo found quick success, and the couple went on to open numerous other restaurants including the fast-casual, Israeli-inspired hit Shalom Y’all and its more sophisticated, sit-down cousin, Mediterranean Exploration Company.
But over the years, the couple’s biggest success has arguably been their “Tasty” restaurants, which up until recently included Tasty n Sons on the East side of the city and Tasty n Alder on the West. It was at these restaurants that the Gorham's showed off their talent for swirling globe trotting culinary tastes in cool, contemporary spaces that put the kitchen - and John’s extraordinary culinary vision - in full view.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and that includes Tasty n Sons. Their lease in their Williams Street location was running out at the end of 2018 and rapid development that threatened the fabric of the neighborhood made them feel that moving on was preferable to negotiating a new lease.
“You can’t move a restaurant. The space makes the concept come alive,” Renee says of the decision to close a highly successful restaurant. “Upper Division feels very much like N. Williams did when we first opened Tasty n Sons. It has such a wonderful neighborhood feel. Although lower Division has been much more built up but and more congested, being up here on 46th is very peaceful.”
As luck would have it, Duane Sorenson was contemporaneously planning his own exit from the restaurant industry. This meant his Woodsman Tavern, an iconic restaurant located next to the original Stumptown Coffee Roasters, would need a new tenant. Duane reached out to John about taking over the space, a deal was struck. At that point, the Gorhams had a beautiful space, a proven concept, a talented staff, and a recipe book full of sure-fire hits. All they needed was a new name to guide the new restaurant’s identity.
“Back when we were planning Tasty n Sons, we named it that because we thought the ‘n Sons’ moniker gave the feeling of the type of neighborhood restaurant we wanted to open,” says Renee. “But both we and our business partner only have daughters. We have two daughters and he has four. So we said, ‘Tasty n Daughters’ it is!”
Of course, the big question for most brunch aficionados who live in or visit Portland is going to be: how’s the food? After our tour, the Gorham’s were kind enough to sit us down for a true feast: beignets with lemon curd, hangtown fry with fried oysters and bacon, potatoes bravas, black coffee, a smoothie, and their legendary fried egg and cheddar biscuit sandwich. The results? Let’s just we’ll be visiting this new family member again soon.
If the Gorham’s have proven anything in the last decade-plus of influencing the Portland dining scene, it’s that they never stop moving. Only a few months out from their last restaurant opening, they already have some big moves on the horizon. Renee tells us their next major project will involve another of Portland’s most notable dining rooms, the location of the Pearl District tiki bar, Trader Vic’s.
“We're really thrilled to announce that we will be moving our event space and gastronomic society, PLAZA DEL TORO to the Pearl District,” she says. “It was a bittersweet decision but it’s the right one. We have taken over the former Trader Vic’s space, its twice the size and the aesthetic of the room is very similar to the existing plaza. We're early in the design stages but I can assure you we'll be featuring some beautiful stuff from Schoolhouse! We'll be moving in Feb of 2020, it’s our biggest, boldest and most exciting project to date.”