Cooper’s Hall Is Worth The Hassle

Address: 404 SE 6th Ave., Portland OR 97214— Get directions
Telephone: (503) 719-7000
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Rostra rating: 4.5

Outside Cooper's Hall

Cooper’s Hall has received serious acclaim from MagoGuide’s competitors, but you should still go. Think ginormous quonset hut filled with the looted remains of several 1980s fern bars and a winery, and a restaurant — a really big restaurant. Now add the largest collection of wines on tap in this spiral arm of the galaxy. Cooper’s Hall’s “keg stand” removes bottles from the wine equation to the benefit of the environment. Creative event space management and wine to go in refillable bottles round out the business model.

Inside Cooper's Hall

The food? Oh, uh, yeah it chokes real good Maynard. The website touts Chef Keith Morris’s “classic French and Alsatian background”, but I had to look fairly carefully to detect it in his contemporary PNW bistro menu. And that turned out to be a good thing in this case.

Blue cheese madeleines with buffalo foam

Blue cheese madeleines with buffalo foam provide a tasty and topical example. These puppies have as much in common with little sponge cakes from Lorraine as matter does with antimatter. We are talking ethereal pillows, redolent with blue cheese, that are actually better than Holdfast’s version. ‘Nuff said; except that the buffalo foam a) kicks ass and b) isn’t so much foam as it is fluid in a delicious instant prior to a state change — heavier than foam but lighter than sauce.

Winter vegetable tempura with green garlic aioli and black garlic molasses

The other killer dish TeamMago sampled was a (really late) winter vegetable tempura (from far eastern Alsace?) served with green garlic aioli and black garlic molasses. The carrots, asparagus, and cauliflower were perfectly executed with a paper thin coating of batter, but they were only half of the fun. I might be willing to admit that the aioli was a classic French rendering of green goddess dressing, but that black garlic molasses came out of left field and really elevated this dish.

Salad of shaved oca, sunchoke, fennel, moscatel vinaigrette, fresh sheep’s cheese, and hazelnuts

A  salad of shaved oca, sunchoke, fennel, moscatel vinaigrette, fresh sheep’s cheese, and hazelnuts was not only an excellent composed salad but easily sharable between two diners, as were all the ‘tizers we tried.

Coopers fries with lemon oil, fines herbs, and citric acid

Coopers fries with lemon oil, fines herbs, and citric acid had some minor problems. The taters were flawlessly fryolatored but the interiors were slightly mealy. Quality problem? And the ketchup was commercial. It turned out not to matter since we mopped up the the left over buffalo foam from the madeleines until the plate shone.

In addition to those forty four taps o’ wine, Cooper’s Hall curates a sweet seven beer taps. Add in ten craft cocktails and the only problem that I have with the entire alcohol program is charging four simoleons for a Longmire pounder. Not right, dude.

Sitting at the bar

The service at Cooper’s Hall is great — both professional and attentive in just the right doses. Our server Rachel fielded culinary questions with aplomb and brought dishes promptly when they came off the line as we requested.

Wine barrels everywhere

My real problem with Cooper’s Hall is that it discriminates against the general dining public. The business model favors events and that is hard to argue with given their sunk costs in infrastructure. But the result is that any day of the week is vulnerable to closure for an event, except Sunday which is dedicated to events. The result is that you have to do a bit of planning in terms of their and your availability.

Bottom line: I would eat more at Cooper’s Hall if they managed the uncertainty on their end a little better. As it is, the best thing to do is check their (way above average) website for event nights when the restaurant is closed to the hoi polloi.

Some picnic-style tables

MagoTip: Coopers Hall has a real deal VFM happy hour (“daily” 4-6 PM) with good discounts on fifteen wines by the glass, all the beer taps (they even knock ol’ Longmire down to a decent two spot per), four craft cocktails, and cava. Food ditto. But probably the coolest thing about Cooper’s HH is the to go wine list, which offers not only seriously good deals on walk-away-with wine, but also drops the cost of refillable bottles by 50% (that would be $3).

Morgan Hart was launched in 2011 as a website and virtual storefront to showcase Patti's software and Morgan's content. Dedicated to slow travel, culinary excess, and ripping good yarns, MagoGuide is the digital scriptoria for the Mago Scrolls, Morgan's historical fiction series about the Punic Wars in general and one Mago of Syracuse in particular. Although Morgan has written a great deal of non-fiction over the years in the form of specialized journal articles, book reviews, op-ed pieces, and (his personal favorite) the most unpopular coffee table book in the history of the planet, he always viewed himself as a happily frustrated novelist. Get more information about Morgan's novel and travel writing at our Products page.

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