Pork and kimchi eggs Benedict, bowls of greens with sesame-encrusted avocados, and breakfast sandwiches smeared with reduced blueberry jam are coming to a new cafe in Creston-Kenilworth. Cafe Rowan, opening in early 2020, will bring some high-end, healthy breakfast to Cesar E Chavez Boulevard, complete with weekly prix fixe dinners, monthly Jazz brunches, and a wall of Oregon-specific sundries.
Cafe Rowan comes from Spencer Ivankoe, an East-Coast expat with New York culinary chops: The chef spent time at the once-Michelin-starred restaurant Public, which has since closed. He eventually went to business school to learn the skills necessary to open his own restaurant before he moved out to the Pacific Northwest. “It’s been my goal from when I was 17 to move out here,” Ivankoe says. After a few false-starts in the Portland restaurant scene, Ivankoe landed on a former Starbucks location to renovate and transform into a 42-seat restaurant and cafe.
On weekdays, Cafe Rowan will stick to creative breakfast fare: toasts topped with beet-cured salmon and whipped goat cheese or avocado, watermelon radish, and spicy pepitas; smoothies packed with fruits and vegetables; breakfast sandwiches swapping basic ham for capicola, or adding blueberry jam to a classic bacon-egg-and-cheese. The lunch side of the menu sticks to elevated sandwiches, salads, and soups, from a pork and broccolini sandwich to Oregon chanterelle soup with garam masala.
During weekend brunch, Ivankoe doubles down on the more intricate breakfast schtick. His eggs Benedict options include a smoked salmon version with yuzu hollandaise over a sweet potato latke, as well as a pork and kimchi Benedict. And on the sweeter side, he’ll have his own seasonal pavlova, starting with a combination of roasted winter pears, pistachio brittle, cardamom-spiced caramel sauce, and whipped cream. A bar manager back on the East Coast is designing cocktails to go along with the brunch menu, specifically pairing recipes and using shared ingredients. The cafe will also offer Coava coffee and Steven Smith Teamaker teas, available to take out of the store via the cafe’s market wall.
Beyond breakfast and lunch, Ivankoe will dip a toe into evening dining as well, starting with a weekly prix-fixe dinner paired with Oregon wines. The chef and owner has already pulled a few Brooks, Soter, and Hiyu wines for his first meals, which will include dishes like a hamachi crudo with tomato-chile consomme, blood orange, shaved fennel, and sweet potato puree. He may scale up and do more dinners, but he wants to start small. “I’m not trying to burn myself out right away,” Ivankoe says. Even so, Ivankoe is also planning to start a small live music program, starting with a monthly jazz brunch.
The space itself will be stark, chic, and industrial, relying on a lot of brushed and poured concrete; Ivanhoe ripped out the floor tiles and sanded down the slab, giving it a neutral look. The walls will be a bright shade of white, with a few pops of color from the occasional flower or succulent. Although the restaurant may sound a little posh for Creston-Kenilworth, Ivankoe isn’t looking to create something scene-y and inaccessible. “I didn’t want to be downtown, or be a touristy kind of place,” he says. “I wanted to find a neighborhood, remember people’s names, remember people’s orders. I want to create a family.” Cafe Rowan will open at 4437 SE 39th Avenue.