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Oct. 6, 2022

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Clark County taking bite out of foodie scene

More restaurants, food trucks feature fresh, local food, unique dishes

The Columbian
Published:
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At Feast@316, owner and chef Tim McCusker set out to create dishes featuring handmade pastas and locally sourced seasonings.
At Feast@316, owner and chef Tim McCusker set out to create dishes featuring handmade pastas and locally sourced seasonings. Photo Gallery

o El Grullo: Mexican food truck at 2507 N.E. Andresen Road., Vancouver.

o Esoteric BBQ: Various downtown Vancouver locations. Barbecue with a Northwest theme.

o The Nomad Hot Dog Stand: Various downtown Vancouver locations. Specialty sausages and local buns.

o The Wiener Wagon: In business on the corner of 12th and Main since 1976.

o Steakburger on the Go: The mobile version of a Vancouver institution. 1015 N.E. 78th St., Vancouver.

o Sunny’s Teriyaki Fusion BBQ: Mill Plain Boulevard and Washington Street, Vancouver.

o Tacos N Cream: Mexican food truck at 13608 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

o El Grullo: Mexican food truck at 2507 N.E. Andresen Road., Vancouver.

o Esoteric BBQ: Various downtown Vancouver locations. Barbecue with a Northwest theme.

o The Nomad Hot Dog Stand: Various downtown Vancouver locations. Specialty sausages and local buns.

o The Wiener Wagon: In business on the corner of 12th and Main since 1976.

o Steakburger on the Go: The mobile version of a Vancouver institution. 1015 N.E. 78th St., Vancouver.

o Sunny's Teriyaki Fusion BBQ: Mill Plain Boulevard and Washington Street, Vancouver.

o Tacos N Cream: Mexican food truck at 13608 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

Times they are changing in Clark County.

No longer do residents and visitors need to cross the bridge to find locally sourced and chef-inspired menus or a vibrant food-truck scene.

From Vancouver to Battle Ground and Camas, restaurants are breaking out of the cookie-cutter mold that defined Clark County for decades and keeping diners — who used to hightail it south in search of a culinary experience worthy of their hard-earned dollars — closer to home.

To write a foodie-in-Vancouver piece without mentioning Brad Root of Roots Restaurant & Bar would be bordering on sacrilege. With more than 30 years of restaurant industry experience, this former Portland chef moved into the Camas neighborhood more than 11 years ago and laid the foundation for a culinary shift.

“When we first came here, it could be at times a little bit difficult, but I’ve seen Clark County and what my customers want. They want fresh, in-season, local. They want changes on the menu,” Root said.

Ask and you shall receive is Root’s motto. He’s inspired by mixed salad greens coming from a local farmer with whom he’s been dealing for more than 20 years, as well as by halibut, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns and morels. Root said that the true joy of restaurant work is the creative aspect, and now is an exciting time to be a restaurateur serving farm-fresh entrées to an open, educated audience.

From Sunday Supper to Chef’s Table extravaganzas to elevated bar food, the north bank of the Columbia River is turning mealtime into an event to be savored. Even the burgeoning food truck industry is an opportunity to support micro businesses kicking out fresh menu options with an emphasis on sustainability and locally grown ingredients.

Here’s a sample of what to expect.

Feast@316

This sibling to Harvest — another excellent dining option in Camas co-owned by executive chef Tim McCusker — opened in January. It features handmade pastas, locally sourced olive oils and vinegars, organic greens, and an emphasis on fresh seafood and quality meats. But it’s at the Chef’s Table that McCusker has the opportunity to dazzle eight diners at a time with a showcase of creativity. This 12-course meal of exotic meats, fish and vegetables is described by manager Bill Kolacek as “a three- to four-hour extravaganza.”

Information: 401 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas, camasfeast316.com, 360-210-4037.

Roots Restaurant & Bar

Locally sourcing has been the mainstay here since 2003. Roots uses a network of farmers to procure lamb (Reister Farms), heirloom vegetables (Kingfisher Farm), farm-fresh eggs and Walla Walla onions. Vermouth vinaigrette, cognac leeks and Chilean plum chutney are but a few accent flavors that elevate each dish to art. Attention to detail is further applied during winemaker dinners, in which Washington wines are paired with a five-course expression of the season’s bounty.

Information: 19215 S.E. 34th St., Camas, www.rootsrestaurantandbar.com, 360-260-3001.

Lapellah

Pea shoots, duck eggs, field greens, flower sprouts and lamb make an appearance through owner Dave Mork’s commitment to patronize Clark County farms such as April Joy, Dancing Chicken and Reister. In-house grinding and smoking of meats further ensures quality and flavor. Special touches are its Saturday brunch, winemaker and brewer dinners and Sunday supper, a two-course meal such as smoked salmon cakes with chive hollandaise followed by braised short ribs with roasted asparagus and green garlic mashed potatoes — for $20 per person.

Information: 2520 Columbia House Blvd., Suite 108, Vancouver, www.lapellah.com, 360-828-7911.

Willem’s on Main

Amsterdam-born Vancouver resident Paul Klitsie brought his “upscale Northwest cuisine with a European accent” to downtown in October 2013 after operating Ristorante Fratelli in Portland for 15 years. He works with a butcher east of Mount Hood in Oregon for his beef and pork, as well as Ridgefield’s Millennium Farms and Washougal’s Wild Side for mushrooms, wild greens and, most recently, ramps, an early-spring wild onion. He pushes the envelope with braised nettles and wows crowds with caramelized rhubarb from the Vancouver Farmers Market, sautéed halibut with rhubarb sauce and extra virgin olive oil, and pork cheeks atop creamy risotto.

Information: 907 Main St., Vancouver, www.willemsonmain.com, 360-258-0989.

Low Bar

After years bartending at several Portland establishments, Keith Pemberton rolled the dice that Vancouver was ready for something a little different. It seems to be paying off since he and his business partner, Nate Barile, are in their third year downtown.

“We’re just trying to put out a quality product and be consistent and be as local as we can,” Pemberton said.

This Vancouver native focuses on as many from-scratch menu items as possible, from sauerkraut to dressings to in-house pickling and meat braising. Low Bar makes its own sausage, burgers, biscuits, gravy and soups and gets its buns from Portland French Bakery.

Information: 809 Washington St., Vancouver, www.lowbar98660.com, 360-718-8378.

Pasta GiGi’s

Owner Kathy Aikens and head chef Paul Durazo take full advantage of their proximity to Battle Ground’s outdoor market. She gets duck and quail eggs, and micro pea shoots from Halvorson Farms and hydroponic vegetables from Eden Acres.

Recent specials have included garlic basil fettuccine with a sautéed onion-bell pepper trio topped with a meatball and fresh basil, an Italian-style crèpe filled with ricotta cheese, spring peas, mushrooms, asparagus and carrots served on a bed of Swiss chard topped with a cream sauce, and an appetizer of homemade Italian sausage, ricotta and wild sorrel in a nettle tortelli tossed in a garlic-nettle cream and garnished with wild oregano and micro pea shoots.

Information: 819 S.E. 14th Loop, Suite 108, Battle Ground, http://www.pastagigis.com/, 360-624-1268.

The Mighty Bowl

In three years, owners Steve and Sherilee Valenta have gained a strong customer base at their weekday Clark College location and consistent lunchtime spots throughout downtown. The Valentas also represent all over the county at the Vancouver Farmers Market on the weekends.

Their rice-and-beans base can go from a Mexican feel — with the addition of salsa, avocado, black olives and their homemade spicy chipotle sauce — to Indian, with their lemon-curry sauce, to Thai with the choice of a peanut sauce. There’s a salad option on a bed of organic Romaine lettuce, a low-carb bowl or ingredients can be wrapped in an organic flour tortilla.

Information: Various locations, Vancouver, www.themightybowl.com, 360-602-2695.

Ingrid’s Good Street Food

Co-owner Ingrid Murphy-Kenny describes her cuisine as “heart-healthy Mediterranean deliciousness.”

“It’s really a passion for (husband) John and I to help people eat food that will keep them awake during the day,” she said.

Roasted beet hummus, a falafel wrap and grilled chicken with couscous are a few of the menu options. Her homemade rub also is available for sale.

Information: Various locations, downtown Vancouver, www.ingridsgoodstreetfood.com, 360-921-7802.

The Grocery Cocktail & Social

The humble yet ample food menu at this upscale cocktail lounge is the brainchild of co-owner Salty Reed. Reed’s background spans the nationally acclaimed Wildwood restaurant, Acadia, Roots Restaurant & Bar and Screen Door. Currently Grocery Cocktail & Social is taking advantage of the early strawberry season with a strawberry salad made possible by Viridian Farms. It is also seeking a consistent, economical local egg supplier for its egg-white cocktails, creamed eggs on toast and fried egg on grilled romaine hearts.

“I think people are bored. They’re ready for something fresh,” Vancouver resident Reed said. “People in downtown Vancouver are literally hungry for something new.”

Information: 115 W. Seventh St., Vancouver, www.thegrocerycocktailsocial.com, 360-258-1324.

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