Jake’s Famous Crawfish, Portland

Restaurant background:

A long-standing Portland landmark, this restaurant was founded in 1892 by Jacob “Jake” Lewis Freiman and has served the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Jack Benny. The seeds for this business were apparently planted when Jake started serving crawfish at the Oregon Hotel in 1881 and spent years perfecting the art of seafood preparation.

– August 2011, celebrating David’s brother’s college graduation

A host of family was flying/driving in from out of Portland to be in town for Spencer’s (David’s brother) graduation from Portland State University. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity for all the family to get-together, we figured that dinner together somewhere would be nice. Both David and his mother independently came to the same conclusion: Jake’s Famous Crawfish. Thankfully, they were able to squeeze ten of us in on fairly short notice (we made the reservation in the late morning for later that same day, on a Friday no less).

I arrived before everyone else and set myself up at the bar with a delicious mojito in hand. The decor and ambiance felt very true to its original period, with wood paneling and crisp white-coated waiters. Soon folks started to trickle in, and we were seated at our table. The menu was quite extensive, with a broad selection of seafood, along with a handful of non-seafood options as well. David had been to this restaurant once before and ordered the crawfish, and had no thought to deviate from that this time. My eye immediately caught the crab, shrimp, cream cheese and brie-stuffed salmon, and I was instantly sold. No need to look any further. We did order a couple appetizers, including a half dozen oysters, mostly for David. The oysters were a little taste of home, as 4 out of the 6 were from B.C. (Fanny Bay and Buckley Bay), while the other two were from Washington. I sampled a bit of the phyllo-wrapped baked brie with apple chutney, which was super tasty.

When our main courses arrived, I was amazed (though perhaps not surprised) at the scale of David’s dish. It was a little crawfish smorgasbord, with a well-mounded pile of crawfish intermingled with potatoes and sausage, and a bib! He didn’t wear the bib for the meal, but we did take a photo for posterity. It was a lot of work (aided by our friendly waiter who instructed David as to the most efficient method of extracting crawfish meat), but the amount of work ensured that he savoured every bite. My main course was absolutely heavenly–creamy and delicious (insert any handful of superlatives here, for they would be well-deserved). There are few things better than the combination of cream cheese, brie and seafood, and this dish re-confirmed that belief.  All in all, everyone seemed to enjoy their meals, relaxing over a few shared dessert courses before calling it a night.

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