Owned by Hunt and Alpine duo Briana and Andrew Volk, Little Giant is a market, restaurant and bar all wrapped into one neat little package. The market component, unbeknownst to me, has been open since December 2016, which just goes to show that living in a particular section of town (Portland’s West End, in my case) doesn’t mean that you are aware of all (or maybe any) of the neighborhood goings-on.
Clearly that section of Clark Street is either a blind spot for me or, more likely, I’m too focused on walking the final steps to Ruski’s to notice my surroundings.
The restaurant half of Little Giant, on the other hand, opened three weeks ago on July 20, and that did not escape my notice, as the sudden existence of its neon sign and well lit interior was a big change from the dark vacant building that had been there.
Inside, the restaurant is small but somehow roomy, with plenty of space to move around and gesticulate wildly with your friends, if that’s what you’re into. Clever use of mirrors on the dividing wall in the middle of the room imparts the sense that the restaurant is much bigger than it is, which is probably good for anyone prone to light claustrophobia.
White walls, light wood and cool lighting fixtures dominate the interior’s decor. Otherwise, there is a definite and intentional absence of clutter, which lends itself to the restaurant’s sparse and vaguely Swedish vibe.
Once seated at the bar (simple but comfy chairs) and aware of the owners’ cocktail-centric pursuits, I set myself to the task of choosing a beverage. I was in a tequila kind of mood, so I was immediately drawn to the Chuparosa ($12), a combination of tequila, lime, grenadine and chile.
It was described on the menu as “subtle and enticing, like a desert flower,” and while I admittedly don’t know anything about desert flowers, I’m inclined to agree with them on this one.
A little later, looking for something to complement my burger ($12), I began studying the beer list. There are seven rotating taps that, much like the items available in the market, are specially curated. This particular night, the list included beers from Bissell Brothers, Oxbow, Rising Tide and Maine Beer Company, as well as “Bud Heavy.” Not surprisingly, they were already out of Oxbow’s First Fruits ($10), a blended farmhouse ale aged with cherries, raspberries and strawberries, so I went with their Luppolo, an Italian-style pilsner. A light and refreshing complement to my burger, indeed.
Little Giant sells wine by the glass in the restaurant, but if the market is still open, there’s a chance you can buy the bottle on your way out. There’s also an extensive list of selected spirits for those who want to cut right to the chase.
WHERE: 211 Danforth St., Portland
HOURS: 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily
AMENITIES: Open and airy design, extensive wine list, creative cocktails, sectioned off area for more private dining, exciting beer selection, adjacent market selling to-go bottles of the beverages served at the restaurant
BOTTOM LINE: Little Giant is looking to be the West End’s one-stop shop for good food, great drinks and carefully curated sundries. The newly opened restaurant component will be sure to add a little hipness to the Danforth Street lineup.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes