Feel-Good Fast Food

Garden Bar Brings Healthy New Dining Option to the Pearl District

Among the plethora of dining choices in the Pearl District, Garden Bar has the distinction of being the first fast-casual, salad-centric restaurant. Opened early in 2014 on N.W. 11th near Powell’s Books, Garden Bar serves healthy and delicious meal-size salads made-to-order. “We prep, cook, chop, whip and toss daily with fresh and high quality ingredients, sourced mostly from local purveyors.” says Christopher Handford, the culinary force behind Davis Street Tavern and formerly Jamison restaurant.

The idea of Garden Bar came to life in 2013, when Handford and co-founder Ana Chaud, a fitness expert who also serves as director of operations at PACT Creative Staffing, were imagining a place where they could get the best possible kind of fast food: quick, fresh, and—most important—healthy. “Ana and I realized what a demand there is in the Pearl for healthier food options, and that’s what inspired us to create Garden Bar. It’s what the neighborhood has been craving.”

“There really isn’t anything like this in the Pearl, in downtown Portland, or in the West End.”

They envisioned a healthier kind of restaurant—the kind of place you would want to eat at every day and still feel good about yourself. A Garden Bar salad starts with a $7 base of greens, and diners can add as many basic mix-ins from the serving bar as they like. A menu of house specialties is also available for those too indecisive or in too much of a hurry, from the $10 Chicken Kale Caesar (with kale, roasted chicken, shaved reggianito cheese, and kefir-basil Caesar dressing) to the $11 Cowboy Up (with marinated steak, romaine, arugula, roasted fingerling potatoes, chimichurri, and Rogue blue vinaigrette).

Handford and Chaud created a relaxing, market-inspired atmosphere that visually represents their philosophy about food—the space is modern, clean, and simple with texture provided by a wall-size mural of a Sauvie Island farm and tabletops made from sustainably sourced bamboo. And so far, the concept has been a success, with the duo already planning new locations around the city.

“Garden Bar is proof that a salad doesn’t have to be boring or monotonous,” said Chaud. “There really isn’t anything like this in the Pearl, in downtown Portland, or in the West End. We’re offering the best possible kind of fast food—quick, fresh, healthy, and endlessly customizable.”