It would be easy to label this restaurant “farm-to-table” and call it a day. But that term is seriously overworked.
(Full disclosure: I’m guilty of sowing that term just as much as the next writer.)
In reality, I don’t know Ned Ludd well enough to put it in a corner.
If it wasn’t for a local Phoenix writer, Justin Lee, I might not have known about it at all. I already had a full dining dance card for my recent trip to Portland, and then Justin dropped this one in my lap.
So I did what any self-respecting, food-loving girl would do:
I doubled up, and hit two restaurants in one evening.
Open since December of 2008, Ned Ludd appears to be a quintessential Portland restaurant, taking full advantage of the seemingly bottomless local farm scene, passing every dish through a wood-fired oven.
Ned Ludd is a fictional character, a name made up in the early 1800’s by frustrated British textile workers who destroyed machinery they felt was replacing them. Ergo, Luddites eschew modern technology.
So this Portland restaurant is premised on back-to-basics: a wood-fired oven, simple dishes and minimalist decor.
It’s quaint in a trendy sort of way.
How? Let’s start with the house pickle plate ($5). Canning and preserving made a huge comeback last year, perhaps due to the recession, or perhaps due to the fact that what’s old is new again.
Either way, Ned Ludd’s chartreuse pickled celery is crunchy, sweet, and could be habit forming.
Another trend that emerged last year in a BIG way is the fried egg-topped fill-in-the-blank.
In this case, Ned Ludd’s miso braised mustard greens ($8) are the lucky beneficiary of the sunny side up, golden goodness.
It’s a great idea, although for me, the greens could have used a longer braise — or some stem stripping at the very least — no modern technology required.
I wouldn’t change a thing about the roasted potatoes with sweet chile paste, basil and melted, tangy cheese ($7).
In fact, I’d put them back on the menu.
Because Ned Ludd is a farm-to-table farm-inspired restaurant, the menu ebbs and flows with what’s available, and it changes frequently.
A simple, old-fashioned s’more ($4) is still on the menu, though.
The toasted marshmallows don’t appear to be house made, but maybe they are. They do have a lovely smoky aroma, thanks to the magical wood oven.
In light of the impending dinner at Pok Pok (a fabulous Southeast Asian restaurant on the other side of Portland) later that evening, I didn’t have time to dive into Ned Ludd’s full plates.
But that didn’t stop me from fantasizing all the way across town about the pastured pork chop with porky smothered kale and cracklin’s ($17) and the lamb chop with broccoli rabe, olives and lemon ($18).
With only a fleeting encounter, I won’t cavalierly slap a trendy label on Ned Ludd.
I think it deserves another slot on the dance card… and next time, it’ll get my full and undivided attention.
3925 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard