There are few names in Portland more synonymous with good eating than Bruce Carey. After first landing on the Portland restaurant scene in the late-90s, Carey has gone on to develop a mini-empire, with five restaurants under his belt, from Bluehour to Saucebox.
And yet, Carey is so much more than the purveyor of Portland restaurant goodness. In fact, if you ask him, he isn’t even the one that keeps the machine moving.
“Joe, my business partner and life partner, does all the work keeping the restaurants humming,” he says. “I just show up and breeze through looking for things to complain about, or take credit when things are just right.”
Who would have thought that someone like Carey would have other interests? In fact, his other interests are primarily driven by the calm, family life he now leads.
“Joe and I have made a family,” he explains. “It’s pretty conventional, really. The only difference is that this family has two dads. They are easily what’s most important to me.”
So, how has building this family changed Carey?
“It’s no longer about me,” he responds. “I have two kids now that have taken over. Now I actually have to watch the Superbowl instead of just the commercials.”
For being a high-flying Portland restaurateur, family life has even changed Carey in the kitchen.
“I’m cooking less experimentally,” he says. “Sticking with meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and other dishes that you would consider ‘Mom-Food’, rather than the culinary journeys I used to take in my kitchen at home.”
One of the best things about living in Portland is how conducive it is to raising a family. And yet, as Carey explains, the City of Roses is not without its limitations.
“Portland as a brand is a little bit troubling to me. If we push the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ ethos too hard it’s bound to become cliché. Let’s just keep doing our thing and stop trying to place our creative endeavors on a world stage,” he recommends.
Still, Carey loves his city, and isn’t ashamed to admit it.
“When I travel, however, I am struck with how manageable Portland is, relative to similar cities that have larger populations. And even though it’s changing fast, I still think you get more bang for your buck here,” he says.
And although Portland is changing and Carey has an empire to manage, he still finds time to revel in the simple things in life, the weird and off-the-wall things. After all, he is a Portlander, is he not?
“My favorite object is something I found at a thrift store for four dollars years ago,” he explains. “It’s a piece of turned wood that was painted a certain fifties green color you don’t see anymore. It’s thick, round, has three legs and serves no function whatsoever. I can’t figure out what the craftsman who made it was thinking. I treat it like a piece of sculpture because it inspires curiosity,” he finishes.
Fortunately, Carey’s mark on Portland serves a very relevant function, serving up food that consistently inspires curiosity. He may be one of the most successful restaurateurs in Portland, but is still a PDX Person, through-and-through, making his mark in the city we all call home, and we are all better off for it.
William Bessette – PDX People Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.