Le Bistro Montage

Montage, farewell. It’s been swell.

A Portland legend of late-night dining swagger and the occasional lunch serves its last gator bite. A sweet goodbye to a joint supreme.

It was called, officially, Le Bistro Montage, although for decades most Portlanders have called it just Montage. And I write “was” because, as several news sources have reported today, as of today it is no longer. Lizzie Acker has a few details on The Oregonian/Oregon Live.

Montage, a sort-of Cajun joint tucked in a delicately fading old brick building below the east side of the Morrison Bridge, was one of those Portland places, a legend in the perpetual making, a place for hipsters and anti-hipsters and your country cousins in to see the town; a time-bending passageway from Old Portland to New. Late at night it howled, and when you went there it was often for two seemingly contradictory reasons: because it was familiar and comfortable and you knew what to expect; and because chances were better than fair something totally unanticipated might explode.

It also, for a while, served weekday lunches, and those days happened to coincide with the time that I was doing a stretch at The Oregonian writing a column called Day Time Diner, in which I explored the highs and lows of morning and midday dining in Portland, sometimes at high-end places but with the column’s affections definitely teetering toward the wayward attractions of the homely joint. Homely Montage was not, although its decorative brilliance was hardly of the Architectural Digest sort. A joint it definitely was – one of the city’s best, and one whose loss many people, old and young, are going to mourn.

Here, then, is my Day Shift Diner ode to the vagrant pleasures of Montage, as it ran in The Oregonian on May 5, 2006. Merci, Montage. May a jazz band march you to your grave.


DAY SHIFT DINER: Montage’s down-and-dandy lunch

On the third visit I broke down and ordered the fried Spam sandwich.

Surprisingly, it was pretty good: sliced thin and cooked crisp, a poor-man’s BLT cushioned by blankets of lettuce, red onion and tomato between pieces of toast.

More surprising still, I was sitting at the ancient gnarled counter of Le Bistro Montage in the naked light of day, which is a little like basking in the sun with the Vampire Lestat.

Le Bistro Montage, from the outside, tucked beside the pilings of the Morrison Bridge. Photo: Visitor7, July 27, 2013, via Wikimedia Commons