Nutshell Restaurant Has Closed

Where Will Bigfoot Eat Now

Where Will Bigfoot Eat Now

It comes as little surprise the news that Nutshell Vegan Restaurant has closed. In September I wrote the piece In A Nutshell – They're Screwed that took a look at how Nutshell had gone from Portland darling to a restaurant precariously on the edge of the "Portland Restaurant Dead Pool".

That hypothesis became a reality this week when Nutshell threw in the towel and closed their doors.  Perhaps the final nail in Nutshell's coffin came from Alison Hallett who wrote a sharp criticism of Nutshell in the Portland Mercury review: Cracked Up – Nutshell's Unsuccessful Revisioning.

Nutshell's closing is either vindication for chef Sean Coryell (who left the sinking ship) or a sharp condemnation of the owners of Tabla (who also run Ten01, a restaurant which had its own near death experience last year).

To be fair 2008 has proven to be one of the toughest years for Portland restaurants yet.  With a growing list of restaurants closing because of the brutal economy including: Rocket, Kalga Cafe, Banh Cuon Tan Dinh, Genoa, and Carboni’s, the BBQ/wood-fire pizza. We expect at least five more Portland restaurants to join this list befor the year's end. So if there's a local Portland restaurant you don't want to see added to the list, I highly recommend you make sure you dine there a few times before the end of the year, it does really matter.

Geoff Kleinman

3 Comments

  1. You aren't really being fair at all. Yes the economy sucks and this isn't the last restaurant that will close. But you are way of base on some of your "facts". Sean Coryell was fired because his was caused the "sinking ship" through pure craziness and horrible business practices. In his 4 months as chef at Nutshell, his food and labor costs were so high he was sinking the owner. He was importing seriously expensive ingredients from all over the world and then failed to show up for work and not training his staff how to cook them. The new chef was brought in to keep it from closing after 4 months. The result was the more limited menu and local, sustainable produce. Alison Hallett's very unpleasant review was the result of one press dinner. Her irresponsible review can take a share in why Nutshell is closed but I believe it has more to do with the vegan community and the foie gras miscommunication.The owner was not responsible for foie gras being on Ten01's menu and had very little voice on what the chef over there put on his menu. Like you said, they were rescuing that sinking ship and it seems to have worked. I think it is sad that that community would rather think about what a restaurant across town is doing (that has a lose financial tie), than the livelihood of half a dozen local farmers and the vegan/vegetarian food scene in Portland. Forest for the trees, or something.

    As for the food, I ate there a lot and was generally pleased. I think the new chef did a good job keeping the "international" feel and I don't think that the move to add dairy was that offensive — I would have been more angry if they had added "faux" meat dishes. Just think about how many vegan/vegetarian places in town are loaded with things pretending to be what they aren't. Or how many higher-end restaurants only have one or two vegetarian options. At least at Nutshell I felt like there were options. I'm sorry to see them go.

  2. If you read my piece on nutshell before it closed you'll see I didn't paint Sean as a saint. His enthusiasm was unbound and a good management team would have done a better job of reigning him in, getting him to focus and keeping costs inline.

    It's my understanding that Sean didn't own Nutshell, so as such the owners should have done what owners do. MANAGE IT. This same kind of fiasco happened with Ten01, which had one of the worst openings in Portland's history.

    I ate at Nutshell many times through out its turbulent history. The issue wasn't just their turn away from vegan food, it was a whole downward slide in their menu and the food they plated to their customers.

    It's a sad loss that Nutshell closed, but I mourned that loss long ago. The place was dead long before they killed it.

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