magazine | Food & Drinks | New Restaurant Openings
A Stunning Fleetwood Mac Inspired Restaurant in Portland
Julie Pointer-Adams
byJulie Pointer-Adams

If you visit Portland, Oregon these days, or even think about heading there for a whirlwind food tour (as most are apt to do while in the famously epicurean city), it’s the name on everyone’s lips: Tusk. This is the bright, poppy, fun and fabulous new Middle-Eastern inspired restaurant in East Portland that’s got everyone brunching harder than ever. Following in the footsteps of the absolutely divine Ava Gene’s, restaurateur Joshua McFadden, his business partner, Luke Dirks and mastermind executive chef Sam Smith have created a magically lighthearted, bright, fresh and healthy place to dine all day—which is no small feat in characteristically dark and moody Portland (except for its glorious summers, which rival a sunny day anywhere). Being an “aggressively seasonal” restaurant—their words—Tusk wins at all the things every restaurant should aim for, that is, serving up delicious food that’s good for the body, good for the earth and good for local farmers, leaving everyone happy and full.

We caught up with Joshua McFadden to hear a bit more about what makes Tusk tick, along with where that curious name comes from.

Photography: Aaron Leitz

What’s the prevailing concept for Tusk—i.e. what’s at the heart of everything you do here?

"Tusk was built, concept-wise, to be a Middle-Eastern restaurant and intended to be lighter and brighter and more casual than Ava Gene’s [Joshua’s other Italian-centric restaurant in Portland]. But the heart of everything we do there is the heart of everything we do everywhere—it’s about using the best local, seasonal farm ingredients we can find."

Photography: Aaron Leitz

The aesthetic of everything from the food to the interiors to the branding is so lighthearted and fun; how’d you land on the look and feel?

"The name Tusk is actually from the Fleetwood Mac album, so because of that reference we already had an identity of how we wanted the restaurant to look and feel based on the album.  The feeling was supposed to be of driving convertibles, cruising the 101, sunny nights, listening to music way too loud, and all those good things. That extended into everything else, like all the plants, the décor, etc."

Photography: Aaron Leitz

The fresh, Middle-eastern menu feels so inspired. What motivated the Mediterranean angle (with a bit of a twist) this time around?

"My restaurant partner and head chef Sam already had a background with that style of food, so it felt very natural to go in that direction. We also both love that kind of food and it was really just an extension of Ava Gene’s in using farm-fresh, local and seasonally sourced foods."

Photography: A.J. Meeker

What’s your favorite thing to eat on the menu?

"The skewers are amazing as well as the hummus; the house-made warm pita is also really incredible. Oh, and the chickpea fries are unbelievable. I can’t go in there without ordering them; they are so fun to start off with when you first sit down to eat."

Photography: Tusk

Anything else you want to tell us about Tusk?

"It’s working, it’s fun, it’s doing all the things we ever wanted it to do, which is to support a lot of farms and make a space that feels good. Tusk feels fresh and young and not much like the rest of Portland, which is nice. It’s a very different kind of restaurant for Portland."


Read more about Tusk and 25 Other Healthy & Beautiful Restaurants →

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