Published April 27, 2022
You may not recognize his face, but Kurt Huffman is a local legend. The founder and CEO of ChefStable, a company that works with chefs to open and operate restaurants, Huffman has played a key behind-the-scenes role in many nationally known Portland restaurants, including Pok Pok, Ox, and Lardo.
This year, ChefStable is a partner in two new PDX spots: Juliett, a stylish cocktail bar in Concourse E that honors female aviators, and the Concourse B location of Good Coffee, which is scheduled to open this summer. PDX sat down with Kurt to ask him for advice on opening a restaurant in the airport.
After helping to open and run so many restaurants in Portland, why are you excited to bring a project like Juliett to PDX?
The Portland airport is the gateway to our city and our state. For a native Oregonian like myself, it is a real privilege to be able to have a restaurant at PDX. I know how hard the airport works at having restaurants that are a true reflection of the city’s food scene, as opposed to the chains and national brands you see at other airports. To be able to contribute to this in some way is very special.
What are the top three things that local businesses should know about navigating the complexities of running a place at PDX?
Any other thoughts for restaurant owners who are considering this?
At the concept level, you need [a format that allows] you to be really fast. You want to have something that is engineered for speed and to balance that speed against keeping quality high.
Want to open your next location at PDX? Talk to us.
Here's what this year will look like for PDX (and you!)
For the past year, we've built a nine-acre roof on a prefabrication lot to the northwest of the airport. The construction crews are now installing the last component—an intricate wood lattice, sourced from sustainable Northwest forests, that will eventually cover the interior ceiling.
What you'll see: If you drive along Marine Boulevard, you can glimpse the roof's dramatic swoops in the prefab lot.
Behind all those partitions in the pre-security area, construction crews have been hollowing out the back half of the main terminal. Starting in March, the exterior structure is also coming down to create a more open, spacious footprint. It may get noisy for a few months!
What you'll see: Not much, in fact. But when you’re in the ticket lobby and going through security, you may hear and feel what’s happening on the other side of those partitions. We're strategizing ways to counteract the sound, including free earplugs at the front doors and a sensory room in Concourse D.
Next, we’re erecting 34 giant steel Y-shaped columns to hold up the roof. Right now, construction crews are driving steel pilings deep into the ground to anchor these columns. Over the course of a few months, we’ll erect the Y columns one by one.
What you'll see: You probably won't notice—most are going up overnight behind the temporary walls. Late-night travelers will occasionally have to walk a few yards around an installation site.
Once the biggest section of the wood roof is fully assembled, the project team will break it back down into 20 "cassettes". During the summer and fall, Hoffman-Skanska and Mammoet will maneuver each cassette into place over the existing roof. It will take several days to place each cassette, and the work will happen overnight — depending on the section we’re placing, we may guide late-night travelers around a short detour.
What you'll see: Unless you're flying into PDX on a late-night flight, or camped out on Marine Drive at 2 a.m., you won't see much. If you walk to the ends of Concourse C or Concourse D and look back toward the main terminal, you'll catch a glimpse of the airport's new roofline.
In addition to the big projects, you’ll see a host of new amenities appear throughout the airport. A new play area in Concourse E. New art. New restaurants and cafes. (Lardo! Screen Door! Good Coffee!) You're almost guaranteed to encounter something new every time you visit the airport — and we're not talking barricades.