After years away from The Cafe, the neighborhood spot he built at 484 Stevens Avenue, owner/chef Greg Gilman has returned. He reopened The Cafe as The Treehouse on January 23, offering a similar menu and even staffed with a similar team, for those who pine for the way things used to be. He is working on adding a true treehouse to the roof, he said; he should probably try to get it on Treehouse Masters, like Duckfat owner Rob Evans did.
Gilman explained that he left The Cafe in 2004 to take care of other business, but always felt as if he had left a loved one behind. He had a chance to make things right in 2011, and after struggling with his own "commitment issues," he has finally taken The Treehouse over on his own.
Chef Kate Squibb, for a time Gilman's "right hand," has found her own place at Liquid Riot, but otherwise Gilman believes the energy of the space remains the same. Gilman is happy with how the soft opening went: "Even with the foul weather we did 65 covers Saturday."
The chef sent an updated menu along with these haunting photographs. He also shared his story in something like verse, which can be found below, unedited to preserve its evocative, rhythmic quality. Intriguing, no?
the treehouse story seems long. i feel like i tell it in chapters over time.
it feels impossible to tell in one sitting.
but maybe a few highlights.
the treehouse started way before stevens ave.
stevens avenue, i thought, was a place i was passing through.
a place i could be while i raised my two boys.
in 1997 i built the cafe.
or maybe i was built to build the cafe.
some how i had become a 'jack of all' over the years.
along with my varied work-history i had also spent some time at
portland school of art (meca) studying sculpture.
and a restaurant is the ultimate piece of art.
every night you get to visit it.
watch people move through it. enjoy it.
it is filled with moving parts that always need tending.
nightly fires are built to see your way.
it is filled with smells and laughter.
it holds many memories.
i think everyone wants to be needed, wants to have a purpose.
when you build a tender, unique cafe you will always have a job.
you will always have a purpose.
but in 2004 i decided to move on.
i'm also a sailor and after my boys had gone off on their own
i had some things i wanted to do.
the cafe was leased out.
i went in once over the next 7 years.
it's like when you try not to think of an old girlfriend,
one you left, but realize still love. easier to forget.
but in 2011 i had the chance to restore the cafe to her original beauty.
and now two or three years later. and after struggling with my commitment issues,
i decided to take the 'treehouse' over on my own.
so really beside the rebranding. the crew, the food, the space has the same energy.
i plan to play around with the treehouse theme.
the space already has a fairytale-old world thing going on.
also there is a proper 'treehouse' in the works for the rooftop.
with collapsing walls to the south and the west for awesome sunsets.
and about the chef. i have always been the cook.
i've put out every plate since the beginning.
katie was my right hand for a while.
the crew went off to get other work while i worked out the treehouse deal.
most have returned to the nest. katie landed her own place.
the soft opening went great.
i am always amazed that by just unlocking a door
that has been locked for months,
is enough to announce ' back in business baby'
even with the foul weather we did 65 covers saturday.
484 Stevens Avenue, Portland, (207) 874-0706, Facebook. Open Tuesday - Saturday 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.