At any of the restaurants in the group that bear his name – Bluehour, Saucebox, 23Hoyt, Clarklewis (and the late Zefiro) – Bruce Carey lends his particular brand of attention to detail. This standard of excellent food, presentation, and service is a Carey hallmark. It’s certainly how he is remembered by those who were there, at Stephanie Pearl Kimmel’s Excelsior Cafe in Eugene in the 80s: seemingly everywhere at once, providing top-notch service.
Carey and compatriots Joe Rogers, Christopher Israel and Monique Siu changed the restaurant landscape in Portland. They didn’t invent great food, style, and service, but rather polished the experience of dining to a high shine.
Carey is likely the only restaurateur in Portland with a Master’s degree in Arts Administration. In another life, Carey might now be at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., an early ambition, or perhaps heading up an interior design studio. As it is, the modern spaces he’s created with the help of Portland’s best contemporary architects, are the stylish products of his refined aesthetic sometimes even decorate – as at 23Hoyt – with eclectic pieces, art and object, from his personal collection.
In San Francisco, he worked at both the James Beard Award-winning Zuni Café and Fog City Diner. While in the Bay Area, Carey met Christopher Israel, who had just completed his art history degree at Berkeley and was working at Square One under Joyce Goldstein.
When Carey and Israel moved to Portland, “We were thinking about opening a restaurant, because compared to San Francisco there were very few casual-fine places to eat,” Carey says. “We had no jobs, but with blind faith we told the landlord on our rental application that we were going to start our own business.” That restaurant was the legendary Zefiro at the corner of NW 21st and Glisan. Zefiro opened in 1990 with Monique Siu, whom Carey and Israel had met through catering jobs at Briggs and Crampton and Ron Paul.
In the twenty-plus years since the opening of Zefiro, Carey and his collaborators have opened Saucebox, Bluehour, 23Hoyt. In 2007, Carey acquired SE Portland’s Clarklewis.
Carey serves on the Board of Trustees of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and on the Advisory Board of the Cascade AIDS Project. He shares a SW Portland home with partner Joe Rogers and their two sons, Heinrich and Bruno.