2411 SE Belmont St.
4:30 pm – 9 pm
Twenty-two years ago, Michael Cox and a couple of his fellow employees from a popular local restaurant joined forces and opened a business called Wild Abandon. This first incarnation of the restaurant placed them in the top tier of dining establishments in Portland.
Cox came from the small town of Frieta, Colorado where his parents owned a restaurant supply business. This connection supplied him with his first job at thirteen, working for one of their customers as a busboy and server.
He moved to Las Vegas after high school and worked at the infamous Gianni Russo State Street. (Russo was known for his role as Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather). There Cox served celebrities like Dionne Warwick and Shirley MacLaine. Meals were cooked at the table and an opera singer or piano player were always around to entertain the clients.
In order to survive this long in Portland’s competitive restaurant market, a restaurateur has to make changes to adapt with the times and the diners. This is what Cox has done at Wild Abandon.
He learned to prepare the food himself, preferring the position of server, front man or manager.
“There were some lean times during the recession that had me wondering if I could even keep the doors open,” he said. With the help of partner/chef James Thompson they’ve changed the menu and recently remodeled the interior to bring a fresh look to the place.
Wild Abandon has evolved from a fancy restaurant into more pub fare. The menu includes fish-n-chips, fried chicken, burgers, sandwiches and an assortment of mac-n-cheese dishes; casual comfort food as Cox calls it.
They still offer fine dining items like a sirloin steak dinner, champagne risotto, veggie risotto and fish of the day. For desserts the popular tiramisu, chocolate torte and homemade ice cream are available as well as season specials. The menu is online at wildabandon.com.
Wild Abandon was mainly a wine place during the formative years but as the food evolved so did the drink menu. Then Cox became and IPA connoisseur and has several on tap as well as a full service bar for the specialty drinks and shots that have become so popular.
He spoke of how dear to him his customers have become over the years. “I’ve been involved in some people’s engagements and now their kids come here to eat.”
He had a couple of sweet proposal stories too. In one, he co-conspired with a woman and printed “Bob will you marry me” on the dessert menu with the word “priceless” for the cost.
Another time he poured wine for a couple and kept hidden the wine stem with the ring attached, then he discreetly set it down and left the scene.
“I’ve had a few missteps over the years when there’s not been enough help to do things right, but my regulars have always forgiven me,” he said. “They are like family and some nights I will know almost everyone at every table.”
He knows that during some of those bad days he alienated some customers but remains hopeful they will return to try out the new and improved Wild Abandon.
The current menu is appealing to more people and the updated interior gives Wild Abandon a new look that revives the scene.
If you happen to be there on the right night, you will meet the master of ceremonies himself Michael Cox, whose special care will assure you of a memorable experience.