House of Clarity

Holding a Power Lunch at Veritable Quandary in downtown Portland.

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Veritable Quandary

1220 SW 1st Ave., Portland, OR 97204

(503) 227-7234

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Owner: Dennis King

Atmosphere: Iconic dining spot at West end of Hawthorne Bridge

Clientele: Executives, city planners, wheeler-dealers; lawyers from nearby courthouses; retirees

Most popular: Salmon dishes, VQ burgers and salads

Best seat in the house: Sit in the darkened bar and catch up on sports highlights, venture into the chic dining room with natural light streaming through the windows, or grab a spot on the restaurant’s 80-person patio.

Backstory: King bought the building in 1969, “before Portland underwent its economic metamorphosis.” He opened Veritable Quandary as a “50-foot wide, 50-foot long” hangout, added the dining room five years later, and followed with the patio and a 200-bottle wine cellar with “$35,000 in wine on hand at all times.”

What’s in a name: Back in the day, when King despaired of finding a name for his restaurant, a friend said: “It sounds like you’re in a veritable quandary.” The description reminded King of a story from King Arthur and the Roundtable — specifically, when Guinevere was deciding between the king and Sir Lancelot. “Her dilemma was choosing between the wisdom of the king and the youthful vitality of Lancelot, and that was my state of mind at the time. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. So I thought that was an appropriate name, and it stuck.”

Overheard: A group of employees discuss health care plans, weighing cheaper medication costs against more coverage options. Two businessmen discuss half marathons and an airlines conference in Seattle. Four men — “three retirees and one working stiff” — trade stories about their kids, a son considering all-cash offers for his home in Beaverton and a daughter who summits Dog Mountain in two hours.

Critic’s corner: Engaging but occasionally harried wait staff.