Thistle and Fancy

By Yvette Saarinen

A young chef who already is creating a stir in the Northwest restaurant scene soon will be hanging his hat in McMinnville.

Chef Eric Bechard, chef de cuisine for Opal restaurant in Seattle, will open a small restaurant, Thistle, and an adjacent coffee bar, Fancy, at 228 N.E. Evans St. in July.

Before the Seattle job, he worked in Portland’s Alberta Street Oyster Bar & Grill, where he gained a following and was named the Oregon restaurant industry’s “Rising Star of 2006” by The Oregonian.

His partner in the enterprise is wine buyer Emily Howard, a native of McMinnville.

They will be buying from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen in order to serve about a dozen items on a menu that will change daily. The attached coffee bar will be open during restaurant hours and offer such treats as quiche and pastries.

Both Bechard and Howard are currently working in Seattle. On their days off, they’ve been commuting to McMinnville in order to gut their space in preparation for a major remodel.

They have just finished the rigorous task of ripping up about six layers of flooring to uncover original Douglas fir for sanding and refinishing.

Howard is a 1994 graduate of McMinnville High School and has worked in the food and wine industry for several years. Bechard is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

Thistle will seat about 20 in the dining room and six more at a kitchen counter. Bechard and Howard aim to offer fresh, local food, prepared French-style, in a comfortable and intimate setting. They said no entrée will cost more than $20.

Their aim is to secure land on which to grow their own produce. 

Yvette Saarinen is the business editor at the News-Register in McMinnville.

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