When experienced chef Mark Greco was developing the concept for his new eatery called "Gravy," he was hoping to create a space where breakfast-hungry Portlanders could feel at home. Mark and his team—designer and sister Michele Greco, and contractor and brother-in-law, Mike Banker—decided that using salvaged building materials would match the interior to the flavor of the food. As Mark suggests, "Gravy is really about recycling and not wasting. To make gravy, you take leftover bits and drippings and transform them into something new."
Gravy is housed in an old, brick-faced building with large, welcoming windows facing bustling North Mississippi Avenue. Mark and his family team cleared off layers of grime and paint to expose the building’s concrete walls and floor, old-growth fir ceiling joists and thick, tongue-and-groove roof decking.
The team initially planned to cover the worn and blackened boards on the ceiling with drywall, but on a whim, Greco rubbed a small area with sandpaper. Struck by the beauty of the exposed board, he committed to rejuvenating the rafters. Several weeks and many pads of sandpaper later, the warm honey tone of the refurbished joists complements the painted colors of the interior.
In the main dining area, settle onto a bench made from salvaged fir boards while you wait for a table. Place your coffee cup on a sturdy table fashioned from a sewer grate supported by 4"x12" cutoffs for legs. More benches run along the north and south walls, built from lumber removed during the remodel of an apartment building across the street. At the bar, rest your elbows on thick planks of 80-year-old lumber while you watch the busy workings of the kitchen through a large multi-light window, also salvaged from across the street.
As you head to the restroom or lounge, notice the wainscoting that lines the walls. Instead of the usual beadboard used in early 20th century homes around town, Banker used remilled vertical grain trim that surrounds pressed tin ceiling squares, reclaimed from a salvaged building materials store. Inside the restroom, a placard on the reused steel door discloses its previous location -- "Women’s Locker Room." Old school-house and Victorian-era light fixtures hang quietly over the bar and dining room supplementing light from the skylights.
Mark is pleased with the outcome of his team’s efforts to use salvaged materials as the backdrop for a successful eatery. Building with these materials may take more time than just going to the local lumberyard and hardware store. "Count on taking extra time to process, clean and reconfigure the materials to the dimensions of your space," Mark says – "but the use of salvaged materials enhances the building’s value and sets the perfect tone for the restaurant." If the lines out the door of his restaurant are any indication, he’s on to something.