Review: Capers Cafe Le Bar Portland Airport

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Introduction: PDX Priority Pass Awesomeness
Review: House Spirits Distillery Portland Airport
Review: Capers Cafe Le Bar Portland Airport
Review: Capers Market Portland Airport
Review: Alaska Lounge Portland Airport


After having a great time at the House Spirits Distillery PDX, we headed over to Capers Cafe Le Bar, which is the sit down restaurant at PDX that belongs to Priority Pass. Capers Cafe Le Bar is open daily from 4AM until 10:30PM, so no matter what flight you’re on, this place should be open.

Capers is located in Concourse C, right past the security checkpoint. It’s only maybe a three minute walk from House Spirits Distillery, so it’s super easy to visit both on the same trip. Keep in mind that you can use Priority Pass lounges either before or after your flight.


Portland Airport Concourse C

Capers opens up into the rest of the terminal, and has a few different options for diners. There’s a sit-down restaurant area, you can just get something to go directly at the counter, or there’s a wine bar in the far corner of the restaurant.


Capers Cafe Le Bar Portland Airport


Capers Cafe Le Bar Portland Airport

Since we had time, we had a sit down meal. We visited twice — on Wednesday afternoon it was totally empty, while on Friday afternoon it was packed (and almost all the other diners were through Priority Pass as well).


Capers Cafe Le Bar Portland Airport

If you order directly at the counter, there’s some food on display.


Capers Cafe Le Bar prepared food selection Portland Airport


Capers Cafe Le Bar prepared food selection Portland Airport


Capers Cafe Le Bar prepared food selection Portland Airport

Of course in the sit down restaurant there’s a full menu and wine list. The menu read as follows:

The wine list read as follows:

Let me start by saying that the wine list was exceptionally well priced. Ford and I had the Chateau Crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc, which was great for $7 per glass.


Capers Cafe PDX — sauvignon blanc

Keep in mind that Priority Pass gets you $28 off your bill at Capers per person, and you can have anything in the restaurant or to go. So for example, they charge $80 per bottle of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne. That’s very close to the retail cost, which is unheard of for a restaurant, let alone an airport restaurant. Frankly if I were with two others I might just consider going here and sharing a bottle of what’s an exceptional champagne for “free.”

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a bit more local, they have a huge selection of wine from Oregon. For example, the 2013 Domaine Serene Evenstad retails for $60 per bottle, and the restaurant charges $80, which is a very reasonable markup for a restaurant. If you just want a glass of wine with a couple of friends, that’s tough to beat.

There’s a reason I’m recommending the wine here over the food. šŸ˜‰

In fairness, the kale salad with chicken we had was actually good, and easily the best thing we had here. It was healthy and tasted great.


Capers Cafe PDX — kale salad with chicken

Everything else was just fine. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good. I guess I’d say it’s roughly what I’d expect from room service at an airport Sheraton in the US, if that gives you a sense of the quality. We had the western beef chili, which was fairly good, though a bit bland.


Capers Cafe PDX — western beef chili

For that visit (Ford and I each had the salad, chili, and a glass of wine), the total came to $55, which meant we were within our $56 allowance.


Capers Cafe PDX bill

A couple of days later we came back with Tiffany, and each had a glass of wine.


Capers Cafe PDX — wine

I ordered a cup of the tomato soup and the quiche of the day, both of which were reasonably good, though unmemorable.


Capers Cafe PDX — quiche and tomato soup

Tiffany had the mezze, which personally I wouldn’t order at an airport in Oregon, but…


Capers Cafe PDX — mezze

Ford wasn’t very hungry. He ordered a slice of pizza, which didn’t look or taste very good.


Capers Cafe PDX — pepperoni pizza

Then Tiffany had an Americano, and we shared a piece of carrot cake, which was… meh.


Capers Cafe PDX — Americano and carrot cake

The total came to $65, well within our $84 limit.


Capers Cafe PDX bill

If you do have a meal here at the sit down restaurant, please consider tipping. The servers here seem to have a real problem with Priority Pass. Obviously it has brought a ton of new business to the restaurant, but it seems like people aren’t tipping servers, so they’re angry. I shared my experience with this in a separate post.

For another data point, reader DavePDX shared the following anecdote from Capers:

I was told at House Spirits Distillery that they receive $26 per $28, which seems pretty good. Of course, as you mentioned in another post, the servers seem to hate Priority Pass as the users usually donā€™t tip. In fact, at one point, my husband and I heard the bartender at Capers Market loudly proclaim to a coworker that he hated Priority Pass while about six other Priority Pass users were near. A previous time we were there, the same bartender was talking about how heā€™s taking his money out of Chase because this model was unsustainable; he had no idea other banks also hand out Priority Pass. Either case, this guy is such a downer that we no longer visit this one location at PDX. He was rude and a downer each of the two timesā€¦even though we tipped him $10 each after using $22 of our credit.

If you want access to Priority Pass lounges, the following premium credit cards come with memberships:

Card# Of Guests Who Get Free AccessAuthorized User AccessCost To Add Authorized User
The Platinum CardĀ® from American Express2Yes$175 For Up To 3 People, $175 For Each Additional Person Beyond That
The Business PlatinumĀ® Card from American Express OPEN2Yes$300 Per Person
Citi PrestigeĀ® Card2 Guests Or Immediate Family MembersYes$50 Per Person
The Ritz-Carlton RewardsĀ® Credit CardUnlimited GuestsYes$0
Chase Sapphire Reserveā„  CardUnlimited GuestsYes$75 Per Person

Capers Cafe Le Bar PDX bottom line

It’s great to have access to a sit-down restaurant with Priority Pass. Capers isn’t at risk of being a Michelin-starr restaurant, but the food is alright. I’d say the salad was the best thing we had, while the rest of the food is probably only worth eating if you’re hungry and don’t have access to better options. Then again, given that this is at an airport, it may still be better than what you’ll be served onboard, if anything.

I think what’s potentially really interesting here (at least for some) is the ability to order some great wines at a reasonable cost. You should even be able to take bottles to go. When we visited with Tiffany, I sort of regret that we didn’t instead have a bottle of Ruinart. Then again, given that House Spirits Distillery is nearby, that may be too much of a good thing.

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Comments

  1. I have found people to be very generous when using other people’s money.

    I am surprised people dont just invite complete strangers for lunch on priority pass. I think PP at a basic level is relying on the fact Americans are basically cliquish

  2. Thanks for this post, Lucky. Your assessment of the food at Capers confirmed my suspicion, and I’m glad you posted information around tipping. This is an aspect of your blog that I, for one, appreciate. We as PP users can gush over this ‘free’ meal, but it IS a huge negative to servers making a living. I can’t blame them one bit for being upset since some users won’t tip based on a ‘free’ meal. This aspect of American behavior is shameful and would hope that your readers educate others that just because the credit takes what you owe to $0, your server still served you $55 worth of food and assuming their service was good, have earned 15% or $8.25.

    If one is willing to pay the $450 for that CSR, then they can afford $8.25.

    That said, I hope that the owners of Capers see this as a potential huge opportunity. Improving food quality and service and setting a really high standard (as far as airport restaurants are concerned), they will do really well. If they take a ‘ho-hum’ attitude, then this won’t last.

  3. Ben, when you are presented with the check, is there a line for tip to be added? If not, I can see why people wouldn’t tip. And many people these days don’t carry cash so leaving a cash tip may not always be feasible.

    Having said that, I hate visiting establishments where the workers make you feel unwelcomed even if you are rightfully entitled to receive services/goods. I hope that people start tipping these service workers but I also hope that management takes action and makes it clear that under no circumstances is it acceptable to display such public actions of displeasure towards customers.

  4. @ Luis — 100% agree with everything you say. Unfortunately there’s nowhere to leave a tip on a card unless you go over the Priority Pass amount and are given a check for that. So you’ll need cash, which is annoying/an inconvenience.

  5. While I don’t agree with customers stiffing their servers I do see a problem in not prompting customers to tip in the first place. Assuming most PP users have visited a lounge and are approaching these retail partnerships with the same mindset, it is reasonable to assume that tipping is either included or not accepted like most account based, cashless systems.

    Restaurants could easily make a note in their menus that tipping is not included and welcomed. What’s more, the restaurant could just include a set 18% service charge and be done with it altogether. I think it is safe to assume that customers want to be good people, so give them the opportunity to do so. I find it odd that one would complain despite saying nothing and making no indication for tips. Be a squeaky wheel–and take the grease.

  6. Would be nice if there were automated Priority Pass restaurants so that servers could stop whining about tipping. Seems like the only way to get rid of annoying tipping is to eliminate the jobs altogether.

  7. Fantastic post, and, as a former restaurant worker in the DC area during my college days, I appreciate your emphasis on tipping. At the same time, however, this really falls on the restaurant and/or Priority Pass for not emphasizing tips. As a previous poster mentioned, an 18% gratuity could be automatically added for PP users. Or, Priority Pass could emphasize on their website that tipping on the full amount is recommended (just as Groupon and Gilt City do when one buys a voucher).

    As far as taking bottles to go, I used my PP at PDX yesterday for myself and my wife. Luckily, we took food to go from the Capers in Concourse C (had no cash on-hand for tip); however, after utilizing the outdated and overcrowded Alaska Lounge in Concourse C, we proceeded to the Capers Market in Course D before boarding. There, we scored big time. Aside from two waters to go, we utilized the rest of the $56 PP allowance to purchase beer/wine to-go for friends/family back home with no questions asked from the Capers Market employee. This is truly a steal, and I’m not sure how sustainable it is. I would recommend anyone traveling through PDX to take full advantage of both Capers locations and the Distilling Market.

  8. Given we don’t seem to be moving away from tipping anytime soon and it’s unfair to stiff the waitstaff over someone’s morals about “sticking it to the man to change tipping culture”, would it be legal/feasible for the restaurants to automatically include a 10-15% service charge for all PP diners?

  9. Mr Lucky, you mentioned that “Priority Pass gets you $28 off your bill at Capers per person”. If I go to Capers with my husband and two kids, and I’m the only one that has the Priority Pass card from Chase Sapphire Reserve, do I get a credit for $28 total only since I’m the only one that has Priority Pass card? Or does my party of four get a credit of $28*4= $112 since your chart lists ‘unlimited guests’ for Chase Sapphire Reserve? Thank you.

  10. One would have to have great confidence in a dining establishment to order kale and chili prior to boarding an aircraft. Need I say more?

  11. I can’t say I’m tempted. Is there anywhere nicer in the airport if you are prepared to pay with your own money?

  12. Just finished lunch there. Agree on all points in review. Noticed Salmon special too late to try it.
    I could see them adding more expensive options for PP users to pad their bill. Perhaps they could add “Crackers a la carte for 10 cents” to give a vehicle for loading a tip on a CC.

  13. Frequent PDX flier here. I agree that the food at Capers is mediocre. It never seemed very busy when I passed it in recent years, and I suspect they jointed Priority Pass to drum up business.

    I disagree with Ben that Capers is as good a dining option as one will find at PDX. PDX actually has way better food options than the average US airport. The Port of Portland actively tries to get branches of local Portland restaurants to open at the airport, which is a good thing because Portland is now a huge foodie town with tons of great restaurants. (PDX also requires restaurants to charge the same prices at the airport location as they would elsewhere, making dining at PDX way more reasonable than most airports.)

    For example, Kenny and Zuke’s has great traditional deli food, executed really well. Stanford’s (outside security) has good NW cuisine in a slightly fancier sit-down environment (with good seafood options). Laurelwood, Henry’s, and Rogue all have decent pub grub (and better beer). I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard very good things about Country Cat, a farm-to-table Southern food joint. The list goes on. Point being, PDX is not filled with Chili’s 2 type places.

    But if you have time to kill and just want to have some free (or free + 20% tip) drinks on Priority Pass, Capers is a good choice. I would especially recommend the Argyle Brut, a Willamette Valley methode champenoise sparkling wine, made primarily from pinot noir grapes. The winery sells the current vintage for $28, so getting a bottle for $32 at an airport is a steal.

  14. @Clanger – Ben made it quite clear he ate the salad and chili upon arrival, not before departing.

    @Evan – the point of this report wasn’t a food review of non-PP options at the PDX Airport.

    @FrequentPDXVisitor – Are you honestly surprised? You think Ben would deign to try other, non-free airport restaurants? This is the same guy that will stay multiple nights in hotels in the best cities in the world and order room service b/c he thinks for some reason the readers of a ‘points and miles’ blog would care about such a thing.

  15. I just have to remark about the serve staff at Capers, as I used my PP there last week. I was very pleased by the wait staff that served my husband and I. Full of energy working the busy wine bar and tables on his own, he was quite courteous. I would never think to not leave a tip, even if the meal was free and I never heard a rude peep about ‘Priority Pass patrons’.

    Everyone can have a bad day – I wouldn’t classified the employees of Capers based on one persons experience on one particular day.

  16. @KimJ
    I mentioned the bartender at Capers Market, not at Capers Cafe. We actually have had great experiences there.Twice the bartender at Capers Market (bald/shaved head male) has made his displeasure known for PriorityPass. Twice he has said he hates PriorityPass, its users, and that he will move his money out of Chase as this is a loosing proposition for Chase, his words. We saw him once at the start of his shift and another time towards the end of the day…doubt it was just a bad day. Again, servers have been great at Capers Cafe and at the distillery, not this gentleman at Capers Market. I agree with some previous commenters about these places maybe mentioning that a tip would be appreciated. I think business has surged for them here at PDX, but unfortunately it seems the workers are getting stiffed.

  17. The restaurant should pay their workers a living wage; the rest is up to us to add to – if and when we are provided with service that goes above and beyond.

  18. if i go alone, can i ask to be swiped with 2 other guests for a total of 28*3=$84 of allowance and then buy a bottle of Ruinart to go… I’m also gonna put a $10 bill on the table as tip lol don’t see any downsides for them

  19. Forcing people to tip is like forcing people to not be racist.

    You can’t change people by forcing them to do something. It’s better to let people be who they are openly.

    They should have a no tip option. I put up that flag on the table and its my job to go get the food from the counter and you don’t need to come and ask me how my day was. I already know it’s all fake BS. I don’t want you feel stiffed. I told you up front there is no tip, I don’t need the service.

    The problem is when we are forced to choose the only option there is. Stop making it like a ethical or moral issue.

  20. PDX is my home airport. Capers + PP finally gave me a reason to not even bother visiting the PDX Skyclub (although I’m a member). Skyclub doesn’t have spirits, and beer and wine are more carbs than I want, and the food is also better at Capers.

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