On last night's hipster-skewering episode of The Simpsons, PDX expatriate Terrance (voiced by Portlandia's Fred Armisen) identifies exactly the moment when hipsters decide something's lost its cool factor — when it breaks away from singularity. Says Terrance, who's transitioned into life as an "urban nomad": "Portland just got too played out. The city used to be real. Do you know there are now restaurants there with two locations? Not near my kids."
And true, Portland's fertile restaurant scene has seen a boom in multi-location restaurants of late. So which recent restaurant expansions could have driven Terrance out of Portland? Let's explore.
Case Study: Bamboo Sushi, opened in SE Portland in 2008.
Portland Realness Factor: It's the world's first certified-sustainable sushi restaurant (and the first green-certified sushi restaurant in the United States), which speaks directly to Portland's green-bleeding heart. Recently, the restaurant donated $250,000 to create a 400,000-acre marine preserve in the Bahamas.
Aura-Killing Expansion: Bamboo opened its second restaurant on NW 23rd Avenue in June 2012.
Case Study: Bunk Sandwiches, debuted on SE Morrison in late 2008.
Portland Realness Factor: Accomplished chef (Tommy Habetz) goes casual with a tiny sandwich storefront, serving big, meaty, messy flavors between the buns. Lines immediately form outside.
Aura-Killing Expansion: Bunk's boozy sister Bunk Bar, which debuted (to much anticipation) in August 2010, would probably get hipster "keeps it real" cred for its general booziness and live shows. Bunk's proper second restaurant opened downtown in October 2011.
Case Study: Nong's Khao Man Gai, opened downtown in 2009.
Portland Realness Factor: Nong's is the ultimate Portland food-cart success story. At its debut, in a brightly-colored cart downtown, Nong's specialized in only one dish, cooking a set amount of chicken and rice and closing up shop once sold out for the day. Fans grew accustomed to long lines and Twitter updates announcing opening times and "SOLD OUT" notices.
Aura-Killing Expansion: Nong opened a second cart, in the PSU pod, in November 2011. She quickly followed up with a take-out window at SE Ankeny, and the two newest locations also offer expanded menus featuring more than Hainan chicken.
Case Study: Olympic Provisions, debuted in the Central Eastside, November 2009.
Portland Realness Factor: OP is Oregon's first USDA-approved salumeria and helped usher in the current trend toward "American charcuterie." It's also actually appeared in an episode of Portlandia.
Aura-Killing Expansion: Olympic Provisions NW opened in April 2011, housed in the same building where the sausage is literally made.
Case Study: Tasty N Sons, debuted on N. Williams in 2010.
Portland Realness Factor: Holy OMG brunch. Brunch culture has always been a thing in Portland, and no restaurant captures the fervor better than John Gorham's unexpected approach to the weekend meal.
Aura-Killing Expansion: Earlier this fall, Gorham announced that a second Tasty N Sons will open in downtown's West End in 2013 — dubbed Tasty N Alder, it'll feature Tasty's familiar brunch but add a "steakhouse" twist come dinnertime.
Case Study: Sizzle Pie, debuted on E. Burnside in December 2010.
Portland Realness Factor: Vegan pizza. Heavy metal.
Aura-Killing Expansion: Sizzle Pie branched out — to another part of Burnside — in December 2011, taking over the storied Rocco's Pizza location across the street from Powell's Books.
Case Study: Salt & Straw, debuted on NE Alberta, August 2011.
Portland Realness Factor: The scoop shop started as a push-cart operation as proprietors readied its brick-and-mortar on NE Alberta. In a commitment to everything local and artisan, the flavormakers derive inspiration from locally made artisan products — everything from Stumptown to Woodblock Chocolate to Rogue Creamery cheese — to create its flavors.
Aura-Killing Expansion: Salt & Straw opened a second location on NW 23rd Avenue in July of this year, then quickly announced an upcoming third outpost on SE Division. S&S was also named the Eater Award winner for "Empire Builders of the Year" in 2012.
Case Study: Lardo, debuted on SE Hawthorne, July 2012.
Portland Realness Factor: Another food cart goes brick-and-mortar success story, chef Rick Gencarelli opened a porchetta and mortadella-making food cart in September 2010, branching out to a proper sandwich shop nearly two years later. True to form, there's a food cart (the Sugar Cube) parked in Lardo's lot.
Aura-Killing Expansion: Lardo's second outpost just opened in downtown's West End.