In the fall of 2012, lured by the promise of being part of Portland's next great food cart pod, Lisa Wood and her husband, Brian, moved their insanely popular Big Ass Sandwiches cart from Old Town to the Central Industrial Eastside.
But none of the promises materialized. And after sticking it out in an under-the-radar spot with fingers crossed, the Woods have been told they need to vacate the lot by spring. Though no lease has been signed, there's talk of a brewery moving in, and it'll need the lot for its beer garden.
"It's ironic," Lisa writes, "since we moved for a bar/marketplace that never happened. We really love the neighborhood and believe in it, which is why we've stuck it out for the last 2 1/2 years, mostly by ourselves down here. This is really bummer news."
According to this Oregonian article, The Row, nestled in a lot on SE 2nd Avenue next to the Branx nightclub, just around the corner from Produce Row, was supposed to be the ultimate late-night cart pod. Organized by Potato Champion's Mike McKinnon, who had already set up a commissary kitchen there, it was going to have atmosphere, amenities, a cocktail bar, live music, and DJs. But things were slow to take off. Other big-name carts that had opened other locations there (Koi Fusion, Whiffies, Pyro Pizza) cleared out.
"We are the only cart left," says Lisa. "Have been for over a year. None of what was promised happened and most everyone had to close. Several of those were second carts for their owners. We've stuck it out because we believe in that spot and relocating is difficult for both the customers and us. There are still people looking for us downtown and it's been almost three years."
There's no doubt the Central Eastside Industrial District is undergoing a major culinary renaissance, with many of spring's hottest openings clustered in the area. It seems The Row was a bit ahead of its time. But revitalization is a double-edged sword, as now property is at a premium.
If there's a silver lining for the Woods, it's that after nearly winning the title on Adam Richman's Travel Channel show Best Sandwich in America in 2012, wherever Big Ass Sandwiches goes, fans will follow. Stay tuned to find out where that will be.
Big Ass Sandwiches: 304 SE 2nd Ave., Portland, 503-803-0619