Nour-Petra Hamieh comes from an impressive restaurant lineage. She's part of the extended clan that owns some of Portland's top Lebanese restaurants — Nicholas, Ya Hala, and Hoda's — so to hear that she's opening her own place is no surprise.
But that doesn't mean she's predictable. Hamieh isn't going the Middle Eastern route like her aunts and uncles, even though she grew up in Lebanon and moved to Portland in 2004. Instead, the 28-year-old is opening a sandwich shop in the former Cosmic Soda Pop and Candy Shop space, just off SE Belmont. Called Rendez Vous Off Belmont, the 30-seat spot is set to open the first week of June.
The walls have gone from bright yellow to neutral gray, and there's a collection of eclectic mis-matched tables and chairs where the candy bins once stood — much to the dismay of the neighborhood kids, who have taken to stopping by on their way home from school to express their disappointment. But their campaign has worked: "I'll have a little retail sweets corner," says Hamieh.
As for the rest of the offerings, she describes it as a simple sandwich shop "serving things me and my friends and family crave." She's planning to have 10 to 12 sandwiches built on Grand Central Bakery bread, plus four salads. But even though you won't find shawarma and hummus on the menu, she won't be able to resist doctoring things up with the flavors of her homeland. Think potato salad with harissa, egg sandwiches with basturma (cured, air-dried, thinly sliced beef similar to Italian bresaola), and grab-and-go yogurt parfaits made with Lebanese yogurt and rosewater syrup. To drink, she'll have bottled juices, Heart coffee, teas and yerba mate, plus three beers and one cider on tap, and a handful of brunch cocktails.
Her inspiration, she says, comes from memories of hanging out with her friends in cafes and sandwich shops while growing up in Lebanon. She's even installing a projector for movie nights. "I wanted to have a neighborhood business, a place where neighbors could come and get to know each other and hang out. That's why I made sure I could have minors in the whole place."
So far, the neighborhood approves, stopping by to wish her luck (or lobby for candy) whenever they see the door open. "People are really excited."
Rendez Vous Off Belmont (opening in early June): 817 S.E. 34th Ave., Portland