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Smallwares Is Closing

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Say goodbye to the "inauthentic Asian" small plates by the talented Johanna Ware

Dina Avila/EPDX

Smallwares will close September 24, according to a message posted by chef-owner Johanna Ware to Facebook today. One of Portland's defining restaurants, Smallwares opened in 2012 to serve "inauthentic Asian" small plates, and Ware is an alum of Nostrana and David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar and Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Ware says she's closing Smallwares in part because "the restaurant world is so saturated nowadays." She thanks the staff who stuck with her over the years, as well as Smallwares' regulars, those who've shown support in the industry, and her family and friends.

Ware does end with a glimmer of hope. "Hopefully, Smallwares will rise again," she writes. "It was around the second and third year when I really felt like I found my voice as a chef."

Here's the full Facebook announcement:

I thought that I was dreaming
When you said you loved me
It started from nothing
I had no chance to prepare
I couldn't see you coming
It started from nothing
I could hate you now
It's quite alright to hate me now
When we both know that deep down
The feeling still deep down is good..
Frank Ocean Ivy

There is really no easy way to say this but I am closing smallwares. Our last service will be September 24th. There are many reasons why and I know that many of you won't be surprised. As I listened to this song the other day and I knew that I would be writing this press release it just embodied a lot of my problem. Yes this is a song about a first love and smallwares was sort of mine. I should have closed many times over the years but I just couldn't because I loved it so much, maybe too much. I gave everything to it.

Unfortunately the restaurant world is so saturated nowadays and it requires so much extra work to keep yourself relevant, promote yourself, or stay ahead of all the new things. I love Portland but I don't think I was the greatest fit for the neighborhood I am in. I struggled from the start and we had pockets of success but we just couldn't keep steady business. Some of our busiest times were Portland dining month, burger week, or our dollar oyster Mondays. It's hard because I just want people to come eat here, like it and tell their friends, I don't want to constantly promote myself or honestly have to give everyone a "deal". I know that is not how it works but I am just not good at talking about my food and having to come up with some brilliant answer as to why I came up with a dish. Even planning special dinners and off-site events is so much work for a place that is already understaffed and struggling.
I am not sure what is next for me and really I just need to get part of me back.. I lost so much over the years and went through some of the toughest moments in my personal life and I know so much of it was because of this restaurant. I did too much and wore too many hats but we couldn't afford anything else and I kept thinking it's going to turn around, it has too.. I can't tell you how depressing it is to work so hard on the menu and look out to an empty dining room, and try and convince your staff it's okay. So it is time to put an end to the feeling of constantly drowning and honestly I can already start to feel the relief.
I am so grateful for my staff over the years who stuck with me through some dark times and who loved this place so much. I also want to thank our amazing regulars and thank the industry for all the support and love. My family and friends have been through so much with me and I am ready to make up for all the lost time over the years. I can't remember the last time I talked to my mom on the phone and didn't cry... She may not have been able to be at smallwares as much as she would have liked as my business partner but she got me through some tough times.
Hopefully Smallwares will rise again.. It was around the second and third year where I really felt like I found my own voice as a chef. You take so much from your past and all your mentors and every meal you have eaten ever and your own ideas and you finally sort have your own little pocket in this industry. I feel like I owe it to myself to not let that go and to keep growing and learning. So we will see what happens..
So come visit smallwares before the 24th!! If you know me you know I like to have a good time so we are going to go out with a bang! My staff is ready to really enjoy these last few weeks and thank all of our supporters, and I promise to put my heart into the food until the very end! Love, jo


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