At least eight food cart pods were recently broken into and dozens of food carts burglarized, and now Eater learns several other food businesses were targeted by crooks in December, including The Oregonian’s 2015 Restaurant of the Year, Renata. The list includes Pollo Norte, Otto’s Sausage Kitchen, Kim Jong Grillin’, and Alma Chocolate.
Owner Sandra Arnerich says someone broke into Renata when the restaurant closed for Portland’s December snow days on December 8. She says she filed a police report and let officers review security footage but adds she’s not heard of any arrests.
“A larger guy circled around the property,” says Arnerich, “trying to see how to get in. After realizing there was nobody in the building, he threw a rock through our front door and came into the restaurant looking for cash in the bar drawer. We don't keep any cash there overnight, so he left empty handed.”
The day before, a crook vandalized two company vehicles at the nearby chocolate artisan, Alma Chocolate. “Our insurance covered the damage of the more damaged vehicle,” says owner Sarah Hart, “but the deductible was $500. Both doors were smashed in and the mirrors torn off, so I'm sure it was several thousand dollars. The very cool folks at Comfort Auto got all the graffiti off the second vehicle — which is amazing — and did it for free!”
“Vandalism seems way up this year,” she adds. “More than I experienced before.”
On the morning of December 27, Otto’s Sausage Kitchen posted to its Facebook page that someone had stolen its outdoor grill (people often line up halfway around the block for the house-made sausages flying off said grill). Fortunately, the grill was found and returned by the end of the day.
Things didn’t work out as well for Pollo Norte and Han Ly Hwang’s Kim Jong Grillin, which were both vandalized on December 29. Pollo Norte’s Wade Shelton posted to Instagram a photo of a smashed-in front door. Thieves had made off with a small amount of money, but not before trashing the shop’s point-of-sale station. Shelton estimates damages will likely cost him $2,000.
“We are thankful it wasn't worse,” Shelton says. “And we are grateful and humbled by the outpouring of support from the restaurant community in Portland.” Folks at the Pambiche Cuban restaurant found and returned the cash box, and Pip’s Original offered the staff free donuts.
The same morning, Hwang, who is also a partner in Kim Jong Smokehouse, posted an angry all-caps message,“FUCK YOU TO WHOEVER STOLE MY PROPANE TANK. WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO OPEN OUR DIVISION LOCATION ONCE THIS GETS FIXED….”
(He also posted another message on New Year’s Day—again in all caps—that read, “DO NOT COME TO THE TRUCK AND TRY AND STEAL OUR TIP JAR. YOU WILL GET YOUR ASS KICKED [AND] WE WILL CALL THE COPS.”)
“They only stole one of my tanks,” says Hwang, “but it led to my other tanks losing gas. We lost all our Friday lunch business. I stand by what I said in my tweet. You have to be a real piece of shit to steal from a small business, especially a restaurant or food cart. Winter is the worst time of year for carts — something like this could mean the end of your business. Food cart businesses are fragile, and it's hard enough to stay relevant and busy during the winter.”
Do you know of a restaurant break-in? Share it with Eater through the tipline.