This June, Kenton is getting a new brunch and lunch spot with adobo fried chicken, lumpia, and classic breakfast fare. Judith Stokes, probably best known for food cart Tita’s Pista on Mississippi, took a sabbatical from the scene in Astoria before deciding to adopt the closed Cup & Saucer Cafe on N Denver to open Derby, the original name of the street. “I’m honoring the tradition of Cup & Saucer,” Stokes says, sitting in a baby blue booth in the mid-renovation restaurant. Her dog wanders out the front door to greet neighbors, the folks at Po’Shines (“that’s my family,” she says) pop in to see how they can help, and a friend paints swatches on a back wall near the kitchen. “Community has been lost, and it’s so great to feel so supported,” she says. It’s clear Stokes knows the neighborhood — but she knows the food scene even better.
In her years in Portland — she started working in local restaurants when she was 16 — Stokes did everything from shake cocktails behind the bar at Meriwether’s to help develop the kitchen at Mississippi Studios. Six years ago, she decided she’d leave the scene, moving to Astoria to open another business. But recently, she felt pulled back to her family in Portland, and discovered that Cup & Saucer owner Karen Harding was looking to offload the Kenton cafe. “She said, ‘I can sell this to any Californian,’ but I want to keep it local.’ She wanted to see another woman make it,’” Stokes recalls. She decided to take over the space, but she didn’t have much interest in opening a Filipino restaurant like Tita’s. Instead, she decided to stick to the original schtick with a few personal touches: Beyond the expected Benedicts, scrambles, and French toast, Stokes plans to serve acai bowls (“I live off those,” she says) and a few Filipino takes on diner essentials. For instance, her fried chicken will be smothered in adobo. In the evenings, the bar will serve lumpia alongside the classic cocktails.
Stokes is still looking for kitchen staff, but one dish will be made special: Lumpia, the Filipino spring roll she has tattooed on her arm, is always made by her mother, but she doesn’t want her mother to do much else at Derby. “My mother is a first-generation immigrant; she came over in the war. People don’t know the struggle,” she says. “This is how I get to show her my gratitude. I want her to sit at the bar in her seat, and say, ‘Let me feed you now.’” Derby will be located at 8237 N Denver Avenue.