The flame is out at Stumptown Founder Duane Sorenson’s Roman Candle Baking Co., but it has been slowly flickering for a while. Over the last month, the beloved SE Division bakery and pizza oven has renovated its space and its menu, without more than a peep or two until today.
On April 9, Roman Candle closed for renovations, as it had announced on its Facebook page. It hyped up a new menu and a “revitalized space.” The page used some foreshadowing hashtags, including “#newmenu #newbeginnings.”
Then, on April 26, notable Portland game developer Neven Mrgan pointed out the menu changes on Twitter, tweeting at Oregonian critic Michael Russell. The bakery had shifted into a vegetarian cafe (soon to be gluten-free), ditching its popular pizzas. “Unclear if the owners are new. Very confusing all around!” Mrgan wrote. Meanwhile, no new info on the Facebook page. Meanwhile, on Yelp, Roman Candle devotees have been less than thrilled with the change. “I arrived the other day and was completely floored and totally confused, but mostly super sad.... ON THE VERGE OF TEARS,” Blaire O. writes. “I came back today to show my friend this great spot, and we were quite dismayed to find that the menu has totally changed and all the prices have gone way up,” user Mary J. reports. “Roman Candle has now joined the cohort of ridiculously-priced breakfast toast places.”
@tdmrussell Hey, have you noticed Roman Candle weirdly morphing into a pizza-free, gluten-free, vegan bakery? They’ve debadged it of all RC branding, but there’s no new name. Unclear if the owners are new. Very confusing all around!— Neven Mrgan (@mrgan) April 26, 2018
Today, Portland Monthly delivered an explanation: Yes, Duane Sorenson is still in charge. No, it’s no longer Roman Candle. Instead, Sorenson is rebranding the restaurant as Holiday, a reggae-pumping, jungle-plant-adorned, gluten-free and vegetarian cafe with juices, “plant-based” (groans) dinners with big names like Danny Bowien and Andy Ricker, and foraged mushroom toasts by an in-house forager. This seems to be a personal choice, not a trendy one; Sorenson is now sober and health-conscious, and he’s actually behind the espresso machine at Holiday. Critic Karen Brooks is less critical than some of the Yelpers and social media fist-shakers: “Roll your eyes if you like. This is a good thing,” she writes. “Roman Candle has long felt adrift, burnt out. Holiday feels alive and engaged.” Sorenson is also launching Puff Coffee, a mail-order roaster near Woodsman Tavern. Juice, man. It’s enough to change your life and your brand.
• With Holiday, Stumptown Founder Duane Sorenson Goes Sober, Vegan, and Gluten-Free [PoMo]
• Holiday/Roman Candle [Official]
• Roman Candle [Facebook]
• Roman Candle [Yelp]
• All Roman Candle coverage [EPDX]
• Neven Mrgan [Twitter]
Correction: This story has been corrected to clarify that the cafe is shifting to be vegetarian, not vegan