On Friday nights, Portland chef Nikeisah Newton packs up a few bowls of brown rice and massaged kale and drives her 2004 Nissan Altima to Stag, the Old Town gay bar known for its dancers. Men grab bowls dressed in marinated artichokes or Costa Rican salsa lizano for a quick meal after a night of dancing, when most of the dining options involve a deep-fryer or too long a walk to justify.
Newton is the chef and owner of Meals 4 Six Inch Heels, a delivery-only restaurant specifically marketed toward sex workers: strippers, dancers, and — eventually, Newton hopes — people who have sex for money. Customers reach out to Newton via Instagram message, ordering bowls with lemon-pepper couscous with Italian pickled vegetables or oven-roasted acorn and butternut squash with savory sauteed cremini mushrooms. Newton personally delivers bowls to clubs around town, from Lucky Devil to Sassy’s, as late as 2 a.m.
Newton, who worked in the kitchen at Taqueria Nueve, came up with the idea when she was dating a dancer years ago. She remembers finding fast-food containers in the back of her girlfriend’s car — out of character for the health-conscious dancer and rugby player. According to Newton, many dancers don’t drive, and going to a restaurant after work felt uncomfortable. “In her words, she didn’t want to go eat at Tik Tok or Hotcake House if she smelled like balls,” Newton says. “But everyone should have access to healthy food... It blows me away that this is Strip City and dancers aren’t getting fed.”
As of 2017, Portland had more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the country, second only to Houston in the overall number of strip clubs. Still, food access remains an issue for the community: Portland’s limited transit hours and small number of 24-hour businesses make things like getting home, let alone finding food during or after a shift, difficult.
Newton started delivering meals directly to dancers in January, sourcing produce like kale and garlic from Mudbone Grown farm and prepping bowls on Friday nights. In the future, she hopes to bring Meals 4 Six Inch Heels to other cities, expanding into the larger sex worker community and raising money for causes that affect their shared communities, including people of color and the queer-identifying people. For now, she’s just building her clientele. “I want to be realistic,” she says. “I don’t need to be a household name, but I’d like to be a dressing room name.”
• Meals 4 Six Inch Heels [Official]
• Why Portland Is the Strip Club Capital of the U.S. [Thrillist]