Chef Robert Thomas, co-owner and chef of Blackbird Pizza and Swift Lounge, has recently launched a restaurant group that operates entirely online, with delivery-only service through programs like Grubhub and Postmates. With two full-sized kitchens — one entirely devoted to vegan production — the former fine-dining chef is able to produce pasta and pizzas with Carmine’s Italian, American dining with a spin-off of Swift Lounge, and, soon, comforting vegan cuisine with Vegan Junk Food.
Chef Thomas, who worked in lauded New York restaurants like Danny Meyer’s famed Gramercy Tavern, realized the opportunity he had when the Blackbird location on North Interstate closed in early December of 2018. “It was a fairly bad location for a restaurant,” says Thomas. “But it’s great for delivery, with two kitchens built into it, on Interstate with 15-minute parking spots, right off of I-5.” A little more than a month later, he had Carmine’s Italian open, pivoting from Blackbird’s thick-crust pizzas to thinner ones with loaded toppings, as well as a host of mix-and-match pasta dishes. Diners can pick between sauces like bolognese, pesto, and a bean and sausage ragu “like grandmother would have made,” says Thomas, as well as their choice of pasta, from spaghetti to ravioli. All of it is made with delivery specifically in mind. “We’re trying to capture that crowd of people who want to have a full meal with vegetables, and salads, those who maybe have kids. The people want to go home, not out to eat, but don’t necessarily want to cook.”
Last week, the small team, which includes Jay Vance of Stanford’s restaurant group, added and expanded Swift Lounge’s menu to the kitchen. “It’s quickly becoming our American restaurant,” says Thomas, referencing the added items like baked potatoes, meatball subs, and meatloaf. For the mason jar cocktails, folks will still have to head into the bar.
Next on the agenda is Vegan Junk Food, which should be up and running by the end of the week or early next week. That will focus on, unsurprisingly, vegan foods with comfort in mind, like calzones, totchos, nachos, fries, and a Hawaiian plate with vegan loco moco, fried seitan “katsu,” and mac salad. Later down the line there might be other concepts — Thomas has floated the idea of chili dog shop, for example.
Most online delivery services in Portland deliver for the restaurants, including Postmates, Grubhub, Doordash, Uber Eats, and Caviar.
- Blackbird Pizza [Official]
- Swift Lounge [Official]
- Carmine’s Italian [Instagram]
- Mississippi Seafood Favorite Olympia Oyster Bar Is Now Closed [EPDX]
- All Previous Swift Lounge Coverage [EPDX]