Pok Pok, the restaurant group known for its Thai street food and Northern Thai dishes, closed most of its locations earlier this year, with the expectation that the original location on SE Division and one Pok Pok Wing might reopen down the line. Friday morning, however, owner Andy Ricker announced on Facebook that the restaurant group was done.
While Ricker cited the difficulties in running the business during a global pandemic as a primary reason for closing, he also described the last five years as being increasingly challenging to maintain a high level of hospitality. “The ability to focus on the raison d’etre of Pok Pok became more and more impossible and it became more and more about logistics and putting out fires, less and less about hospitality and and vision,” Ricker writes. He goes on to say that Pok Pok became exactly what it was never intended to be about: profit and loss, and so he “pulled the plug.”
Ricker originally opened the first Pok Pok in 2005, specializing in Thai street foods and Northern Thai cuisine he ate while traveling through Southeast Asia. Within years, the restaurant developed national acclaim, winning Ricker a James Beard Award in 2011. The restaurant became a popular tourist destination, especially for Pok Pok’s fish sauce wings, which were based on a dish Ricker ate at stands in Vietnam; he developed the restaurant’s recipe with employee Ich “Ike” Truong. The wings were popular enough that the restaurateur opened up the bar Whiskey Soda Lounge down the street , where locals would circumvent the two-hour-plus-waits at the original restaurant, and served them there, as well; he went on to create a chain of fast-casual wing shops that specifically served that dish. Whiskey Soda Lounge, as well as most of the Pok Pok Wing locations, closed for good in June. With the closure of the original Pok Pok and Portland’s final Pok Pok Wing, the restaurant group has disappeared.