When Tryzen Patricio and Candace Lachesis opened the Hawaiian cart GrindWitTryz in September 2019, they knew they was taking a risk. Opening a food cart is hard in any season, but GrindWitTryz was opening in the fall, right before the cold slowed down business for street food vendors across the city. Then, of course, COVID-19 hit Portland. “During the fall season and winter season, we knew it would be a struggle to grind it out,” Patricio says. “The pandemic happened in mid-march, so we had a couple weeks of spring.”
Unlike countless other businesses, however, GrindWitTryz became a massive, massive hit. During one of the hardest periods for the food industry, the NE MLK food cart was attracting two-hour lines; the team was running out of food before the day ended. Customers from as far north as Seattle and as far south as Eugene would come to visit GrindWitTryz, ordering kalua pig and ono chicken alongside specials like nachos topped with poke and kalua pig, or Filipino lechon kawali. “We have a huge PDX ohana here,” Patricio says, referring to the Hawaiian concept of family. “People will drive three hours and wait another two hours for our food — it’s crazy.”
Now, just a few months after its first anniversary, GrindWitTryz will open an Alberta restaurant.
GrindWitTryz’s restaurant, set to take over the Bunk Alberta space November 7, will be an expansion of what Patricio and Lachesis have been doing in the cart. Instead of sticking to only three daily menu items — ono chicken, kalua pig, and spicy ahi poke — the restaurant will add a few of the cart’s top-performing specials to the standing menu, including those Hawaiian nachos and the surf-and-turf kalbi ribs, which come with a side of garlic shrimp or poke. GrindWitTryz will continue to play around with a number of daily specials, as well as beer and cocktails: Once the restaurant gets its liquor license, Patricio wants to serve tropical standbys like mai tais and lava flows, plus his own “jungle juice,” spiked with four separate spirits.
The restaurant will open for dine-in and takeout, also hosting live music — kanikapila specifically — on the patio. “Whoever wants to dance hula can do that,” Patricio says. He’s particularly excited to be in the Alberta neighborhood, which he describes as “dream restaurant location, ever since I was doing business in college.”
In many ways, GrindWitTryz started in a dorm room on the Concordia campus. Patricio, who moved to Portland from Oahu to play college baseball, ended up turning his dorm room into a Hawaiian commissary, making spam musubis and plate lunches and hawking them on social media. Once he graduated, he was able to open a food cart; the fans he acquired in college followed him there, growing in numbers until Patricio couldn’t keep up. “I didn’t think our business would blow up this fast,” Patricio says. “It just literally popped off.”
GrindWitTryz will open 11 a.m. November 7 at 2017 NE Alberta Street.
View this post on Instagram
One year of our truck being open and unfortunately it’s time to close our doors . . . AND START A NEW CHAPTER!! We are proudly to announce we will be expanding & opening our very own restaurant on Alberta St right next to Salt n Straw!!!! So much dedication & tears have went into this business for the past 5 years. From selling food out of my dorm and car, to getting my name out there by participating in events around Oregon, running a food truck for a year & now at the age of 23 .. WE ARE OFFICIALLY OWNERS OF A RESTAURANT mahalo to our ‘ohana, our supporters & ke akua for all you have done!! More details are to come as to when oUR opening day will be!
Updated November 6, 11:43 a.m.: This story was updated to include the restaurant’s opening date.