One of Portland’s only restaurants serving Georgian food will close before the month ends. Kargi Gogo — the Alberta restaurant known for its khachapuri, a Georgian bread boat, and khinkali, a knobby dumpling filled with soup — will close up shop on November 22.
In an email sent out to newsletter subscribers, owner Sean Fredericks didn’t directly attribute the closure to the financial strain of the pandemic; rather, he talked about the opportunity he’s had to reflect on what he wants to do with his life. “With a baby at home, a few more gray hairs and a lot more experience, I’ve discovered that those priorities have changed since we opened,” he writes. “Anyone in this industry will tell you that running a restaurant is more than a job — it’s a lifestyle. It has become increasingly clear to me that the demands of this lifestyle and the goals for my life in a broader sense have less and less in common.”
Like many restaurants throughout the Portland area, Kargi Gogo closed temporarily when Gov. Kate Brown shut down dining rooms back in March. A few months later, the restaurant started selling frozen khinkali and take-and-bake khachapuri for people to make at home. Eventually, the restaurant began serving hot food once again for takeout and outdoor dining, but the online market still went strong, with people ordering dumplings to keep in the freezer.
Kargi Gogo started as a food cart, serving its Georgian bread boats and dumplings until it closed in 2015. Fredericks and co-owner McKinze Cook moved to Georgia, and after a few years, they decided to bring back Kargi Gogo as a restaurant. In July 2018, the restaurant began serving its cheesy-egg-filled khachapuri as well as soup-filled khinkali, similar to xiao long bao. The restaurant also had a tight-but-solid list of Georgian wines, including traditional skin-contact white wines.
Considering the number of Eastern European immigrants in Oregon, cuisines from countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia is still somewhat limited throughout the Portland area. Sure, Kachka remains a looming presence, but it’s a national name for a reason: The number of food carts and restaurants serving dishes from that region remains small, especially in North and Northeast Portland. It’s hard to think of another Portland restaurant serving khachapuri or even khinkali — the closest Georgian restaurant may be Dediko in Vancouver. To lose that representation, then, is a significant loss to the Portland restaurant market, yet another in a year of blows.
The restaurant isn’t closed yet, however: Customers can still order dumplings, khachapuri, pantry items, and wine through the restaurant’s website, including take-and-bake (or boil) options to keep in the freezer. Fredericks also hints at potentially selling more Georgian wine in the future. “Even though the restaurant is closing, my love for Georgia remains strong,” he writes. “I will continue to make Georgian wine available to you online in the Portland area and beyond. Much more about this later.”
• Kargi Gogo [Official]
• Kargi Gogo [Instagram]
• Georgian Dumpling House Kargi Gogo Opens on Alberta Today [EPDX]
• Dumpling Cart Kargi Gogo Will Open A Full-Blown Georgian Restaurant on Alberta [EPDX]
• The Georgian Cheese Bread Trend Leaves Portland with Kargi Gogo [EPDX]