The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent ban on onsite consumption at restaurants, has shut down a Portland institution permanently — Helser’s, a bright and cheerful cafe on Alberta Street specializing in classic American breakfast dishes, has closed permanently.
The restaurant made the announcement on its social media pages around noon on Wednesday, April 29. The cafe was already closed for business since March 15, the day before Gov. Kate Brown gave the executive order to close dining rooms in an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19; originally, it would be for two weeks, but that stretched indefinitely as restaurants remained closed. “It is with a heavy heart that we announce our permanent closure. This was a very hard decision for us to come to and we hope that you understand that we are heartbroken to be leaving,” the Thursday announcement reads. “These times are challenging for all involved and the path forward is uncertain. Small businesses will be forced to make difficult decisions and those that are able to stay open face a complex challenge going forward.”
Opening in 2004 in the early days of the boom of small restaurants and other businesses opening on Alberta Street, Helser’s developed a dedicated following in the last 16 years for its friendly, casual atmosphere and comforting menu of American breakfast staples like eggs Benedict, pigs in a blanket, challah French toast, and biscuits and gravy. The closing announcement was met with an outpouring of sentiment on both Facebook and Instagram: “I am so, so sad to hear this, even as I understand the necessity,” user Beth Raby writes. “For a long time, my best friend and I would have breakfast at Helser’s early on Thursday mornings. We always ordered the same thing, and it was a joy to have that ritual to keep us connected during a busy time in both our lives.”