As the COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon continues to impact the local restaurant market, stories are popping up across the city, from food cart owners giving away free meals to chefs starting Instagram cooking classes. In this new version of AM Intel, we dive into different ways the state’s food service industry has been responding to the global pandemic. For more COVID-19 stories, check out our larger story stream.
• Portland activists and allies have been paying black-owned businesses like Kee’s to feed the masses for free. Last weekend, however, a big-name benefactor handled a few days of free meals — Portland-raised rapper Aminé. Trap Kitchen, the food cart known for its teriyaki-filled pineapple bowls, served free meals on Saturday, paid for by the rapper; he also sent money to Kee’s for more free meals.
• Meanwhile, Pix Patisserie’s new, fancy vending machine, the “Pix-O-Matic,” spent the weekend serving dumplings from the late-great Lucky Strike, a Sichuan restaurant that closed in 2015.
• The week started on a sad note: Blue Star Donuts, the brioche-centric, pseudo-twee doughnut chain with locations across Portland, permanently closed three more shops in the Portland area, including its downtown flagship, leaving one location open on SE Division. Founder Katie Poppe isn’t sure what will happen to the three others that are still temporarily closed — “So much depends on being able to pivot, on being able to resurrect sales, on successfully navigating all these new regulations and protecting the health and safety of our staff and customers — it just takes time,” she says. “But hey, we’re scrappy and doing our damnedest to figure it out with what we have to work with.”
• As protests continued across the Portland area against police brutality, people have been calling for a “defunding” of the Portland police — including Portland business owners. A number of restaurant owners and managers have signed and shared a petition calling for a significant cut to the current police budget. On Thursday evening, the city council did not pass the current proposed budget.
• Blue Star wasn’t the only restaurant to announce closures: Revelry, one of the buzziest openings of 2016 and a favorite for its peanut-brittle-y fried chicken, will not reopen.
• Today, the long-anticipated Japanese spot Tonari — from Nodoguro team Ryan and Elena Roadhouse — opens for the first time, temporarily sticking to takeout. The menu includes everything from beef tongue tonkatsu (“tonguekatsu”) to bitter melon salad, with a customizable “teishoku set” meal that comes with proteins like black cod, sides like amur seaweed salad, and a choice of black rice or cauliflower rice. It looks like all the Friday menus are already sold out, but people can pre-order for Saturday.
• What won’t open this weekend is any Portland restaurant dining room. The governor has decided to pause the processing of counties’ phased reopening applications, which included Multnomah County’s application to enter phase one reopening. “The noticeable increase in COVID-19 infections in Oregon over the past week is cause for concern,” a press release from the governor’s office reads. “In order to ensure that the virus is not spreading too quickly, I am putting all county applications for further reopening on hold for seven days. This is essentially a statewide ‘yellow light.’ It is time to press pause for one week before any further reopening.” The governor is expected to provide more details in a press conference this morning.