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As Portland’s Restaurants Reopen, the City Celebrates Juneteenth With Parties and Fundraisers

During Portland’s first weekend in phase-one reopening, chefs give out free food or donate proceeds to black justice organizations

A couple sits at a metal table outside Fuel Cafe, eating breakfast and drinking coffee. Every other table is empty.
Diners eat outside Fuel Cafe on Alberta
Molly J. Smith/EPDX

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. Simultaneously, Portlanders have started nightly protests, responding to police brutality and racism both in the city of Portland and across the country. 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 and the local outcry against white supremacy. For more COVID-19 stories, check out our larger story stream.


Portland Celebrates Juneteenth

On Friday, many Portlanders celebrated Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day Federal troops began enforcing the emancipation of black Americans in Texas, who were still enslaved years after the Emancipation Proclamation. In Portland, the weekend involved several Juneteenth-related events, including a Jamboree in McCoy park and a march after-party at Revolution Hall.

Many Portland restaurants celebrated Juneteenth by raising money for the Black Resilience Fund. Founded by longtime activist Cameron Whitten and organizer Salome Chimuku, the Black Resilience Fund is a newly formed organization that raises money for black Portlanders, buying paying off expenses like rent, bills, and credit cards.

As a way of supporting the fund, several restaurants in the Portland area agreed to donate at least 10 percent of their proceeds, either only on June 19 or running through the weekend. Restaurants and bars like Aviv, Mediterranean Exploration Company, Red Sauce Pizza, and The Oregon Public House participated, along with more than 150 other businesses. The fund has currently raised more than $767,000.

Outside of the actual day, the weekend still involved lots of celebration and free food in honor of the protests and black Portland. On Saturday, the group Snack Bloc — which provides water, snacks, and other resources to protesters — threw a large block party at Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, underneath the Hawthorne Bridge. A number of Portland food and drink businesses participated, including Deadstock Coffee, vegan Vietnamese brand Mama Dut Foods, and Kulfi PDX. The event also included performances by people like Portland rapper Karma Rivera and legendary drag performer Poison Waters. Throughout the weekend, some of the businesses that have been providing free meals to black Portlanders continued to do so — Trap Kitchen gave out free meals on Saturday, with help from a big donation from Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum; Kee’s Loaded Kitchen gave out meals on Sunday.

Portland Begins the Reopening Process

The other big event of the weekend: Portland began the reopening process, which meant Portland restaurant and bar owners could start serving customers onsite. Many restaurants chose to stay closed this weekend; however, a significant handful did open up their patios and/or dining rooms for drinks and meals, including Gado Gado, R&R Bar, and Prost. This list covers a handful that announced plans to open Friday, but even more began to open doors as the weekend continued.

However, new coronavirus cases continue to accumulate in the Portland area. On Sunday, Multnomah County broke a record for the most new cases in a single day, with 84 new cases. As an attempt to curb the spread, Gov. Kate Brown mandated that everyone in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and four other counties wear masks in indoor spaces like grocery stores. Restaurants and bars don’t need to mandate that customers wear masks while eating and drinking.

Restaurants Back in the Takeout Game

• Nostrana has reopened for takeout, with things like Dungeness crab linguini and saffron arancini. The restaurant is also producing “Protest Pizzas,” which are free to marchers. Non-marchers can also order the pizza, in exchange for a $100 donation to The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Takeout returns Thursday.
• Instead of just teaming up with the Ava Gene’s takeout program, Tusk has begun its own takeout program, with a menu of sandwiches, salads, and mezze, among other dishes. It’s available Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Canard has started doing takeout and even delivery on Caviar, with dishes like the restaurant’s popular steam burgers, its “duck stack” pancakes with duck sausage gravy, and soft-serve sundaes.
Oui Chippy, a fish and chips shop located in Scotch Lodge, is now open, with fish sandwiches, Sichuan lamb poutine, and the “chip butty,” a fry sandwich.

Note: Waz Wu, an Eater Portland contributor, collaborated with Mama Dut Foods at the Snack Bloc event.

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