Trinket, an intimate neighborhood brunch spot on César E. Chávez Boulevard, has permanently closed in the face of COVID-19. Owner Gina Helvie announced on Instagram that the restaurant couldn’t survive the the pandemic and subsequent protective regulations, unable to accommodate most social distancing guidelines.
Since 2013, weekend drivers heading down the busy street would see small crowds waiting outside a nondescript building. Inside, the place exemplified Portland brunch: In a cozy, vintage dining room with dark-stained wood booths, diners would order from a menu of familiar, comforting brunch items like biscuits and gravy, savory waffles, and duck eggs Benedict.
One of the primary reasons for its closing was its cozy space — with only 970 square feet, including the bar, kitchens, and restrooms, it would be nearly impossible to adhere to the distancing laws keeping tables six feet apart. And for Helvie, takeout was never an option. “The food suffers so much. Waffles, eggs Benedict, those aren’t things you want to eat later,” she says. “No one wants to eat eggs that were cooked half an hour ago or even 15 minutes ago. When I looked at the possible scenarios, all the ways we’d have to struggle moving forward, it didn’t make sense to take out a loan to make less money than we were before.”
Trinket joins the several other restaurants that have closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of those restaurants are also breakfast cafes — Helser’s, Arleta Library Bakery & Cafe, Blackheart, and Off the Waffle will not reopen in their current locations, and many of those restaurants’ owners specifically attributed the closure to their inability to accommodate social distancing. Portland’s tiny breakfast cafes, too small for socially distanced tables, may also have chefs nervous about sending out hollandaise and poached eggs for a 25-minute delivery drive. That leaves them with very few options — outside of reopening in a new space when coronavirus peters out.
At the moment, Helvie doesn’t have a plan to open anything new in the future, but she’s throwing an open house at Trinket on Sunday, June 7. “We’re going to sell off the rest of our wine and beer stock, and we’re going to sell OJ to go with it for mimosa kits... some dried beans, coffee, and hot sauce,” she says. “But the main thing is that I want to let the regulars come in and say goodbye.”