Back in March 2020, Anthony and Stephanie Brown opened a food cart in the Southeast Portland Cartlandia pod — mere days after the state shut down dining rooms. The couple decided to plow ahead, pressing tortillas for tacos, frying chicken.
The cart was a hit: word spread about chef Anthony Brown’s wild and inventive Mexican-Cajun fare, the seafood-topped mac and cheese, the hypebeast brunches. The two accrued a growing team of regulars, who followed along on Instagram: The couple would share cart and menu updates in Instagram Live chats, post menu updates with specials or pop-up nights, ask for cart recommendations for the family’s days off.
But after a while, Anthony Brown wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next: He started brainstorming ideas for a roaming coffee and dessert cart, like an ice cream truck, or a taco-specific cart. Now, however, he’s landed on a new path forward: Nacheaux will share the former Alameda Brewpub space with the new bar and ice cream shop Blind Ox.
The Browns will continue to operate Nacheaux through February 21, before the couple moves into the new space. The new brick-and-mortar Nacheaux will open on March 5, with its full menu of its fried-shrimp-topped mac and cheese, Cajun fried-chicken “crunch wraps,” and churro beignets.
But the Browns won’t stop there: Anthony Brown wants to use the roomier space to make room for some of his one-off ideas, including the two carts that never came to be: Taceaux, originally slated to be its own cart, will instead be a delivery-only taqueria for apps. The dessert cart will instead be a delivery-only bakery called Sweeteatz, with the cart’s hardcore cheesecakes, tres leches cakes, and baked-to-order cookies in flavors like lemon-white chocolate-cardamom or red velvet oreo. “Once my cooks are more comfortable, then most of the pop-ups from the summer — burger, fry, and shake night, for example — will become their own concepts,” he says. “My wife always tells me ‘I know how things happen with you, just keep me in the loop.’”
Anthony Brown says that the restaurant’s menu will be very similar to Nacheaux’s current menu, with many rotating specials and add-ons like crawfish etouffée, but he also plans to dive into more diet-specific dishes — vegan smoked chanterelles for tacos, gluten-free buns for tortas. “That’s the big thing about Nacheaux: Because we did everything from scratch, if a vegan comes to the cart, I can just make it work,” he says. “Instead of ‘Okay, I can make it work,’ it’ll be more like, ‘These are the complete dishes you can have.’”
The Browns are joining a growing number of local chefs who have eyed the delivery-only business model as a way to expand, instead of operating other carts or restaurants. Diane Lam, known for her noodle soups at another 2020 star, Sunshine Noodles, is launching her delivery-only fried chicken concept, Prey + Tell, this week. The restaurant group Chefstable started its own ghost-kitchen-style restaurant incubator, Chefstable Kitchen Collective, in its catering kitchen. Many solo chefs even started hawking meals on Instagram, including things like lasagna, mochi doughnuts, and pizza. For them, it seems like a low-risk, low-overhead model to explore different ideas and see what could work for a full-blown restaurant — the business model of many food cart operators over the last 20 years.
The Browns will be saying goodbye to the cart and Cartlandia, their current pod, but they say they’re excited to be in Northeast Portland in general. “With us being right next to Pips, maybe you’ll come grab some breakfast burritos before you get some doughnuts,” Anthony Brown says. “We’re not far from Metalworks Salvage, so Matta is right there — I’m excited about the area in general.”
Nacheaux will open within the Blind Ox at 4765 NE Fremont Street.
• Nacheaux [Official]
• Blind Ox [Official]
• The Scrappiness of Portland’s Food Carts Made Them Leaders During the Pandemic [EPDX]
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