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The Restaurants and People Who Stood Up for the Community in 2021

The restaurant community grappled with issues ranging from the pandemic to cultural appropriation and racism in 2021. But as always, there were people who stood up for the community and supported one another.

Mama Dút owner Thuy Pham stands in front of a white tile wall hung with kitchen racks
Mama Dút owner Thuy Pham is one of a number of people working to elevate marginalized voices
Brian Feinzimer

“So, so many answers to this question. I’ve always been very impressed with the work Thuy Pham has done since she entered the restaurant industry last year — between her work with Rice Bowl Posse, the pop-ups she has hosted and supported, and the ways she’s spoken out about violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Portland (as well as the BIPOC community at large), she’s become the model of what it means to be an advocate, an activist, and an ally.”
-Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor

“I’m continually impressed by the ongoing and deeply felt commitment to community engagement by the team at Red Sauce Pizza. They’re always working on something—it’s never just a pizzeria, or rather, it is a kind of modern interpretation of a very old idea of the pizzeria as a nexus for community civic life. Also their calzone fucking rules.”
-Jordan Michelman, Sprudge co-founder and beverage writer

“I think any of the restaurants who were part of the first wave of businesses requiring proof of vaccination for dine-in really stepped up. They prioritized the safety of both their staff and customers, knowing that it was probably going to result in lots and lots of unnecessary spam, online harassment, and bad Yelp reviews.”
-Katrina Yentch, Eater Portland contributor

“Erica Montgomery from Erica’s Soul Food really went above and beyond by partnering with a local clinic to offer covid vaccinations on site, and giving out gift certificates to her cart as incentive. I also think Carlo Lamagna from Magna has hosted an impressive array of pop- ups at his restaurant, and it’s great that people in the community have a space where they can get their food ideas up and running.”
-Katherine Chew Hamilton, Portland Monthly food editor

“Over the past year, it’s inspiring to see so many restaurants support the community by providing free meals. What was most remarkable though is how the food community rallied to support Alley Mezza. “Community over competition” can sometimes feel like an overused trope within the restaurant world, but that collective support goes beyond community – it’s solidarity.”
-Waz Wu, Eater Portland contributor

“Nan Chaison, the owner of Mestizo and Kati, has been instrumental in supporting up and coming food businesses while being a fairly new restaurant owner herself. Throughout the pandemic, she’s used the Mestizo space to host a bunch of BIPOC-owned pop-ups: Plant Based Papi, the aforementioned Mitate, Tume, HeyDay, Sunrice, Kumare… you love to see it.”
-Janey Wong, Portland Mercury food and drink columnist

“Maybe it’s just fresh in my memory, but I was most inspired by seeing Kim Jong Grillin’, Erica’s Soul Food, Mama Đút, Mestizo, Mirisata, Lokanta, and chef Luna Contreras step up for Khaled Alshehab and Alley Mezza. They were saying a lot that I truly hope the greater Portland audience hears, both customers and other restaurant people.”
-Alex Frane, Eater Portland guest editor and contributor

“Kimberly Johnson, of Final Draft Taphouse, started a group called Brew Bevy years ago to create a space for women to enjoy and learn about craft beer together. It was nice for the women to meet in person again this year.”
-Rachel Pinsky, Eater Portland contributor, Washington correspondent

Assembly Brewing had one of the best systems for safely operating a to-go service I saw during the pandemic. I’ve been back a few times since they re-opened dine-in service, and it’s always full of people and has a warm, inviting feel. It’s the only Black-owned brewery in Portland, and supports a lot of great causes. They recently put up a phoenix mural on the outside, noting that ‘the phoenix is a sign of resilience and will to survive. Like the Phoenix, we will return!’”
-Blair Stenvick, Portland Mercury arts & culture editor