In 2009, Jeff Ridabock opened the vegan barbecue stand Homegrown Smoker with his family, after a career as a chef and meat seller. The concept was a hit, accruing lengthy lines for its smoked soy curls and tempeh ribs; Ridabock went on to open a food cart, then a deli in Goose Hollow and, eventually, a St. Johns restaurant. There, Ridabock wrapped vegan mac and cheese in burritos, stuffed vegan cheesesteaks in hoagie rolls, and fried hush puppies in a sunny Lombard space.
However, on December 3, the restaurant’s team announced Ridabock’s impending departure. “Many of you know our founder Jeff, and his wild origin story of transitioning from being a meat salesman to a vegan restaurant owner,” the post reads. “He started this lil biz that became a smokey vegan empire at the age of 51, and it’s time for him to slow down a little and enjoy life more.”
The future of the business, however, is uncertain; the space and the concept is for sale, so theoretically, someone could buy Homegrown Smoker and keep it going. However, so far, Ridabock has yet to find a buyer; if the team does not find someone to keep the business going, Homegrown Smoker’s final day of service will be December 19.
Homegrown Smoker was a trailblazer in the vegan restaurant world, beyond Portland proper; its vegan barbecue model, smoking things like soy curls and tempeh, has been replicated around the country since its opening. Even versions of its macnocheeto — its vegan mac and cheese burrito — can be found on other vegan menus around the city. “As far as I know, we were the first all-vegan barbecue in the world and that was 2009,” Ridabock told Eater in 2018. “I haven’t had anyone challenge me on that claim.”
Today, Portland is home to a number of vegan restaurants and carts selling meatless ribs and cheeseless mac and cheese, and Portland’s overarching vegan scene has expanded to include Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, and Mexican cuisines. However, the local market is in a state of flux: A number of Portland vegan spots have recently closed, including Aviv, Dinger’s Deli, and Alley Mezza. Homegrown Smoker, however, is one of the city’s older vegan institutions, one that has inspired other vegan chefs to open their own businesses. “I have such an attachment to your food,” reads one comment posted by the Ditto PDX cart, known for its vegan breakfast sandwiches. “Thanks for feeding me all these years (even before I went veg).”
Those interested in buying Homegrown Smoker can contact broker Chantal Angot.