Brandon Stevens, the owner of Portland Cajun-Creole cart Mumbo Gumbo, grew up surrounded by omelets and grits. His grandfather opened Stagecoach in the Sacramento area in the 1970s, a wood-paneled diner where families would slide into booths for chicken-fried steaks, corned beef hash, and biscuits drenched in country gravy. “I learned how to cook and serve there,” Stevens says. “My grandfather and dad taught me everything I know.”
Now, after years growing a reputation for his Cajun-Creole food cart, Mumbo Gumbo, Stevens has decided to return to the griddle. This week, the chef will open a breakfast hall downtown, Grits n’ Gravy, in the former Little Bird Bistro space.
Sixty percent of the menu at Grits n’ Gravy comes from the Stagecoach menu, the dishes the Stevens family has cooked for decades: Southern-fried catfish in cornmeal with eggs and buttered grits, bacon waffles, biscuits and sausage gravy. Grits n’ Gravy isn’t one of those Portland spots with a tight, 10-item brunch menu — The restaurant harkens back to the old-school breakfast haunts with dozens of omelets and every possible permutation of eggs, meat, and potatoes. “They have 35 omelets on the Stagecoach menu,” Stevens says. “you give them every option that you could possibly want.”
However, given the name, Stevens’s focus lies on the two restaurant’s two namesakes. Grits n’ Gravy always serves at least four different types of gravy, from sausage to smothered onion; those gravies end up on top of biscuits, rice, and sausage patties. As for the grits, they can arrive buttered or fried with molasses, and serve as the foundation for two separate takes on shrimp and grits: One traditional version with fatback bacon and “hella cheese,” in Stevens’s words, and another with white wine, andouille sausage, and Cajun cream sauce Stevens serves at his food cart. “The Mumbo Gumbo one, I go heavy on the French techniques,” he says. “It’s a whole different ballgame.”
When Grits n’ Gravy opens on December 9, it’ll start with just food and coffee; in 2022, however, the restaurant will begin to serve mimosas, beer cocktails, and bloody marys. Grits n’ Gravy is located at 215 SW 6th Avenue.