Back in 2018, Bonnie and Israel Morales — the owners of the celebrated Russian restaurant Kachka — took their original sliver of a restaurant and transformed it into a cheeky Slavic-themed bar. Kachinka, as they called it, served things like Moscow mule slushies, fries topped with gravy called “Vladimir Poutine,” and a braised cabbage and meatball sub called the “Red October.” It was meant to be very casual and accessible, a place to stop by for a bowl of dumplings or some horseradish vodka.
However, the bar closed in the fall of 2019 to gauge some water damage. The closure was originally only meant to last a few months, but in an email sent out to newsletter subscribers this week, Bonnie and Israel Morales confirmed that Kachinka would not reopen. “We had to say goodbye to our original location which, most recently, had been home to Kachinka. With our lease ending, it seemed foolish to renew during all of this,” the newsletter reads. “We built out that rickety space with our own hands, and though we know it no longer serves us, it is pure heartache driving by on Grand Ave. where it once was.”
In a conversation with Eater PDX, Bonnie Morales clarified that this closure wasn’t solely tied to the financial impact of COVID-19, though it was a significant factor. “It’s hard to say what the nail in the coffin was,” she says. “Without COVID, we would have reopened, we intended to do so. But would we have renewed our lease? That would have depended on sales.”
The Moraleses had been using the Kachinka space as a commissary, a place to ramp up their dumpling production. But the actual layout of the restaurant was tight, a narrow, intimate dining room. To open for any sort of indoor dining right now would be unsafe, with limited airflow, and outdoor dining off Grand was not really an option. “What made our original space and Kachinka more magical is what makes the space completely unusable [during COVID-19],” Israel Morales says.
Meanwhile, the current Kachka space, with its high ceilings and shiny new HVAC system, was a good place to move the entire operation. In the last year, Bonnie and Israel Morales have built out other arms of their business, including their line of vodkas and frozen dumplings. Down the line, when Kachka reopens for indoor dining, it may introduce a late-night happy hour similar to the offerings at Kachinka, but the Moraleses aren’t necessarily looking at opening another restaurant anytime soon. “Yes we had to say goodbye to our original space, we loved it so much,” Bonnie Morales says, “but the positive side of that is to be able to walk in the door, feeling like I can say hello to everyone who works here, instead of feeling like I’m never really present.”
Kachka’s adjoining market, Kachka Lavka, remains open on SE 11th, and customers can still order takeout from Kachka. The Morales family is currently planning out the next iteration of Kachka’s outdoor restaurant for when the weather improves.