Mama Đút, the sensational vegan Vietnamese restaurant that opened last November, is opening a second location at Alberta and 15th. The twist is that Mama Đút will be joined by Miami Nice — the vegan Cuban restaurant that also opened during the pandemic. Both restaurants will continue serving the menus that they’re known for and team up for a tapas bar concept called Miami Mama in the evenings.
Earlier this week, Thuy Pham broke the news on Instagram Live about Mama Đút’s second location in the Alberta neighborhood. She initially wasn’t sure if it was the best time for an announcement, referring to Atlanta shootings, but she felt the community needed to see some Asian joy. “I hope with the second location that I could provide more support to our community, another safe space for all of us to be, so thank you, thank you from the deepest parts of my heart,” Pham says. The video, however, did not reveal that Pham would be sharing the Alberta spot with Valerie Espinoza, who is opening the second location of her vegan Cuban restaurant Miami Nice.
When the pandemic hit, Espinoza took the plunge and secured a permanent home on Burnside for her pop-up Miami Nice. This was her way of supporting her mother and son, while sharing vegan takes on her favorite Cuban foods with Portland. In another part of town, Pham embraced her passion for vegan Vietnamese cooking while her hairstyling business was on hold during lockdown. Within months, Mama Đút became a familiar name in the Portland community, not only for its house-made vegan pork belly banh mi, but for Pham’s activism, slinging free meals for protestors at Black Lives Matter demonstrations and speaking out against social injustices on Instagram. By the time Pham opened her restaurant on Morrison, Mama Đút was a full-blown vegan sensation.
At the new shared location on Alberta, customers can find Mama Đút’s Vietnamese-style vegan eats, from jackfruit banh mi to mushroom bao to pandan waffles, and Miami Nice’s vegan Cuban fare, like empanadas, Cubano sandwiches, and flan, during the daytime. In the evenings, the space will become Miami Mama, a cocktail and tapas bar serving a fusion of the chefs’ specialties — think: empanadas filled with Mama Đút signature vegan pork belly and Miami Nice house-made seitan on banh mi. The cocktail menu will include Kulfi popsicles, like jalapeño watermelon popsicles in mojitos, and “pop in the shot” creations. The women plan to treat Miami Mama as a platform to support other makers by featuring women-owned pop-ups as rotating guests on the bar menu. Espinoza explains, “It’s our way to give back because that’s how I started, and that’s how [Pham] started. Without the kindness of others in the community, we would never be able to do what we do.”
While Portland is no stranger to food cart pods, food halls, pop-up spaces, and commissary kitchens, sharing a restaurant the way Mama Đút and Miami Nice will be doing is less common, outside of places like Tamale Boy and Smokin Fire Fish. Espinoza says she saw this format all over Los Angeles, where four or five restaurants would share a space and serve food out of takeout windows. Pham and Espinoza both liked the idea, but the opportunity did not arise until Kiran Cheema from Kulfi put the Alberta spot on Pham’s radar. Cheema had been looking for a permanent storefront, as Kulfi was outgrowing its commissary kitchen and bicycle cart setup thanks to a slew of successful events in 2020 — including pop-ups with Mama Đút. In early February, Cheema lucked out with a rare 300 square-foot space in her own neighborhood, and she shared the news with Pham; the two were working on a jackfruit popsicle for Mama Đút’s Lunar New Year menu at the time. When Cheema brought Pham to visit Kulfi’s future shop on Alberta, and the adjacent space on the corner caught Pham’s attention. “I wasn’t looking for a space, but this is a dope space. Someone should go in there,” she says. The next day, Pham brought Espinoza there. One thing lead to another, and they decided to share the corner spot.
The chefs were nervous about opening a second location so soon after their firsts, but Espinoza is embracing their meteoric rise. “What the hell are we scared of?” she says. “We both opened at the worst time to open a restaurant with no restaurant experience, and we’re both doing so good.” The decision to share the space was a powerful one as well. “I hope this partnership with Val will show the community we can coexist and uplift each other and thrive at the same time. That model needs to be talked about and amplified more,” says Pham. “Just the two of us, telling the contractors what we want. It’s an empowering and validating moment in an industry predominantly run by men.”
Many details are still up in the air — like whether or not customers can order and dine indoors — as it all depends on how things go with COVID-19, but the women are excited to join Alberta. “I hope the community really enjoys what we do with the space and feel like it’s a positive addition to the neighborhood,” Pham says.
Mama Đút and Miami Nice will open at 1477 NE Alberta St this summer; an opening date has not been set. Keep an eye on Instagram for opening updates and announcements.
• Mama Đút [Official]
• Miami Nice [Official]
• Inside Mama Dút, the Buzzy Vegan Vietnamese Pop-Up-Turned-Deli [EPDX]
• Vegan Cuban Spot Miami Nice Opens on East Burnside — In the Middle of a Pandemic [EPDX]
• Mama Dút Foods Plans a Second Location in the Alberta Neighborhood [PoMo]