There’s a fairly common narrative in Portland’s restaurant world of food carts transitioning to a brick and mortar location—Fried Egg I’m in Love, Malka, Gumba, and GrindWitTryz are just a few examples in recent years. But a new story has started to emerge, which is that of pop-ups transitioning to more permanent locations, and Mitate is one of those stories. Starting sometime in early June, the vegan sushi pop-up will have a food cart at the Collective Oregon Eateries, or CORE, food pod.
Owners Nino Ortiz and Summer Ortiz first opened Mitate at Ruse Brewing before moving to the Mercado and, eventually, to Mestizo on SE Division Street. At each location it operated as a takeout pop-up shop, offering innovative takes on vegan, gluten-free sushi that soon garnered a dedicating following; many of the pop-ups would sell out with pre-orders. However, the couple always had plans for a permanent brick and mortar space, and moving into a food cart is one step along the way. “We want to have one restaurant and make it as best we can,” says Nino Ortiz. “A place where people want to work and have good food and good drinks.”
For now the team, which includes chef Thai Nguyen, is ready to hone their skills and perfect their menu with the food cart at the sprawling pod at CORE. Fans of the pop-up will find their favorites on the menu, as well as some new items. All of it will remain vegan and gluten-free, with a familiar emphasis on seasonality and locality. “It’s a time for us to experiment and figure things out with a whole year’s worth of seasons. We feel like having a consistent menu, but we do want to expand to accommodate families,” says Nino Ortiz. “Our menu right now is all “speciality” things, more complicated food. We’ll probably add more traditional rolls, but still vegan.”
Mitate’s food cart will open in early June at 3612 SE 82nd Avenue. Nino Ortiz says he would like to have the brick and mortar location open by the same time next year.