Just six months ago, Jewan Manuel’s pop-up turned restaurant, Plant Based Papi, opened on Morrison, serving vegan comfort foods ranging from Nashville fried chicken sandwiches to mac-and-cheese tacos to mushroom scallop alfredo. Now, as Manuel renovates the Morrison shop, the chef is expanding into new neighborhoods: starting a chef residency at Bit House Collective, and taking over the kitchen at Fortune nightclub when it reopens in the former Jackknife space in the Sentinel hotel later this month.
On June 22, Plant Based Papi announced on Instagram that it would be starting a three-month long chef residency at Bit House Collective, which previously hosted Filipino hotspot Magna. In the meantime, the shop on Morrison will undergo renovations to better accommodate walk-ups when it reopens. At Bit House, the chef will offer the first Plant Based Papi sit-down experience with crispy birria tacos, jalapeño mac and cheese, fried “chicken” sandwiches, and even a birria burrito. The Instagram announcement didn’t reveal Manuel’s next move: Old Town Chinatown nightclub Fortune is taking over the former Jackknife space in the Sentinel hotel, and Plant Based Papi will join the kitchen.
Faced with the additional challenges of the pandemic, Fortune announced its closure in September 2020 after a two-year-long legal battle with the building owners. About six months ago, Fortune owner Eric Bowler reached out to Manuel asking about future plans for Plant Based Papi. The two have known each other for years: In Manuel’s perspective, Bowler, who is vegan and was once a touring DJ, has always played the hottest and newest music at Fortune. Two months ago, Bowler and Manuel reconnected and set things into motion. The men kept the details to themselves, until Bowler broke the news on social media Sunday.
Connected to the Sentinel lobby, Jackknife — a Lighting Bar Collective cocktail bar with a moody whiskey lounge vibe — closed in May 2020 due to the pandemic. With Fortune and Plant Based Papi moving in, Bowler and Manuel hope to bring in a whole different energy; the venue will receive a cheerful makeover to create a welcoming and all-inclusive lounge space. Kyle Faul, formerly a bar manager at Century, will develop an entirely vegan drink menu for Fortune using Oregon beer, wine, and spirits. And in the kitchen, Manuel will develop a menu of accessible and creative vegan food.
At Fortune, Manuel will serve popular items from his pop-ups and shop, such as four-cheese pasta, Caprese burgers, and the Papi Burger — Manuel’s vegan take on an In-N-Out burger — in addition to vegan fried “chicken” made with battered and deep-fried jackfruit. The menu is still very much in the works, but the chef plans to introduce new sides, like Texas toast using Dos Hermanos bread served with a house-made agave-coconut “honey” butter. For dessert, Manuel plans to serve cinnamon roll sticky buns and ice cream. There’s one thing that diners won’t find at Fortune though: tacos. Manuel says he’s keeping some ideas to himself, reserving the Plant Based Papi signature item for his own restaurant and the Bit House residency.
The pop-up, which Manuel says started with a joke — referring to the Plant Based Papi nickname coined by his friends — has come a long way from June 2019, when only eight customers showed up at his first pop-up in front of Workshop Vintage. The past two years have been a whirlwind: pop-ups all over Portland with lines wrapping around the block, online orders that sold out in less than 10 minutes, opening his own restaurant next to Portland’s other hot new vegan restaurant.
The move into the prime downtown venue is the next step in the journey, both in terms of his progression as a chef and in terms of the city’s growing vegan market. When Fortune opens, Plant Based Papi will be on both sides of town; the west side has fewer vegan restaurants, compared to the clusters of vegan food in Inner Southeast and Northeast Portland, and considering some tourists only experience downtown Portland when they visit, getting exceptional vegan food in that neighborhood is crucial. “The east side is a vegan mecca. Other than Aviv, there aren’t many vegan options in the southwest Portland area,” he says. “How beautiful that people can come from a different state, into this environment to sit down, enjoy food, and order cocktails.”
Manuel is excited to dive into this new project at a time when the food industry is changing, especially while so many of Portland’s Black business owners are gaining prominence across the city. He says Ian Williams of Deadstock Coffee has been a great mentor at a distance, and Fatou Ouattara of Akadi — one of his go-to neighborhood restaurants — has taught him how to navigate the food industry. The chef admires Erica’s Soul Food, Nacheaux, and Everybody Eats, who have found success in the midst of the pandemic. “Black ownership is making moves in this town,” he says. “You can feel it... and see Black joy.”
Plant Based Papi is currently in residency at Bit House Collective at 727 SE Grand Ave; the restaurant is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to midnight. Plant Based Papi will serve plates at Fortune at 614 SW 11th Avenue when it opens in the Sentinel later this month.
• Vegan Pop-Up Plant Based Papi Is Opening a Full-Blown Restaurant This Month [EPDX]
• Old Town Bar Fortune Closes After Years of Legal Battles With Its Landlord [EPDX]
• Starting Next Week, Plant Based Papi Will Take Over the Kitchen at Bit House for Three Months [EPDX]