While Alexandria Guevarra was growing up in the Bay Area, she spent most of her evenings as her mother’s prep cook and pastry chef. Her mother would make dishes like chicken adobo and kare kare while Guevarra chopped onions, peeled garlic. These moments, with her mother in the kitchen, are the ones that define their relationship: For all their differences, the throughline — the way Guevarra most often interacted with her Filipino culture during that period of her life — was through food.
Now, Guevarra’s pop-up, Allie G’s Pastries, has become one of the most exciting Instagram food businesses born out of the last two years, an exploration of her culinary identity that incorporates her personal and professional history. And starting today, August 19, Portlanders will be able to try her chicken adobo pot pies and kaldereta empanadas three days each week, a residency within the outdoor kitchen on Kenton restaurant Derby’s back patio.
When Guevarra moved to Portland in 2016, she began working as a bartender at Multnomah Whiskey Library. In the following years, she moved up the ranks behind the bar — that is, until the pandemic began. She started bringing meals of pancit, lumpia, and chicken adobo to her unemployed coworkers, complete with mini-pies and pastries. Their encouragement was overwhelming, so with the support of — and plenty of nudging by — her former colleagues and friends, she began to prepare her pop-up.
In the time since her first pop-up, selling pre-ordered meals out of her domestic kitchen on New Year’s Eve, buzz surrounding Allie G’s Pastries has grown exponentially. Bi-weekly, Guevarra has hawked corned beef pandesal, chicken adobo pot pies, and ube cheesecakes for pre-order via her Instagram account. She started showing up at bake sales and markets, selling pastries at the Nikkei Bake Sale and Zuckercreme events. While working the Turo Turo Barbecue at the Side Yard Farm, Guevarra met Judith Stokes, a Portland culinary world vet and the owner of Derby. Within a week of knowing each other, Stokes offered Guevarra the restaurant’s outdoor kitchen for a two-month-minimum residency, in which the baker and chef could serve her adobo pot pies, pancit, and lumpia three nights each week. “I’ve known about Judy for a while, and the fact she’s also Filipina is great,” Guevarra says. “When I first moved here, I was the only Filipina I knew... I felt like we were comfortable with each other right away.”
The menu at Allie G’s pop-up will be exclusively savory, a compilation of some of her greatest hits with a few rotating, seasonal dishes. Just because Guevarra won’t be selling sweets doesn’t mean she’ll avoid pastry altogether — many of the Filipino dishes Guevarra makes incorporate her pastry training. She fills many doughs and breads with Filipino standbys: One of her empanadas encases a center of meatless kaldereta, a hearty vegetable stew, and she bakes buns filled with braised pork asado. But her signature — potentially the dish she is most proud of — is the chicken adobo pot pie. “When I was (developing the recipe), I cried eating it for the first time,” she says. “It was the best thing I had ever made.”
Guevarra’s approach to her food is to generally adapt her mother’s recipes and make them her own. For example, her “Mama G’s Lumpia,” named for her mom, is Guevarra’s own vegan interpretation of the dish. “I was making things my mom taught me to, or cooking them with her on Zoom, but I found my own twists,” she says. “I would remember what she made, but I would make it mine.” The shop’s pancit will swap out seasonal vegetables from the Filipinx-owned Kasama Farm, one of Allie G’s handful of meatless dishes.
On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, customers will walk up to the outdoor stand on the back patio and place orders directly from Guevarra; those interested in drinks can order them from Derby’s bar. The current plan is to stay at Derby for two months, but Guevarra may stay longer if it feels like a good fit. There will be some days in the next two months when Guevarra will not be at Derby — she will be selling pastries at the Street Bazaar and Taste for Equity — but generally, the Derby pop-up is something like a test-run for a potential restaurant or bakery in the future. “I’ve been relying on the support of these beautiful humans,” she says. “This is the step I need to getting my own place.”
In general, Guevarra’s whirlwind 2021 has been more than a professional triumph; it’s been a crucial examination of her own relationship with her Filipino American identity. She has participated in antiracist bake sales, raised money for the Asian Mental Health Collective and the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, and donated to the Filipino Bayanihan Center. “As a kid, I wanted to feel close to whiteness, because I didn’t feel connected to Pinoy culture. People would say, ‘Oh, Allie wasn’t born in the Philippines, Allie doesn’t speak Tagalog.’ I felt like I wasn’t enough,” she says. “Doing my own antiracist work, I realized I felt ashamed of who I was... This is the least I can do right now.”
Allie G’s Pastries will be open starting at 4:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, at 8220 N Denver Avenue.