By the end of the month, Portlanders will have to say goodbye to Aviv’s vegan shawarma fries: The Middle Eastern vegan restaurant announced on Instagram that it will close all of its locations for good. The smaller shops on Killingsworth and Madison have already closed their doors; the restaurant in the Pearl will close at the end of September.
“The pandemic hit us hard, and like every single restaurant across the world, we have come up against our share of struggles and setbacks,” the Instagram post reads. “It’s been a challenging year and a half to say the least. Unfortunately, we have made the hard decision to close all Aviv locations this month. We really hoped this day would not come, but it is time.” On social media, there were no indications that a closure was coming; the restaurant had just announced the opening of Tiny Aviv on Madison in August.
Aviv made a name for itself in the Portland food scene serving Middle Eastern vegan dishes, but Tal Caspi’s most popular items — the hummus, falafel, and sabih — have been around long before the restaurant. As far back as 2012, the chef was slinging hummus out of Gonzo Falafel and Hummus food truck at D-Street Noshery, on SE 32nd and Division, before relocating the truck to Base Camp Brewing. Riding on the success of the truck and a series of pop-up dinners, Caspi opened Aviv in the former Portobello and briefly Heart Bar space in May 2017.
For four years, the Division Street dining room, outfitted with repurposed wood and charming mismatched plateware, was home to shakshuka with misozuke tofu, couscous “mac” and cashew gouda, flaky tofu “feta” bourekas, roasted carrots with cashew labneh and harissa, and all-vegan Hanukkah dinners. Last year, Aviv’s popular soy curl shawarma with hummus nestled between thick-cut fries and drizzled with tahini, amba, and zhoug was featured in “Hometown Inspiration” in season 31 of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. In December 2020, Aviv left Division and moved to the Pearl and Killingsworth. Last month, the restaurant opened its third location on Madison. Aviv was also the home base for Caspi’s ice cream line Be Sweet and Impossible Burger concept Boiga Boiga.
“I plan on taking a year off and then maybe get back to food,” Caspi told Eater Portland. “Something more simple.” Caspi mentioned he is open to personal chef jobs or other projects, as well, and can be reached at email@example.com. The vegan Indian-Southwestern restaurant, the Sudra, will take over the prime Pearl location — Sudra owner Sanjay Chandrasekaran of The Sudra is a co-owner of Aviv, as well.
To close out the Aviv era, Caspi writes on Instagram: “Thank you for the past four years, Portland. Thank you to everyone who dined with us over the years, who ordered take out before and during the pandemic, who told your friends and family about our hummus and shawarma fries, who caught our appearance on Triple D, who patronized us in our early days as Gonzo Falafel & Hummus food truck, and to everyone that’ll miss us. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Those looking to score the hummus and shawarma fries one last time can visit the Pearl restaurant until the end of September.