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A fried patty sandwich, katsu sandwich, shokupan plate, and more at Tanaka in Portland, Oregon.

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Inside Tanaka, the New Shokupan Sandwich Shop and Japanese Bakery in Downtown Portland

From the team behind ramen destination Afuri, Tanaka stacks house-baked shokupan with katsu-fried wagyu beef, builds pyramids of pistachio sponge cake with raspberry compote, and serves miso croissants with cinnamon lattes

An assortment of dishes at Tanaka, a new sandwich shop and bakery from the team behind Japanese ramen brand Afuri.
| Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Tanaka — the new shokupan-centric sandwich shop and bakery from the team behind Afuri — is the fact nothing like it already exists in Portland. Part Japanese patisserie, part katsu sandwich shop, part brunch cafe, the combination seems to be an obvious win in Portland, a sister city to Sapporo, Japan with a passion for baking and a strong sandwich culture. Tanaka is more centrally located than Oyatsupan, the beloved Japanese bakery in Beaverton; it offers a wider selection than Tokyo Sando, the blockbuster food cart known for its shokupan sandwiches, and the now-closed shokupan cafe Kimura Toast Bar.

Instead, Tanaka — which opens Saturday, June 25 in downtown Portland — offers a little bit of everything: milk bread sandwiches filled with fruit and whipped cream, sandwiches layered with katsu-fried wagyu beef or pork, macarons in flavors like pistachio and ume, miso croissants and matcha dorayaki. The pastry case is filled with elaborate desserts like black-sesame-raspberry Paris Brest, yuzu meringue tart with shiso and blackberries, a pyramid of pistachio sponge with raspberry compote and dark chocolate mousse. Out of the kitchen, milk bun breakfast sandwiches are simply adorned with a swipe of whole-grain mustard and herbed aioli, while the Francisco — a play on a Portuguese Francesinha — smothers a bacon, ham and linguiça sandwich with an egg and brown gravy.

The inspiration for Tanaka wasn’t actually its milk bread, but rather its katsu sauce. Tanaka’s Tokyo-based sister restaurant, Kushikatsu Tanaka, serves skewers with a sauce based on a 70-year-old recipe. The Portland cafe’s sauce, made using the same recipe, now arrives swiped on shokupan supporting crispy fried pork loin — also available to take home from the restaurant’s small retail section. But even considering the through-line of the company’s sauce, shokupan is the real draw here: On the wall of the bakery, a line of text reads, “Of everything in the world, who knew bread would bring all these beautiful people together?”

Take a look inside Tanaka ahead of its opening below. The restaurant is located at 678 SW 12th Avenue.

Text on a blue wall reads “Of everything in the world, who knew bread would bring all these beautiful people together?”
“Of everything in the world, who knew bread would bring all these beautiful people together?”
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Wooden seating near the counter at Tanaka in Portland.
Most of the seating at Tanaka is communal, in view of the order counter and pastry case.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
The window seating at Tanaka in Portland, Oregon.
Taking over the former Blue Star Donuts location, seating along the windows looks out onto downtown Portland.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
The coffee counter at Tanaka in Portland.
Good Coffee supplies the coffee for Tanaka, also creating a house blend for the cafe.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Tanaka’s menu boards hang over the pastry case, which is filled with fruit sandwiches, pastries, mousse, and jars.
The cold case at Tanaka is stocked with pastries, fruit sandwiches, and retail sauces to take home.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
A man in a baseball cap places fries next to a sandwich at Tanaka.
Ryan McMullen, culinary director at Afuri and Tanaka, prepares a Francisco katsu sandwich.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Hands surround a shokupan sandwich at Tanaka, as if it’s about to be picked up. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
A katsu sandwich sits, sliced in two, on a plate at Tanaka. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
A sandwich with sauce, cabbage, and a breaded-and-deep-fried patty at Tanaka. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
A gravy-smothered sandwich comes with fries at Tanaka. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

The Francisco, a sandwich with bacon, ham, linguisa, white cheddar and gravy.

Tanaka, a new sandwich shop and bakery from the team behind Japanese ramen brand Afuri, in Portland on Thursday, June 23, 2022. The restaurant is taking over the former Blue Star Donuts location on Morrison in Downtown Portland.
The pastry case at Tanaka.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Rows of desserts on wooden boards at Tanaka. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
A mousse sits next to a strawberry cake at Tanaka in Portland, Oregon. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
The black sesame Paris Brest comes filled with raspberries and black sesame mousse. Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

A black sesame Paris Brest and other desserts at Tanaka.

Tanaka’s fruit sandwiches are milk bread with fresh whipped cream and individual fruit. Left to right: golden kiwi, strawberry, and pineapple.
Fruit sandwiches made with milk bread.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland
Tanaka’s desserts, from left to right: strawberry cake with vanilla mousse and strawberry compote; milk tea panna cotta with toasted barley and coffee shoyu boba; yuzu meringue tart; chocolate pyramid cake with raspberry and pistachio; black sesame Paris Brest with raspberries; chocolate hazelnut cake with caramel glaze.
A lineup of desserts at Tanaka.
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

TANAKA

678 Southwest 12th Avenue, , OR 97205 (503) 914-3326 Visit Website

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