Pop-ups are an essential part of an innovative and fun food scene. They allow chefs to showcase the food and drink they are passionate about in a casual, low-risk way, while demonstrating their talent and scope of imagination. In Portland, pop-ups have been the jumping off point for a number of exciting restaurants, from James Beard Award-nominated chef Thomas Pisha Duffly’s Gado Gado to the brand new, up-and-coming pizzeria No Saint. In 2023, Portland will see many more pop-ups level up into new businesses, as other brand-new pop-ups emerge in the new year. Below, we compiled a list of pop-ups to keep an eye on as they experiment and exhibit their talent, opening up new venues and more. This list will be updated throughout the year. Have you visited a recurring pop-up that blew your mind? Let us know via our tip line.
Longtime Teardrop bartenders David Rodriguez and Nick Flower have teamed for a pop-up focusing on high quality cocktails in a fun, electric atmosphere, serenaded by ‘90s and early 2000s jams. The aim is to serve cheerful and forgotten classic cocktails like palomas and sours, as well as things like the Imperial Buck — pineapple, fresh ginger syrup, rum, and soda. Each hoped to open separate bars, but investors fell through, each still plan to open their own spaces; the pop-up is an excellent way to become acquainted with them before either bar opens. Face/Off will appear around the city on a weekly basis Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays starting in January. The first pop up will be at Mestizo on January 22 with food by Mestizo and another beloved pop-up, Sunrice.
Learn more: @faceoffpopup
It was a bit of a shock when founding chef Lauro Romero stepped down from his nationally and locally award-winning restaurant República, in order to revive his long standing pop-up, Clandestino. During most of his career, Romero cooked loosely defined “new American‘’ cuisine at places such as Bambara in Salt Lake City and King Tide Fish & Shell in Portland. Romero started Clandestino as a way to explore the Mexican food of his childhood with the tools he picked up in professional kitchens. Now, Romero is returning to his pop-up to continue to explore and share his heritage and culture, serving dishes like whole fish adobado and skirt steak asado. Currently, Clandestino can be found at Lil’ Dame, the new pop-up incubator from the team at Dame Restaurant, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Lil’ Dame is located at 5425 NE 30th Avenue.
Learn more: https://www.clandestinopdx.com
Portlanders already know and love Matta’s breakfast sandwich, available for just a few hours on Sundays. On Monday and Tuesday mornings, however, another hot new breakfast sandwich is available a few steps away. This new Filipino American pop-up, stationed within food cart Baon Kainan, serves a sausage patty, fried egg, cheddar, and sundried-tomato-garlic aioli on a house-baked pandesal, straightforward and delicious in a city that could use more breakfast sandwich culture. Balong’s menu includes a few other fun dishes, but the breakfast sandwich is the real draw. Baon Kainan is located at 807 NE Couch Street.
Learn more: https://www.instagram.com/eat.balong/
Veteran chef Luna Contreras, originally from Guadalajara, has worked in Portland mainstays like Ox and Michelin-recognized restaurants like San Francisco’s Mamacita. In 2021, Contreras revived her pop up Chelo PDX, named for her grandmother, as a pop-up. Chelo’s emphasis on vegetable-heavy Mexican street food and drinking snacks involved dishes like fried chickpeas, gorditas, and sopes with cured duck eggs. After an appearance on Snack vs. Chef in 2022 and a brief tenure at Janken, Contreras is onto even bigger and brighter things, including upcoming pop-ups at Dame, as well as a forthcoming bakery and snack bar. It’ll be a good year to get to know Contreras, as she levels up.
Learn more: https://www.instagram.com/chelopdx/
Meliora Pasta was an up-and-coming food cart serving wild pasta dishes incorporating a broad spectrum of components (think: coffee-braised beef ravioli with meaty coconut caramel sauce, salsa macha, lime, and mint). Chef and owner Jim Millar worked in Chicago at the former Michelin-starred restaurant Spiaggia, where he met his wife and fellow cart co-owner and chef, Breckin VanRaalte. When the food cart closed, they pivoted to becoming a pop-up, which should kick off once again in February — location and dates are coming soon to the pop-up’s Instagram.
Learn more: https://www.instagram.com/meliorapasta/?hl=en
Since mid-2022, Bernstein’s Bagels alumnus — and member of the now-extinct band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down — Adam Thompson has developed a following for his creative sourdough bialys. Bialys, sort of a filled bread roll that is a far-off cousin of the bagel, are hard to find in Portland, which makes Thompson’s take on them even more special: Visitors will find bialys filled with everything from white miso and caramelized onions to black tahini and chile crisp. In 2023, Thompson has also found a spot within the super hot pop-up incubator Lil’ Dame, which means Portlanders will be able to get bialys on a regular basis, every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Learn more: https://www.instagram.com/bialybird/
Correction: This story was corrected to show that Contreras will be popping up at Dame, not Lil’ Dame. This story has also been corrected to show the Meliora Pasta chef’s name is Jim Millar, not Miller.