Meteorologists anticipate a wave of winter weather Friday and Saturday in Portland due to an arctic blast that is impacting much of the country. Forecasts project anywhere from 1 to 8 inches of snow accumulation, plus freezing rain and temperatures in the teens.
Those winter conditions could make travel tricky through the weekend, which dramatically impacts diners’ and food service workers’ ability to access restaurants and food carts. Snow days can be financially disastrous for restaurant and food cart owners, who have estimated that snow days can cost them thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
For some business owners — either those unsure if they will close, or those who are closing preemptively — the solution is to lean into the concept of “stocking up.” Restaurants and carts have started offering winter meal kits ahead of the storm: large-scale family meals labeled “snowpocalypse kits” or “survival kits.” While Sugarpine Drive-In doesn’t plan to close over the weekend, the Troutdale spot will offer sandwich fixings, salads, and soups in a single kit ahead of the weekend, with food for two or three people. Deepak Saxena, the owner of Indian American restaurant Masala Lab and food carts Desi PDX and Chaat Wallah, plans to close his carts ahead of the weekend, using the restaurant space as a pickup location for meal kits. The hope is to soften the financial blow while also providing a genuine service for diners.
“It’s a lot of lost revenue,” Saxena says. “Especially this time of year, coming out of the holidays. ... This is a way to make up for some of that.”
Historically, snowstorms in Portland have impacted the restaurant industry more significantly than in other cities because of the lack of extreme weather infrastructure: Compared to the Midwest or the East Coast, snow is still relatively rare here, which means even an inch of snow has caused citywide chaos due, in part, to infrequency of plowing or de-icing measures kicking in too late. In response, business owners have called out the city for not creating safer conditions for commuters — for example, by plowing the streets more often. “I don’t mind a snow day, y’all, but this really hurts small businesses when we are forced to close every time it snows,” Jenna Legge, the owner of Jen’s Pastries, writes in an Instagram story. “Our city won’t bother to do anything about it.”
Even if businesses can open, it doesn’t mean employees will be able to work a full day, or even have customers. In past snowstorms, power outages have shut down restaurants; at food carts, keeping food and employees warm becomes a challenge, and if pipes freeze, carts can’t operate. Plus, diners are far less willing to wait outside for meals. “At a cart, unless it’s beautiful out, it’s ‘get your food and go,’” Burger Stevens owner Don Salamone told Eater in 2017. “In these winter days, we take in about $500 to $700 a day, and when we have to close...it hurts.”
However, restaurant owners and chefs are now somewhat used to things being unpredictable, between extreme weather events, wildfires, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, they now have an arsenal of alternative service models to use when conditions shift. The “snowpocalypse” kits are reminiscent of the early pandemic-era family meals sold by restaurants and carts for takeout — the idea to create larger orders for diners to use over multiple meals and to help businesses make up for loss of revenue. Some businesses never got rid of their family meal takeout offerings, and have started promoting them for the inclement weather: Por Que No is slinging its taco kits on Instagram, which it has offered for years.
Take a look at a few of the cold weather meal options below:
Customers can order “survival kit” meals for pre-order at this Northeast Portland Indian American restaurant. Meals include a pint of rice, a pint of chai concentrate, and a pint of the restaurant’s dhal or its masala pulled pork. The meal is $26 for one protein, and $31 for both the dhal and pork. Pickup is at Masala Lab from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, January 12. Venmo @desipdx to reserve. 5237 NE MLK Boulevard.
This Troutdale drive-in is preparing for the bad weather by offering a “snowpocalypse kit,” a meal for two to three people that includes fixings for two pulled pork or three grilled cheese sandwiches; a quart of tomato soup or ancho-roasted butternut squash soup with hominy, cilantro crema, and toasted pepitas; one Sugarpine salad or two sides of potato salad; and a pint of soft serve with unlimited toppings. The meal comes with optional beverage add-ons, including two mulled wines with orange-clove garnish, beer six-packs, and bottles of wine. The kit starts at $75, and is available for same-day orders. 1208 E Historic Columbia River Highway in Troutdale.
Both locations of this Portland taqueria are offering taco kits ahead of the cold weather, which are packed cold to reheat when ready. The kits come with a quart of meat or veggies, a quart each of beans and rice, 18 handmade corn tortillas, toppings like cilantro, onion, salsa verde, salsa de arbol, crema, and queso fresco. Meat options range from carnitas to barbacoa to pollo verde, and people can add pints of taco filling if interested. The kit starts at $72. Order it online for pickup. 4635 SE Hawthorne Boulevard or 3524 N Mississippi Avenue.
This Portland pie shop is offering take-and-bake pot pies for pickup ahead of the storm, with options like chicken, broccoli cheddar, and cauliflower curry. Order them directly from the store. 3402 SE Division Street.