The new owner of White Pepper recently resurrected a popular neighborhood dining event. Over the last few years, the catering company and event space at 7505 NE Glisan Street remained closed to walk-in customers. Its thriving business instead focused on cooking for weddings and hosting baby showers, keeping the crew of 22 food service staff busy during the peak summer seasons. However, feeling a need to connect with the neighborhood and wanting to reignite a tradition started by the previous owners, Abel Ley decided to bring Burger Thursdays back to his business.
White Pepper will offer Burger Thursdays year-round, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the potential for other special events scattered in-between. The menu includes their Classic Burger, which is a smash burger with double patties and double cheese, topped with onions, lettuce, tomato, and mustard. The staff created the Signature White Pepper Burger to upgrade the mainstay dish. “That one we fancy up a little bit. We do a little feta aioli on there, some seared pork belly slices, and roasted tomatoes… to bring it all together,” Ley explained. The menu also contains salad, appetizers, and an alliterative to a beef burger. “We have a fried chicken sandwich that’s very good with our house-made summer squash Pickles and a white Alabama BBQ sauce,” said Ley. Diners can pair their burger with house-cut fries and an assortment of drinks. White Pepper features a full bar and sometimes collaborates with other local businesses like Threshold Brewing & Blending.
In 2010, Abel Ley started his career in Arizona, completing Culinary school and working all over the food service industry. After climbing up the ranks to executive sous chef in a high-end hotel, he soon desired a more creative environment with a balanced work life. After the arrival of a second child, Ley and his wife decided to relocate the family to Portland, arriving in October 2020. In an interesting turn of fate, Ley interviewed for a position at White Pepper but declined the job offer, instead pursuing another opportunity. When the catering company became available to purchase a few years later, he felt it was a business he could put his creative energies towards. “White Pepper as a company has been around for about eight years. I took over in April,” explained Ley. “It was this space that really drew me to White Pepper as a business itself. I thought there was a lot of potential with being able to connect with the neighborhood, and it’s right here on the corner, very visible. The idea that I could create any type of concept or restaurant do pop-ups and have some fun during the offseason, that was very exciting to me.”
White Pepper seats 25 to 30 people at a time. Staff served upwards of 40 people during the inaugural Burger Thursday last week. Many of those guests previously attended the weekly events before the pandemic and were ecstatic to see it return. Although walk-in food service is fun for the White Pepper staff, Ley explained that catering will always be core to their operation. “Our bread and butter is our summer weddings, and that’s basically what we focus on.” Those events, and other catering jobs, feature foods that highlight seasonal ingredients of the Northwest. However, their smoked fish offerings are what they are best know for. “One of our main sellers is our Pacific Northwest salmon that we smoke on cedar planks, and we put a little parsley pesto right on the top. A very simple, lightly smoked fish, and I think that’s a perfect example of what we do here,” said Ley.
Burger Thursdays is a fun, community-focused project where the White Pepper culinary team can break out of their catering menu. As the nights get darker and colder, people have a new dining option in a warm and vibrant space along NE Glisan Street. Make sure to visit them some Thursday evening or book the restaurant for the private gathering if burgers are not to your liking.
Update April 20th, 2023: A previous version of this article stated that Burger Thursdays would run through March. Due to the popularity of the weekly event, the White Pepper staff decided to continue it throughout the year. The owners may need to skip some weeks due to catering schedules but will announce those closures on social media.
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