Category: Food and Drink

Monti’s Cafe Pauses Operation Until March

In a January 19th Instagram post, the owners of Monti’s Cafe announced they would close the cafe until sometime in March. The popular restaurant at 8600 SE Stark Street is struggling to keep adequate staffing levels and needs the time to regroup. The adjoining business, Monticello Antiques, remains open with regular hours.

During the pandemic, the cafe’s customers have witnessed many positive updates to Monti’s Cafe. In April of last year, construction work transformed a three-car parking lot into a fenced courtyard with many outdoor dining amenities. Unlike other temporary structures built throughout Portland, this investment was a permeant commitment to making customers comfortable. However, spending on business upgrades will not solve all COVID-19 related issues.

Monti’s Cafe owner Kelli Vinther explained that they are facing similar employee retention issues seen across the foodservice industry these last few years, along with other market forces brought about by current circumstances. “Like many restaurants in Portland, it’s the same issues. Staff shortage and this ongoing pandemic.” Instead of limping along understaffed, the cafe’s management wants to retool the shop and return with quality food and service in a little over a month. “We need time to put together a good team and make adjustments to our menu,” said Vinther.

Foodservice locations across the country face limited staff, unfilled positions, and increasing ingredient costs. Those constraints are further compounded by lower customer volume, making food preparation challenging to predict. Temporally closing a business reliant on repeat customers can seem drastic, but it is sometimes the best approach to maintaining quality service. Kelli Vinther knows Monti’s Cafe will return stronger in a few months after taking this break.

Redwood’s New Owners

Last week, the founders of Redwood announced the restaurant’s sale to Brenda Dunn and long-time employee Chantel Chinco. Located at 7915 SE Stark Street, this well-reviewed dining destination opened in early 2013 and will continue with new but familiar management. Maintaining Redwood’s quality and dining experience is the core focus as staff train for their new roles during the next few months.

After nine years of growing Redwood into the celebrated business it is today, Susie Blue, Austin Putnam, and Jessie Hawkins believed it was the right time to find a new owner for the restaurant. However, they wanted to sell it to a person who would preserve the same environment and keep Redwood’s culture alive. In the Fall of 2021, the group spoke to their employee, Chantel Chinco, about taking over Redwood. “They approached me probably about mid-September and just let me know kind of where they were at and that they were looking to sell the restaurant,” explained Chinco.

Redwood’s sale to Chinco fit in many ways and was an easy choice for everyone. “I’ve been an employee at Redwood for about five years now, and so I have a really strong relationship with Susie and Jesse,” said Chinco. At the time of sale, Chinco worked in nearly every customer-facing position; server, bartender, and front-of-house manager. Consequently, she has extensive knowledge of the operation and existing customer relationships. Most importantly, the founders trust that Chinco will keep the restaurant on its successful path. 

After 20 years working in the service industry, Chantel Chinco feels owning Redwood is a natural career progression and the best opportunity to participate in a remarkable business. “It’s such an important part of the community and the kind of environment that Susie and Jesse built there you can feel the love in the restaurant, you can taste it in the food. It’s just something special, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Admiring Redwood’s existing culture and cuisine, Chinco and Dunn do not plan on changing much. “We’re going to keep our signature dishes. We’ve been working with Susie one on one to make sure that we can come as close to cooking her food as she does,” commented Chinco. Chef Susie Blue will stay on for a month to help train the kitchen staff. Like many restaurants, Redwood has struggled with staffing over the last two years. Most servers returned after they reopened from the pandemic closure. However, “back house has always been a struggle,” confessed Chinco. That is quickly changing as they train new cooks and expand the kitchen support. “Irene, who is our main prep cook, she does everything for us. She’s been with us for several years, and we just brought her daughter on for some back-of-house support as well. It’s a real family business,” Chinco remarked.

Chinco and Dunn are currently running Redwood with a focused schedule until they have a firm grasp on operations. “At this time, we just want to make sure that we get everybody properly trained for breakfast and lunch before we move on to bigger endeavors,” explained Chinco. “We would love to offer happy hour or dinner again at some point, but we do not want to compromise the quality and integrity that people have come to expect from Redwood by trying to do too many big things right off the bat.”

After staff are trained, and Redwood is back to a full schedule, the new owners will look at augmenting the menu with a few different items. “We want to keep the same Redwood that everybody loves and expects, but also introduce some of our own flavors and ideas,” Chinco explained. The pair hopes to offer a more comprehensive selection of fresh-baked pastries, weekday specials, and some dietary variety. “My partner Brenda is really excited about doing some more vegan and vegetarian options to make the menu a little bit more diverse,” added Chinco.

Changes at Redwood should be unnoticeable to the regulars but look for small additions over the year. Currently, they offer extended Brunch service from 9 AM to 3 PM Wednesday through Sunday with indoor and outdoor seating or takeout.


Disclosure: The author of this article serves on an association board with Chantel Chinco.

PDX Cookie Co Embracing the Neighborhood

PDX Cookie Co opened in Montavilla on March 7th of 2020, one week before the pandemic closed the storefront to the public. The confectionary maker is now looking to reimagine the local shopping experience with later hours and a new sit-down experience. After years of depending on website orders, the shop’s owner wants to reconnect with neighborhood customers and complement the activities of other Stark Street businesses.

Starting February 1st, PDX Cookie Co will open indoor seating again at the 7919 SE Stark Street shop. Eva Smith, the owner of PDX Cookie Co, sees this as a new beginning. “Given that we were only really able to ‘open’ for a week, we’re considering this a fresh start.” Indoor seating will consist of bar and booth-style seating, with expanded options becoming available as more people start staying to enjoy their treats at the shop. Smith will expand the in-store offerings with water, milk, and iced coffee options to complement the dessert items. Edible cookie dough served in scoops or cones will return to the menu, and thanks to customer demand, the staff will dish out ice cream treats to customers. “Since this past summer, we’ve always stocked the top 6 Tillamook flavors, so we’ll be able to serve the late-night munchie ice cream cravings. Our cookie ice cream sundaes were a huge hit this past summer, so we’re hoping to see an increase of those in the PM crowd, after a drink from Redwood or a movie at The Academy,” remarked Smith. 

When the new seating area opens, the store hours will shift to an evening schedule. Starting next month, the store will open daily from 4 PM to 10 PM. Smith explained the adjustment would better align with the community. “Changing our hours of operation was something that just seemed to make sense. Montavilla is much more lively in the evenings, and the bulk of our neighbors are bars, diners, theaters, etc.” Although they would not fault anyone for eating their cookies for breakfast, they know dessert is mostly a nighttime dish. Staff observed that the shop is typically quiet from 10 AM to 2 PM, with activity picking up around 3 PM, right as they began cleaning up.

The shift in-store hours will let employees focus on each part of the business separately. Previously, due to limited staff, bakers and online order fulfillment employees would jump to the front counter to assist customers during the day. A situation that “led to a few burned flavors and missed timers.” said Smith. “So we figured it would make more sense to have our online-team work during the day uninterrupted and be able to take up the whole space and then switch full attention to the local crowd in the PM. It’ll give us more opportunity to focus on the local customers since we’re still new to the majority of them.”

Rebalancing the customer base between online and local is happening at a crucial time. Smith credits the strength of the online store with sustaining the company these last few years. “The pandemic was an interesting turn of events as it took our surroundings from a line wrapped around the block on our grand opening to a complete ghost town the following week. Thankfully, a ton of people started ordering cookies online, and the tag #QuarentineCookies became a thing for the year. Our online presence saved us without a doubt.” However, that online intensity has faded and is now further complicated by social media blocks on the company’s accounts. “Unfortunately, Instagram started shadow-banning our account, deleting numerous posts, and threatening to remove our account in the past few months,” said Smith. Being unable to contact anyone at the social media company, the staff can only guess it is related to their joke slogan “come get baked” and “edible cookie dough” product name. Smith thinks they flagged the business’ posts as potentially illegal drug sales. The company never uses THC or CBD ingredients, but the terminology possibly triggered automated keyword filters.

Ultimately, Smith accepts the change and wants to grow the neighborhood shop to its full potential. “It’s been extremely stressful amidst all the other chaos of the year, but it was one of the main factors that spurred us to change the hours of operation. So even though it was frustrating to be punished for something we didn’t do, I think it’ll end up working out for the best.” PDX Cookie Co will rely less on other companies’ platforms and build more direct relationships with customers by creating a weekly email newsletter and strengthening face-to-face interactions.

After nearly two years, PDX Cookie Co is back on track to becoming the dessert destination on SE Stark Street. Smith is excited to develop experiences that bring people into the shop. Soon visitors can participate in a March Madness event to select a new signature flavor or collect free birthday cookies, among other promotions. Eva Smith enjoyed the community support over the last few years and has high expectations for seeing people in the shop again. “I absolutely love being in the Montavilla neighborhood. I’m hoping 2022 can return somewhat to normalcy or whatever that is nowadays.”

Futura Coffee Roasters Opening on NE Glisan

Next month, Futura Coffee Roasters will open at 7201 NE Glisan Street in the former Fillmore space. The creators of this new coffee producer and cafe believe sustainability is the future for the industry and have woven that value into every aspect of their business.

Futura Coffee Roasters is the vision of CJ Speelman and a group of coffee professionals who share a common perspective. For ten years, Speelman honed his skills in the industry, first working at the counter as a Barista and eventually creating the roasting company Tanager Coffee Roasters. Speelman owns The Arbor Lodge coffee shop in North Portland, making this NE Glisan location his second store. His partners in this new venture bring many years of retail coffee experience and respect for the art and delicate science of good coffee.

The group behind the cafe feels that flavor and brewing are only part of a perfect cup of coffee. Speelman explains that a simple morning ritual like drinking coffee can impact the environment. “As a company, Futura Coffee Roasters see regenerative agriculture, the rehabilitation of soil and increasing of biodiversity among many things, as one of the key forces in combating climate change.” The company is committed to building relationships with farmers and sourcing coffee as ethically and sustainably as possible. Additionally, food items on the menu include a mix of locally sourced pastries and bagels.

Since August, crews have reworked the corner coffee shop into a new space. The team took the same approach to the renovation as they have with their menu, making for a slightly prolonged process. “We took a lot of time making sure that we used as much sustainable materials as possible, from handmade tiles and eco-friendly wall plaster to fixtures and furniture. Because of these commitments to sustainability alongside the supply chain issues, it has taken a bit longer than we had hoped,” said Speelman.

Although the cafe will no longer resemble Fillmore, Speelman recognizes its role in the community and wants to welcome back those regular customers. “I have been a big fan of Fillmore and the special connection they had with the neighborhood. We hope to capture that same spirit and add our own unique vibe. I am extremely excited to share the space with the neighborhood. It is looking incredible and will look and feel like a whole new space.”

Expect Futura Coffee Roasters to launch midway through January, opening daily from 7 AM to 5 PM. Follow the cafe’s Instagram for updates and to learn more about the treats that will soon become available on NE Glisan.

Food Carts on the Move

Portland’s food carts tend to stay in one place, causing patrons to forget that they have wheels. However, these mobile kitchens can change locations, and at least two local carts are on the move early next year. Although these popular dining destinations are heading out of Montavilla, they are still a short trip away.

In an Oregonian interview released last week, Erica Montgomery revealed that Erica’s Soul Food would be moving from the space next to Henry’s Market at 803 SE 82nd Avenue. “Early next year, Montgomery plans to transport her truck to the courtyard next to Lottie & Zula’s, a New England style sandwich shop in the former Toro Bravo space at 120 N.E. Russell St.” The new location is just under six miles away, near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Erica’s Soul Food will share an outdoor dining space with Lottie & Zula’s at the new site. This move appears to be the next phase of a strengthening relationship between the two ventures. Lottie & Zula’s co-owner frequents Montgomery’s cart, admiring her cooking and work ethic. This year, both restaurants collaborated on a meatloaf sandwich sold as a fundraiser for Equitable Giving Circle. Later, Montgomery used the restaurant’s larger kitchen for a catering event when it exceeded the cart’s capacity. 

Just down 82nd Ave from Erica’s, La Taquiza Vegana is leaving the food cart pod at 8220 NE Davis Street. As one of the original carts from The Yard at Montavilla’s opening this summer, its time in the area was short-lived. Devyn Marie, Co-Owner and Operations Manager for La Taquiza Vegana, explained that they only planned to stay in the old location for five months. “The Yard was always just a temporary spot for us while we waited for our permanent location to be completed.” They are relocating to a new food cart pod at 2216 SE 50th Ave. Although the owners appreciated the community in the neighborhood, Marie said the team wanted to work closer to the city center. “We really enjoyed being a part of the Montavilla neighborhood for the short time we were there. The location is just too far out for us as we like to be more centrally located.”

The loss of these two neighborhood carts will likely disappoint some customers, particularly area vegans. La Taquiza Vegana only serves vegan foods. Erica’s Soul Food offers an extensive vegan menu and standard options. The other vegan food cart located at the Yard, Little Ethiopia Eatery, closed down permanently last October. With these two carts’ departure, there are very few vegan cart options in the area.

The exciting part of food cart culture is the constant change in options. People create new dining experiences, and customers rarely have the chance to become bored with the selections. Although these moves may disrupt some customer behavior, dedicated patrons will seek them out. Look for something new to arrive at the soon-to-be-vacant cart locations and visit some old friends when they settle in their new homes. 

Moto PDX Cafe Opens on Stark

This week, Moto PDX Cafe opened at 8826 SE Stark Street after months of preparation. The cafe celebrities the culture, art, and spectacle of performance motorcycle racing. Inside the bright white storefront, owner Brendan Jones creates a living room atmosphere with a wide variety of seating options conducive to intimate conversations or communal discussions around the cafe’s theme.

At one end of Moto PDX, couches surround a TV playing classic motorcycle races. Performance bikes and attire separate seating and add color to the white interior. Artwork placed on display throughout the cafe highlight artists who use motorcycle racing as their muse. Lining the back wall, coolers featuring beers, wines, and other chilled beverages glow with LED light.

Jones is building out the full menu during the winter but currently offers many variations on the panini sandwich. Staff prepare espresso and other coffee drinks at an art-wrapped counter upfront. Employees at the cafe are motorcycle riders and enthusiasts, making this a destination for riders and race fans to talk about their passion.

This winter, Jones will organically shape the cafe to meet his customer’s expectations. Previously he created The Big Legrowlski in downtown Portland. What started as a growler shop eventually grew into a live music venue, proving to Jones that adapting to customer needs is what makes enduring communal spaces. Using what he learned from The Big Legrowlski, Jones will take time with the early days of Moto PDX and not over program the cafe. Because of that approach, customers should stop in and see what they like and make requests.

With time, Moto PDX Cafe will grow around its customers into a gathering space for the community. They are open 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Thursday, with extended operating hours of 7 AM to 10 PM on Friday and Saturday. There is parking in a private lot in front of the cafe where it is safe to leave your motorcycle… or car if you have to drive that day.

Halal Meat & Grocery Closes on Glisan

Afgoye Halal Meat & Grocery recently moved out of its storefront at 7202 NE Glisan Street after seven years in business. The grocery store suffered several setbacks during the pandemic, prompting the owner not to renew the lease. This store was one of only a few reaming retailers serving the Islamic community in the area.

Owner Abdullah Shareef started the business in June of 2014 under the namer Bakaal Halal Meat & Grocery Store. However, by November 2014, the store changed its name to Afgoye Halal Meat & Grocery Store. Afgoye is a town and region in southwestern Somalia. The store offered foods and ingredients from Asia, India, and Africa. The shop also specialized in fresh-cut Halal meat. Halal is Arabic for permissible. Halal meat is butchered in accordance with Islamic law, as defined in the Koran.

Jamal Dar, Executive Director of the nearby African Youth & Community Organization, provided some insight into the business closure. “They were struggling due to the pandemic and lack of economic stability. That being said, they have closed the business and are looking for another opportunity for future business.”

1924 Sanborn Map

This two-story wood-framed building contains two storefronts and six apartments. Supposedly built in 1890, this unassuming building has a long history of accommodating renters. The actual date of construction is uncertain as the 1909 Sanborn map does not show any structures on the property. V. Cladek, a notable Montavilla figure, owned the rooming house in the early 1900s according to a 1918 plumbing permit when it had an address of 1840 E Glisan Street. Portland renumbered its streets in the 1930s to create a consistent address structure throughout the city. The 1924 Sanborn map shows the building in its current footprint with a label of “Housekeep’g R’ms” at the 1840 E Glisan address, suggesting that a later remodel added the storefronts to the ground floor.

Although Afgoye Halal Meat & Grocery’s time at the building was cut short, they added to the property’s extensive history and provided specialty foods for the community. The property owners have not yet listed the vacant retail space as available to lease. Expect to see a new shop in that location sometime in the future.

Fillmore Coffee Shop Moves Online Only

After six years serving the community from their cafe on NE Glisan Street, the owners of Fillmore coffee shop decided to close the physical store and embrace online coffee delivery. The pandemic closures and customer tensions stressed this early pioneer of Glisan street, forcing the family business to adapt. What had begun as a temporary financial bridge during the COVID-19 lockdown turned into the permeant path forward for the coffee company.

In June of 2015, when the Fillmore coffee shop opened at 7201 NE Glisan Street, there were few options like it on the street. The shop’s co-owner Tim Willcox perceived the lack of food services in the area as an opportunity to take his passion for coffee to the public and perhaps start a trend. “[I] saw a need for a community space on this stretch of Glisan. This was back when there was pretty much nothing happening aside from East Glisan Pizza. It was sort of a dead zone, and I think Fillmore helped to fuel some cool businesses developing in the area,” explained Willcox. Within a few years, bars, bakeries, and other dining options filled in around their shop.

Tim Willcox and his wife started the shop with a loan from his mother. For years, they struggled to build a stable business but saw success as others joined them on Glisan. Then COVID-19 brought that all to a halt. “We decided to cease our cafe operations due to the pandemic. Our sales had dropped nearly 80 percent in just a matter of days, and the lockdown on March 15th cemented our destiny. We had to let all of our staff go,” remembered Willcox. “Our only path to keeping the business alive was to start delivering bags of freshly roasted coffee to our customer’s doors.”

The roasted coffee delivery program kept them afloat until the cafe reopened in mid-May 2020. They served to-go orders through a plexiglass window with inside seating closed to the public. The business was nothing like before, and working in this reduced capacity stressed the staff. “Nobody was allowed inside the shop, and Monika was working her other full-time job while making all the food orders. Our daughter was doing remote learning on a laptop at the shop. It was a grind, to say the least. We managed to do this for a year until spring 2021,” explained Willcox.

After trying to make it work, it became apparent to Willcox that the new business model was not sustainable and no longer rewarding. “Things had just become too complicated and stressful with the pandemic, and while most of our customers were great and thankful about our safety protocols, we had to deal with quite a few people who were genuinely angry that they couldn’t come inside to order and hang out. We were screamed at and insulted by disgruntled customers.”

For the family business, it was time to move on from the cafe. However, Willcox did not want to give up on the delivery service. It is a way to keep roasting great coffee and remain connected to loyal customers. As an online-only business, Fillmore is still evolving, according to Willcox. “It’s still a work in progress. We’re building out a small Roastery and coffee lab. Things have been slower, yet still steady.” As the team builds onto the delivery business, they hope to gain a few wholesale customers and develop a nationwide mail-out service.

For Willcox, the transition to online coffee sales was the right choice for his family. “Right now, I’m happy with what we’re doing, and it gives me time to take my kid to and from school every day. It’s definitely less stressful.” If you miss your morning cup of Fillmore Coffee or want to try out one of their roasts, schedule a delivery online at orderfillmorecoffee.com

82nd Ave Culinary Event Kicks Off

Around the World in 82 dishes has returned after taking 2020 off. Starting tomorrow, the 82nd Avenue Business District will host a two-week-long celebration of dining diversity with an inclusive event featuring all food-related locations on and around 82nd Avenue. The event runs from October 23rd to November 7th, with an opportunity to win one of several $25 gift certificates by participating in the event’s social media contest.

To enter the contest, shop or eat at restaurants, food carts, and markets around 82nd Avenue during the contest dates. Then post about it on social media with the hashtag #82Dishes, including the location’s name and pictures from your visit. Event staff will select winners at random from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. People without social media access can participate by emailing a picture and location name to 82ndaveba@gmail.com.

The 82nd Avenue Business District extends from the Clackamas County line towards the Portland airport and features cooking styles from all over the planet. This annual event reminds Portlands of the culinary variety available to people along this street and encourages residents to explore the World in their own backyard. A list of eligible locations and other event information is available at the Around the World in 82 dishes website.


Disclosure: The author of this article servers on the 82nd Avenue Business Association board.

Zuckercreme Opens Friday

On October 1st, Zuckercreme will open a new Montavilla location at 414 SE 81st Ave. After less than a year in the Brooklyn neighborhood, owner Brittany Sigal decided to relocate the shop closer to home, taking over the former INVOKE space. The store will sell a curated selection of locally produced products and menu items.

Seasonal variety guides the selections offered to customers at Zuckercreme. Starting Friday, the shop will feature items under the collective theme of pumpkin spice & everything nice. They work with different bakers to offer a special rotating menu, along with coffee and tea drinks. Seasonal treats and drinks are only one part of the shop’s offerings. Each theme will encompass a selection of fitting homewares, vintage items, artwork, clothing, accessories, and ceramics. The space will also host scheduled workshop events.

The idea of seasonality is essential for Sigal’s vision of Zuckercreme. “I love the idea of a shop telling time. Rotating themes and being in sync with the time of the year means I’ll always be moving forward, and I’ll never get bored.” Sigal imparts her excitement for seasonal transformation to the customer through all the senses. “Zuckercreme is meant to create a temporary world where you can fully immerse yourself in an experience and enjoy the tastes, smells, colors, and memories of that season. Food is a big piece and what I believe connects us to each other. I wanted a way to work with people that would allow them to participate based on their own nostalgia, culture, and personal taste.”

Like the store’s aesthetic, Zuckercreme’s name stems from nostalgia. “Zuckercreme is sugar cream in German. My family is German, and I’m from the good ol’ midwest, Indiana. Sugar cream pie is Indiana’s state pie and what I always grew up eating.” Explained Brittany Sigal. 

The business began last June as a Saturday market titled the strawberry museum. It contained a small retail area and space for food vendors to sell treats. By July, they had expanded into a cafe. Thursday and Friday featured morning cafe service with retail and the occasional workshop. Saturday continued as the collaborative market day, and Sunday featured a special brunch. By August, they started offering dinner service on Thursday nights.

Although expanded food service seemed to be the direction Zuckercreme would grow, the location did not fit. “I was unsure of the future of the space, and the cafe didn’t work as well because the shared space I was in was more of a destination spot rather than somewhere that would have foot traffic, which is what I needed,” explained Sigal. Over the few months at the shop’s last location, they were able to test out ideas and figure out what worked and what needed to change. “This [experiance] very much shaped my future shop because I realized I wanted to do more retail and workshops with a small cafe and still host the community markets. I needed a better spot to make that successful, where there would be foot traffic, and I could make my own hours.”

Mural artist Brianna Vizcaino (@briannasinpajamas) painting shop’s wall

These discoveries were not something that Brittany Sigal could instantly implement. It was not until the space in Montavilla opened up that the future iteration of Zuckercreme became a reality. “I don’t think I would have moved forward with taking on the risk of running my own space if I had not gotten the one I’ll be in,” commented Sigal. The new space does not contain a kitchen limiting the menu at this new location. However, according to Sigal, food is still an essential part of the shop’s future. “We will either have the seasonal coursed meal experiences off-site if we find another pop-up spot closer to Montavilla or do menus that don’t require a full commercial kitchen.”

Many details regarding Zuckercreme are in development and will likely continue to transform over the years. By design, the space will appear different to customers between visits but remain familiar. By continually changing, customers will need to visit often to see what’s new. Fortunately, being located within Montavilla Town offers a good amount of foot traffic to pull the curious and adventurous person of the street and into the shop. Starting this Friday at 9 AM, consider adjusting your path to stroll along SE 81st Ave and see what creations are for sale at Zuckercreme. The store is open from 9 AM to 5 PM, Wednesday through Saturday. Sundays, they host a community market from 10 AM to 2 PM.