A new bar and restaurant will soon open in the former Wong’s King Seafood location. A recent Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) liquor license reveals that Excellent Cuisine is opening at 8733 SE Division, Suite 101.
The King Plaza building prominently displays a new Excellent Cuisine sign, replacing the Wong’s King Seafood sign. Not too much information is available regarding the new establishment. The liquor license application paperwork shows a checkbox for “Video Lottery Machines” on site. The application was filed by Y & W Trading LLC with owners Yu Xiong Zhang and Wan Fang Kuang. The owners’ names are listed on the application but crossed out and replaced with the LLC.
In the coming months, expect to see more information on the cuisine type and an opening date. Based on current indoor dining restrictions, it’s likely to be a while before they open. However, many are already excited to see this location filled with another restaurant.
This weekend marked the opening of Montavilla’s newest food hall. A hand-painted sign hangs over the doors of Rocket Empire Machine, announcing the location to the passersby. Inside are five new destinations for hungry and thirsty customers.
Located at 6935 NE Glisan Street, this highly anticipated opening attracted interest around Montavilla and beyond. Each unique location brings something special to Montavilla’s food scene, and together they continue the economic buildup on NE Glisan.
Gigantic BrewingRobot Room is Gigantic Brewing Company’s new taproom, in addition to their other location at 5224 SE 26th Ave.
The Pie Spot is also a second location for Jessica Woods, expanding the reach of the beloved local bakery and coffee bar at 521 NE 24th Ave.
Tierra Del Sol is the none mobile second location for Amalia Sierra’s Oaxacan and Mexican food cart.
In the future, this new food hall will offer outdoor seating shared between the five businesses. For now, each location will only offer takeout until restrictions change, and the outdoor accommodations become available. With the first days of operation behind them, all of these locations should be ready to earn the repeated patronage of the Montavilla residents.
The much-anticipated opening of White Rabbit Cafe and Bakery will have to wait until 2021. Morgan and Jax Hart have postponed the launch of their new brunch spot to preserve the restaurant’s original intent, which could not exist with current restrictions. Instead, they will lend the space to their other creations. Starting August 14th, 7940 SE Stark Street will become Heartbreaker Market.
The original Hungry Heart Bakery location, at 414 SE 80th Ave, will temporarily become an ice cream focused shop, serving Heartbreaker ice cream by the scoop, and pint. The transformation of the 80th Ave location will happen in the coming weeks.
According to Morgan Hart, postponing White Rabbit was the only reasonable choice if they were going to open the location as envisioned. Staff expressed that they are not conferrable offering table service at this phase of the pandemic. Brunch is inherently a sit-down experience. There was not an elegant way to make White Rabbit takeout friendly. “Nobody does Eggs Benedict takeout,” said Morgan Hart. “it would be mush.” For the Harts, this was not White Rabbit’s time to open.
Construction at the new restaurant has been underway for months, albeit slower due to social distancing. The Stark Street location is mostly completed now, except for booths and other dining room finishes.” The kitchen looks like a kitchen [and] the counters are looking beautiful,” exclaimed Morgan Hart when describing the progress. This level of completion at Stark Street is sufficient for takeout services. The Harts did not want to waste the opportunity to use the new larger kitchen and prep space. Moving operations to the Stark Street location will be a relief for the seven staff members who have been trying to make do in the smaller kitchen on 80th Ave.
Heartbreaker Market will not provide table service at this location. As Hungry Heart operated down the street, they will continue to serve takeout through zero-touch sales. They plan to expand the menu at the Stark Street location, incorporating some of the takeout friendly options intended for White Rabbit.
The fully implemented White Rabbit will open in January 2021. At that time, Hungry Heart will return to its old location. The Hungry Heart menu will then adjust to focus on sweets, with savory items remaining on Stark Street at White Rabbit.
The Harts have a strong vision for their restaurant creations and compassion for their staff’s wellbeing. That has guided them to look to a longterm perspective when planning around this pandemic. They expect to be in Montavilla for many years, making proper execution of their vision more important than a hasty opening.
Construction is now complete on the much-anticipated restaurant taking over the former Country Cat location. This past weekend, Lazy Susan staff officially started dinner service, representing the diner’s official opening.
Kayla Morrell, of Lazy Susan, described the opening weekend as successful. “We’ve seen a fair amount of turnout for our first weekend of full-service dining, and hope that continues as word gets out in the neighborhood.”
Dinner service is available from 4 PM to 9 PM, Friday through Sunday. They expect to add Thursday dinner in the near future, as business ramps up. Lazy Susan will also begin opening for brunch on Sundays and Mondays. However, the exact time and date for brunch service are yet to be determined.
Lazy Susan’s dining area and bar are ready to accept customers, having been carefully worked on for months. However, indoor seating will remain closed. “While the situation with COVID continues, we plan to remain in a takeout and outdoor-dining only format.” Said Morrell.
The restaurant’s interior expresses both cozy and open feelings. Woodwork surrounds the interior on all surfaces and creates compartments within the space. However, the areas’ division is represented on the outer edges, making the core of the room open and expansive. Wood dominates all corners of Lazy Susan, but the variety of stains and finishes prevent it from feeling excessive. Recessed lighting and ornamental light-fixtures illuminate all the compartments, further creating defined space without walls. The contoured paneling of the ceiling and wood floors will reduce sound reflection, creating a comfortable volume, once the room is packed full of people. For now, customers will have to view the detailed woodwork and creative lighting through the windows.
The kitchen is updated to support the charcoal centric menu. Some eliminate are a holdover from the Country Cat. Two under-counter refrigerators and the six-burner range are original. The custom charcoal grill is all new and sits center stage in the open kitchen. Future customers will be able to sit kitchen-side to watch the seasonal creations sizzling.
Lazy Susan occupies the corner shopfront in the historic Dickson Drugs building, located at 7937 SE Stark Street. The second weekend of dinner service starts tonight at 4 PM.
Renowned Portland firm, Osmose Design, created Lazy Susan’s distinctive look.
Thatcher’s lounge is currently closed for renovations. They will be opening back up on July 27th. Located at 7906 SE Stark Street, the sports bar and breakfast spot is a fixture in Montavilla town.
Cody Palmer, manager at Thatcher’s, described the renovation as long overdue updating. “[We’re] tearing out decades-old carpet, laying down some wood floors, painting walls, adding TVs and window-side booth seating.”
In addition to the interior upgrades happening at Thatcher’s, they have some outside improvements planned. Starting this weekend, they will begin constructing a 40-foot Parking Plaza, using the parking spaces in front of the bar.
Patrons will not need to wait long before seeing the new upgrades to their favorite bar. In just two weeks, they expect to see many customers seated out on Stark Street or enjoying an updated experience inside.
Weeks before the official statewide shutdown, PDX Cookie Co opened their Montavilla store at 7919 SE Stark Street. Just as the shop became popular, people were ordered to stay home. Despite that challenge, the Cookie shop has seen success. With an established online business, they have managed to thrive during the pandemic. Now, as people are venturing out again, they are expanding store hours.
The opening day of the confectionery saw lines wrapping around the block. PDX Cookie Co was the first of what was to be many new eateries coming to Montavilla town in early 2020. Instead, COVID-19 changed plans all over Portland, and nearly overnight customers disappeared. The owner of PDX Cookie Co, Nisha Chitale, described the two extremes as jarring. “We had an awesome opening weekend followed by months of a ghost town.” Chitale considers PDX Cookie Co fortunate to have opened before the virus ramped up. Otherwise, they may have had to postpone the opening indefinitely, as many others were forced to do.
PDX Cookie Co was launching their first storefront, but they were already a successful online business. “Luckily, we started online, and it has always been our primary business,” explained Chitale. Even as walk-in customers diminished, PDX Cookie Co kept their storefront open throughout the closure, from 10 AM to 4 PM Friday-Sunday. The doors were open, but most people stayed home. Stuck at home, customers needed the comfort of cookies more than before and continued to buy. New local interest, driven by the successful opening, only added to online orders. Chitale was caught off guard by continued customer support online. “[I was] shocked and beyond grateful to have had our business boom during the quarantine.”
The growth in business was a relief for PDX Cookie Co employees as well. “Our employees are all close friends who continued to work during the quarantine. They were laid off from their other jobs, so this was able to keep food on their table,” explained Chitale. At the store, they enacted measures to protect staff and customers. Screening people for symptoms before coming in and social distancing in the building. “For extra precaution we also temporarily discontinued our edible cookie dough cones so there was less chance of any contamination.”
As the restrictions have gradually lifted in Multnomah County, PDX Cookie Co extended store hours for the summer. They are now open Friday through Wednesday from 10 AM to 4 PM. Edible cookie dough cones have now returned to the menu, joining cookie ice cream Sundaes. Indoor seating continues to be closed, but drop-in customers are welcome.
Online orders continue to outpace walk-in customers, but Nisha Chitale enjoys having the storefront. “My favorite things about having the brick and mortar location is being able to make goodies that don’t have to ship and getting to meet all of the Montavilla residents. Both business owners and nearby families are some of the kindest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met.”
The storefront is a unique benefit from Montavilla residents. Online inventory of new items can be exhausted within 5-10 minutes of being released. Chitale sees many customers excited to find menu items available at the storefront that sold out online. Chitale commented that the retail location has a better selection compared to the online store.
With demand as high as it has been, they may have outgrown this location. Chitale is still evaluating future moves. Ideally, PDX Cookie Co would expand in this location or move production and online order fulfillment to a commercial kitchen. Regardless of how they manage expansion, Chitale hopes to remain in this neighborhood that has treated this business so well.
Sebastiano’s Deli has decided not to have indoor seating during any phase of Oregon’s reopening. Instead, owners Elise and Daniel Gold are interested in a new approach to serving their hungry customers.
Sebastiano’s launch this month exceeded their expectations. They served over 200 customers in the first ten days. Since opening with pickup service, a clear customer pattern has emerged. Two customer types are prevalent, the lunchtime rush and people buy provisions to take home. As Multnomah County reopened with phased restrictions, inside dining was never going to be an option for Sebastiano’s. “Our space is just too small,” said Daniel Gold.
Gold’s observations about Sebastiano’s customers, and the limits of the space, called for a creative rework of how the restaurant will serve customers. Elise and Daniel Gold realized they would need to operate differently based on the time of day. Starting July 8th, Sebastiano will modify their schedule. From 11 AM to 3 PM, Wednesday through Saturday, they will offer pickup service as they have for the last month. This schedule will fully cover the lunchtime crowd. For those customers, they intend to enhance the lunch menu with “weekly sandwich and salad specials to give people fresh options each week beyond Muffuletta’s. ” said Gold.
After 3 PM, Sebastiano’s will transitions from pickup orders at the shop to home delivery. For $5, they will deliver orders over $50 to local addresses. The delivery area will expand out beyond Montavilla, into the adjacent neighborhoods. The Golds wanted to avoid the big names in third-party delivery services. “We are trying to avoid those [companies]. It’s really a tax everyone else.” Said Daniel Gold. He explained that delivery services charge a substantial percentage of the order’s total. To cover the lost margin paid to third party delivery services, they would have to increase menu prices for all customers. Working with companies like that did not fit what the Golds wanted for Sebastiano’s. Instead, the Golds will do the delivery themselves, and with help from family. Daniel’s cousin, Rachel, will be helping deliver orders over the summer.
Beyond basic delivery options, The Golds will launch an outdoor garden party package. That service is called Sebastiano’s Pop Up. It will deliver all the food and drinks needed for an outdoor party at a customer’s house. The customer needs to have the tables set up, and they will drop off an arrange the food in a yard or driveway.
Sebastiano’s has received OLCC and Healthy Business permits to offer seven tables for outdoor seating. They may consider offering table service on the sidewalk, like many others in Old Town Montavilla have. However, the outdoor dining space is competitive in Montavilla, and the Golds are not sure they want to be just another location trying to keep people distanced. “I really appreciate anyone who feels comfortable eating out right now and any restaurant operator who is comfortable and feels they can do it in a safe way.” Said Gold. However, Daniel Gold feels there are other types of people looking for a dining experience. “For that subset of people who still want to eat good food and still want novel experiences but don’t feel safe going out right now, we’re trying to rise to the occasion and provide them something enjoyable.”
Behind Sebastiano’s is a semi-private courtyard. There, the Golds have constructed a tent and outdoor seating geared towards private events. The Private Happy Hour can be booked for groups to “hang out with their friends in a safe, private, outdoor setting.” said Gold. With only a $200 Food and Drink minimum purchase, the whole menu will be available to the group. Only one group can book the space at a time, between 3 PM to 6 PM. Events can be kid-friendly, and pets are allowed.
The Golds hope this will be a safe and comfortable way for friends, large families, or coworkers to get together. Daniel Gold sees this as an “adapt or die” moment for restaurants. Even with his early success, he knows that they still have to earn each customer’s continued patronage. “We don’t take a single one for granted,” said Gold, talking about Sebastiano’s customers.
Sebastiano’s opening looks different than other businesses reopening efforts. They believe they have found a model that will work for customers and keep everyone safe, regardless of the changes from COVID-19. Some people have mentioned to the Golds that they are waiting for Sebastiano’s full opening before trying them out. The Golds want everyone to know that this is the full Sebastiano’s. They are entirely open and waiting to earn loyal customers.
As Montavilla restaurants and bars continue to reopen, Parking Plazas are now appearing on SE Stark Street. Businesses are converting parking spaces to extensions of their regular indoor seating.
Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) offers Healthy Businesses permits, enabling the closure of curbside parking and streets. These spaces allow business to distance customers from one-another, without sacrificing too much seating. Plazas like these are part of the PBOT Safe Streets Initiative and the hope is it will be a safer way to visit local businesses.
Vino Veritas, at 7835 SE Stark Street, was the first along Stark Street to open their Parking Plaza. Vino Veritas is a wine bar with a select offering of food items. Between 4PM and 9:30PM, the Parking Plaza is decorated with colorful umbrellas. They provide shade over a handful of tables, that are placed within the wine barrel parameter.
Redwood restaurant will open their Parking Plaza Wednesday, June 24th. This is the first day since the COVID-19 closure, that Redwood has opened for dine in and take out. Redwoods’ Parking Plaza is the most elaborate in Montavilla to date. They have constructed a double sided Shadow Box fence around the area, where others have just used rope or chain. Redwood is located at 7915 SE Stark Street.
Each business is using Parking Plaza in a method that matched their business. Threshold Brewing & Blending has their own take on a Parking Plazas, just around the corner from these two. While the weather is nice, these should be a good aid to deal with the challenges of reopening. Patrons can already be spotted making use of these outdoor venues, to the relief of many business owners.
Threshold Brewing & Blending is one of the first Montavilla businesses to setup a PBOT sanctioned Parking Plaza. This outdoor seating option takes over designated street parking spaces. The additional space allows businesses to serve customers outside and reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Located at 403 SE 79th Ave, Threshold Brewing & Blending offers beer on tap and a small selection of food items. Their Parking Plaza extends the width of the building. Four additional tables now join the existing two outdoor tables.
In response to COVID-19 restrictions, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) created the Safe Streets Initiative. Part of this initiative is the Healthy Businesses permit, which allows for Parking Plazas like this one. Parking Plazas are the smallest space that can be reserved for seating. It is possible to take over a lane of traffic and the curb side parking. PBOT will also allow side streets and main street closures. However, none of the larger Plazas configurations have been proposed for Montavilla.
PBOT hopes that additional outdoor seating will lessen the business impact of the increased table spacing, required in Phase 1 reopening. Many businesses are only able to seat half the number of guests, compared to before the restrictions. Outdoor seating could also attract customers still fearful of visiting public spaces. The safety of outdoor activities has been touted by some health officials and outdoor dining may be a safer way to visit restaurants and bars. How popular this option will become, is still undetermined.
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