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.
In a scene reminiscent of the 1800s boomtown, Montavilla is lining its main streets with roughly constructed wood structures. These Parking Plazas first took the shape of roped-off areas along the street’s edge. A handful of tables were set in the place once used for parked cars, and customers were seated for an open-air experience. This experiment is an effort to offer dining in the era of COVID-19, and it has been successful during the summer months.
Customers came to their favorite bars and restraints, enjoying the novel setting along the street. Soon the ropes became fences, and then canopies appeared over some Parking Plazas. Now we see the addition of substantial structures with roofs—string lights inside zigzag along the ceiling, ready for the coming early-sunset. Montavilla businesses are preparing for a long fall and winter of outdoor dining, as the pandemic lasts longer than expected.
The weather has not yet turned cold and rainy, but we will feel the wet chill around us within two months. At that time, there will be a test on outdoor seating’s viability in the Pacific Northwest. Will people brave the cold for the social interactions we gain by going out?
2020 is the year of uncertainty, and the building along our streets is the best attempt to beat uncertainty with preparation. Hopefully, the people of modern Montavilla are as hearty as those who first created these streets two hundred years ago—joining our neighbors for a drink and meal on a cold and damp evening.
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.
As a pioneer of the 15-year-old Stark Street revival, the Bipartisan Cafe is again driving innovation in Montavilla Town. Yesterday they installed a dedicated To-Go window on SE 79th Ave. The small side sliding window is similar to units seen at drive-through restaurants.
The To-Go window is not yet in use, waiting on the final glazing installation and other interior adjustments. “We only have to rearrange some equipment and work out a few logistical details.” Said Peter Emerson, owner of the Bipartisan. Emerson hopes to serve customers from the window by the end of the week. Until then, customers can continue to pick up orders at the front door.
Bipartisan has not allowed customers inside the cafe since the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were in-place but have been able to remain open for pick up orders. They are now encouraging customers to order and pay online before visiting, to minimize interactions. The separation provided by the new To-Go window will further protect the cafe’s staff and customers.
Emerson sees pick-up orders as a longterm addition for Bipartisan. “Our plan is for this to be the new normal. We don’t plan on opening our dining room until there is a vaccine. Even after then, we can see shutting down the dining room early in the evening and having only window service.”
Expect to see socially distanced lines along SE 79th Ave when the pick-up window is fully functional. Such a permanent alteration is a sign of the long-term changes we will see in the coming year, as businesses adapt and reinvent how they serve the public.
Bipartisan Cafe is located at 7901 SE Stark Street503.253.1051
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.
Along SE 80th, a large grill cooks sizzling meat. Staff at Lazy Susan have not yet settled on an official opening date, however they have started curbside service for Montavilla locals.
Lazy Susan is located at 7937 SE Stark on the corner of SE 80th Ave and Stark Street. They had intended to open months prior, but delayed due to COVID-19. They are still putting the finishing touches on the interior of the restaurant but that will not stop them from cooking. “We are serving barbecue to the neighborhood curbside, and offering awesome beverages like sangria slushies and piña colada snow cones.” Wrote Kayla Morrell of Lazy Susan PDX.
Lazy Susan has taken curbside service to an extreme, cooking and selling the food from the sidewalk. Orders for food and drinks are placed at the front door on SE Stark Street. Around the corner the food is prepped and grilled. They offer waiting chairs along the front of the building, spaced apart for safety.
Lazy Susan staff have successfully brought a mini version of their restaurant, to the sidewalk. Plates are priced at $15, with your choice of meat. A crescent roll and potato salad are included. They are open 12 to 4 PM.
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