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Portland, Oregon, Is the Capital of Pop-Up Restaurants


Magna Kusina, Twisted Filipino's home base, also hosts pop-ups from Salvie Donuts and Pequeña Cena.

Keanu Banayat


The city’s close-knit culinary community helps foster an emerging crop of talent.


Over the last few years, Portland, Oregon’s much-lauded dining scene has evolved into a decadent multicultural feast served up by chefs eager to add their unique perspectives to a city that always celebrates weirdness. Thanks to a clever real-estate hack, these aspiring restaurateurs are manifesting their culinary ambitions in low-risk, bootstrapping fashion: On days their brick-and-mortar restaurants are closed, the owners invite pop-up operations to commandeer their turnkey spaces, usually for a small fee. 


This fresh spin on pop-up culture is also sustainable: Pop-up owners are unburdened of cost-prohibitive overhead while they put their concepts to the test and perhaps work toward a permanent location. Alongside restaurateurs, they’re charting a new frontier of neighborly alchemy in a notoriously cutthroat industry. Meanwhile, hungry travelers get to witness – and savor – the entrepreneurial spirit in action. From the beloved Filipino cuisine of a James Beard-nominated chef to a rising Indigenous gourmet’s modern approach to First Foods, add these spots to your next spin through Portland. (Tip: Check each place’s social-media accounts before visiting – the beauty of a pop-up is its sometimes short-notice scheduling.)


A Middle Eastern spread from Tamara Hattar of Euzumeh.

Talia Jean


Euzumeh


With Euzumeh, Tamara Hattar takes her family’s Jordanian recipes and gives them the PNW treatment: Mezze platters feature her mom’s velvety, cumin-spiked hummus; seasonal veggies such as local Nantes carrots and purple daikon; and homemade sourdough pita. Wood-fired organic chicken is boldly flavored with a grand bazaar’s worth of allspice, cardamom, and sumac. A cloud of whipped labneh and a sweet-tart compote of seasonal berries cut through the toothy richness of a dense chocolate-halvah brownie. “People tell me that they haven’t had Middle Eastern food like mine in Portland,” says the chef, whose first kitchen takeover for Euzumeh – which means “invitation” in Arabic – happened in 2019 at Milk Glass Mrkt.


These days, Euzumeh puts on semiregular dinners (reservations required) at Cafe Olli, owned by her friends Taylor Manning and Siobhan Speirits. Hattar is also a weekly fixture at the year-round PSU Farmers Market, where she sells artisanal pantry provisions such as red pepper-feta dip, assorted crispy pickles, and almond dukkah. Achieving brick-and-mortar “legitimacy” is where Hattar, whose decade spent working full-time in restaurants overlapped with Euzumeh, diverges from the rest of her pop-up brethren. “For me, this way of life feels so much more balanced,” she says. “I’m sticking to gigs.” @euzumeh on Instagram. 


Show up hungry for Javelina's fully loaded “powwow” burger.

@rosecityoon


Javelina


Driving Native American home cooking to its fine-dining potential, chef Alexa Numkena-Anderson – who is enrolled with the Hopi tribe and is a descendant of the Yakama, Cree, and Skokomish tribes – elevates traditional dishes through Javelinas regular Indigenous Dining dinner series, which she launched late last year with her husband, Nicholas. Transpiring at spots such as Han Oak, Street Disco, and Morchella, Numkena-Anderson’s menus turn up the gastronomic technique on First Foods – the sacred foods eaten by pre-contact Pacific Northwest peoples. Steelhead trout is prepared en papillote inside a corn husk, puffed wild rice provides a textural counterpoint to a stewy and succulent wild rabbit verde, and spoon-tender braised elk is served with wojapi (berry) sauce atop fry bread, a cultural staple.


Javelina also pops up with an à la carte menu at distilleries and taprooms around Portland, including Grand Fir Brewing. Diners can expect “powwow” beef burgers with American cheese on fry-bread buns and braised-elk sandwiches with huckleberry barbecue sauce; the cross-culturally nostalgic and familiar dishes pair easily with a frosty pint. “People are really understanding of how special First Foods are,” says Numkena-Anderson, “and that Indigenous cuisine has a rightful place in the big city.” @javelina.pdx on Instagram.


Low lights set the mood at Too Soon.

Seth Marquez


Face/Off


Ask bartender Nick Flower what makes a good cocktail, and he’ll tell you that’s a trick question. “It’s water – actually, ice,” he says. “Cocktails have a lifespan, and ice or a frozen glass makes them last longer.” As such, the ice at his and co-owner Adam Robinson's (Deadshot) bar Too Soon, a new addition to the gastronomical enclave of 28th Avenue in Northeast Portland, is hand-sawn from large blocks and carved into crystalline rocks or spears, giving a plush texture and ample chill to creative concoctions such as the Right Now (a margarita-like sour made with tequila, Cynar, lemon, simple syrup, cucumbers, and artichoke salt) and the House Special (a gin milk punch featuring curry spices, coconut, red bell pepper, lime, and basil). The latter was developed at Flower’s pop-up, Face/Off, a roaming cocktail battle for local mixologists that served as the on-ramp to Too Soon, which Flower opened in January 2024. 


Face/Off is now a special event that Flower hopes will take place annually, though he and Robinson have welcomed other pop-ups into the space more regularly, including the popular Sun Rice, which now has a brick-and-mortar that specializes in hearty Filipino garlic-fried-rice bowls such as pork-belly BBQ with banana-ketchup glaze. “It’s so cool that people who come in to eat at Sun Rice get to experience our cocktails and vice versa,” Flower says. “Pop-ups are so good at building community.” @toosoonpdx, @faceoffpopup, and @sunricepdx on Instagram.


Filipino flair at Magna Kusina.

Carter Hiyama


Twisted Filipino


Philippines-born, Detroit-raised chef Carlo Lamagna’s popular Filipino restaurant Magna Kusina is the physical manifestation of his Twisted Filipino dinners, which have been traveling the country since 2013. The ticketed tasting-menu events now take place, albeit sporadically, at Magna Kusina, which opened in 2019 with an à la carte menu of Twisted trademarks such as skillet-crisped sisig (chopped pork prepared in a traditional marinade of calamansi and soy sauce) and Mom’s Crab Fat Noodles (house-made squid-ink pasta tossed in a silky sauce of unctuous, funky crab offal). Of course, everyone’s favorite gateway Filipino food, lumpia (fried spring rolls), are also yours for the snacking. “I want to elevate Filipino cuisine to a point where it becomes the easy answer to, ‘Hey, what do you feel like eating tonight?’ ” says Lamagna, who earned a 2022 James Beard nomination for Best Chef Northwest.


Magna Kusina also hosts other pop-ups, such as Salvie Donuts – operated by Sophia Sanchez, a Magna employee whose Salvadoran-inspired flavors include soursop glaze and tamarindo and the Mexican fine-dining dinner series Pequeña Cena, where guests learn that Oregon truffles and huitlacoche (corn fungus) aren’t such strange bedfellows after all. “I know how hard it is to start out in this industry,” Lamagna says. “I want these cooks to live their dream too.” @magnapdx, @salviedonuts, and @pequena_cena on Instagram.  





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