Portland Restaurants Coming Together During the COVID-19 Outbreak
In reaction to COVID-19 concerns, Oregon Governor Kate Brown ordered the closing of Oregon public schools on Friday, March 13, and the closing of all restaurants for dining on Tuesday, March 16. In true Portland spirit, the city’s culinary community leaped into action. Restaurant owners—from fine dining to casual food carts—are finding inventive ways to support the needs of industry workers, children without school lunches, and Portland residents at-large. While this is an undeniably trying time for the hospitality industry, this tight-knit community continues to find ways to lift each other up and remind us all that food connects us all.
Innovative Solutions to Hand Sanitizer Shortages
Shine Distillery & Grill
The sanitizer shortage prompted Shine Distillery to use its “gin heads” (leftovers from the distillation process) to make 3 oz. hand sanitizer bottles that can be given to customers along with their food orders. Shine Distillery has been enthusiastically sharing their sanitizer recipe and process with other distilleries around the nation who wish to also help supply more sanitizer to the public. Additionally, Shine Distillery is partnering with a women-owned business, Freeland Spirits to produce an even higher volume of hand sanitizer.
Portland’s esteemed Omakase restaurant is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 concerns. With chef and owner Ryan Roadhouse no longer busying his days preparing a 15-course tasting menu, he and his team are spending their time preparing packages of homemade onigiri alongside much needed hand sanitizers and soap for Portland’s senior residents.
The popular Indian eatery gave away its food before closing its doors for COVID-19 concerns. Pre-made dishes and single ingredients were packaged in family size containers. Food was spread out throughout the facility and people were admitted in small groups in order to keep the community safe. Portions from the restaurant’s bulk supply of rice, lentils, and spices—ingredients that are in short supply in grocery stores—were also available for purchase at a low-cost point to the general public. By the end of March 18, Bollywood Theater estimates they had given away $25,000 worth of food to 400 people.
Portland’s largest indoor sports and events arena will be unused for at least the next month with no NBA games or concerts. As the stadium currently has a lot of food that will otherwise go to waste, the hospitality company that supplies the venue (Levy Foods out of Chicago) donated 2,800 pounds of food to Urban Gleaners, a Portland-based food non-profit devoted to reducing food waste and food insecurity at the same time.
Free Lunches for Kids
Many Portland restaurants are providing free lunches for minors, which is a critical way to support families that rely on schools for meals. Restaurants that are providing meals include the following:
Portland’s favorite place for pelmeni has introduced a kid’s lunch menu that is free to those 12 and under.
This Pacific Northwest chain of health food restaurants provides a free kids meal to children who are part of a Meal Assistance Program. That said, this offer is runs onthe honor system so as to not stigmatize individuals using assistance services or exclude any family experiencing food insecurity.
Sugar Street Bakery & Bistro
This southeast eatery was among the first to recognize the need to provide new lunch options for out-of-school kids, offering free brown bag lunches for children and families.
A free hot lunch will be available at each Toro Bravo location that is offering takeout service.
Portland’s Food Industry Taking Care of Each Other
With restaurants closed to in-house dining, many industry workers throughout the world are left with reduced hours or lay-offs. Local restaurant owners are finding ways to donate unused food, give what they can, and send love through food to the very people who make Portland known as a world-class food destination. Restaurants and food carts that are providing meals include the following:
- Irving Street Kitchen has established set times for industry workers to come by and pickup pints of prepared food, as well as unused ingredients.
- JoJo is providing fried chicken sandwiches and burgers to restaurant workers and kids, but there is a “no questions asked” policy for anyone that is experiencing food insecurity.
- Kim Jong Grillin' is delivering his quintessential bibim box and kimchi jjigae to the doorsteps of newly unemployed restaurant workers.
- Matta is serving free chao ga, a Vietnamese congee-style rice porridge with braised chicken thighs to restaurant workers and others who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 effects. Kids can have the comforting plate of chicken and rice, along with pandan doughnut holes for dessert. Owner Richard Le will provide lunch and dinner service as long as he can afford it.
- Waiting Room is thrilled to be donating food that would otherwise go to waste to their industry friends in need. The restaurant is looking to activate a more organized charitable food donation in the weeks to come.
Creative Takeout and Delivery Solutions
Comfort food comes in the Russian variety as Kachka was one of the first Portland restaurants to voluntarily close its dining room in order to support social distancing. Kachka simply changed their protocol with hearty Russian fare available for delivery and curbside pickup. The sister business, Lavka, is a mini grocery store and deli that has adapted to offer online orders and a free lunch to kids under the age of 12.
Memoz Dessert Cafe
Beyond merely providing an easy way to give into stress eating, Memoz is providing some much-needed good cheer with its Pay-It-Forward campaign. The dessert spot is collecting donations that go toward providing surprise dessert deliveries to Portland-area healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. Donations not only send thanks to healthcare workers, but help support the sustainability of Memoz as a small business. In addition to donations, people can also send dessert-grams with personalized messages to loved ones who may live nearby—but they can’t see due to social distancing and quarantines.
Submarine Hospitality: Ava Gene’s and Tusk
Two of Portland's most esteemed chefs, Joshua McFadden and Sam Smith, have put together a menu of family meals, a la carte dishes, pizzas, soups and salads, as well as fresh pasta, sauces, cookie dough and meal kits, ready for curbside pickup. Orders can be made easily through an online portal. For a beer pairing, Ava Gene's neighbor on Division Street, Little Beast Brewing, is offering $5 local beer delivery.
Portland’s Toro Bravo restaurant group is dedicated to serving the community through a new slate of affordable, healthy pickup food options at its community commissary kitchens. Offerings include simple a la carte options and large format family meals to fit the needs of different households each and every day. The Mediterranean Exploration Company will also have a deli case selling classics by the pint, including hummus, labneh, eggplant dip and s’hug. Additionally, kids can get a free hot lunch at all Toro Bravo locations providing takeout options at this time.