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New restaurants bring market oases to Portland's food deserts
Ps and Qs Market, one of nearly 10 new restaurant-market hybrids in Portland. “The two businesses work really well together,” Ps and Qs co-owner Emily Anderson says. “People come in for food, then peruse the store and inevitably buy something. Or they come in for groceries and see a special on the board and stay for dinner.”
By Michael Russell | email@example.com The Oregonian
on March 28, 2014 at 11:02 AM, updated March 28, 2014 at 2:51 PM
Gary Lowe, the man behind the meat smoker at Crown Q Market & Deli, recalls an earlier Northeast Portland, a time when his grandmother, Josephine "Outlaw Josie" Bell, "carried a little Derringer and a razor blade” while running "the only food cart in the roughest part of town.”
But last year, when Lowe decided to turn his own cart, Crown Q, into a brick-and-mortar restaurant, he had different memories in mind: Learning to cook while helping out at the Tropicana, a once-hopping North Williams Avenue barbecue joint, and the sense of togetherness and community he felt there.
At his new restaurant, he devoted half the dining room to a little market, where customers can pick up Northwest beer and wine, farm-fresh eggs and meat from Stroupe Family Farm in Aurora while Lowe smokes ribs, brisket and turkey legs out front.
By opening with a market, Lowe tapped into the latest trend in Portland’s food scene. In the past year-plus, nearly 10 Portland restaurants, including Crown Q, Old Salt Marketplace and Oso Market and Bar have opened with small markets where everything from everyday staples to boutique goods are available to-go.
Market-restaurant hybrids -- pharmacies with soda fountains, Mexican tiendas with back-of-house taquerias, convenience stores with heat-lamped pizza -- aren’t new. But today’s restaurant owners are flipping the script, with restaurants that pave the way for (and sometimes financially support) the market.
Along the way, these restaurateurs may have stumbled on a salve for the persistent problem of so-called “food deserts,” areas under-served by stores with fresh produce and healthful food.
After a combined 30 years in restaurant work, Emily Anderson and Paul Davis seemed perfectly positioned to open a restaurant of their own.
But while looking around their Woodlawn neighborhood, Anderson, a former server and front-of-house manager (Por Que No?, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty), and Davis, a cook and kitchen manager (Kenny & Zuke’s, Dove Vivi), realized there was a more pressing need.
“Technically we're in a food desert, or we used to be,” says Anderson, whose house is about a mile from the nearest grocery store. “We were just tired of having to drive. We wanted to have a little neighborhood grocery store we could walk to.”
The couple found a space, a former soul food restaurant that had sat empty for several years, and transformed it into Ps and Qs Market, a cozy grocery store selling fresh produce and a small kitchen where Davis prepares tasty soups, salads and sandwiches.
“The two businesses work really well together,” Anderson says. “People come in for food, then peruse the store and inevitably buy something. Or they come in for groceries and see a special on the board and stay for dinner.”
Asafetida and au jus
Not every restaurant-market hybrid has community-building on the brain. Some spots just want to give their customers easier access to unusual or hard-to-find ingredients.
Shut Up and Eat, the Southeast Portland sandwich shop known for its cheesesteak, recently expanded with a market and deli next door. The move was deigned to increase the restaurant’s prep space, but co-owner John Fimmano said he also wanted to offer Portland a taste of his Philadelphia-area childhood.
“When we were growing up, we used to go down to the store and get 10 pounds of roast beef, a quart of au jus, some rolls and Provolone and go home and make our own sandwiches and watch some football,” Fimmano says. “We wanted to create that option here.”
On Southeast Division Street, chef Troy MacLarty’s second Bollywood Theater location has a small market on the side selling hard-to-find ingredients such as puffed rice, ghee (clarified butter) and asafetida (a strong-smelling herbal resin prized in Indian cooking).
“The original idea for the market has come from our customers,” MacLarty emailed from his wedding weekend in Mexico. “They’ve asked us many times (whether) they could buy small amounts of certain ingredients because they didn't want to drive out to the suburbs to purchase them.”
Not far away, shoppers can find Thai ingredients at Tarad Thai Market and carefully sourced Italian products at Luce, an Italian restaurant in a space resembling a general goods store
Cutting down waste
For Ps and Qs, the market provides an added bonus: Davis can plan his menus around what’s available in the store, cutting down on the food waste typically found at larger grocery stores. And though the market barely breaks even, the profits from the restaurant help Anderson and Davis employ 14 people.
Newish PDX restaurants with their own markets
Bollywood Theater: 3010 S.E. Division St., 503-477-6699
Crown Q Market and Deli: 445 N.E. Killingsworth St., 503-281-0373
Luce: 2140 E. Burnside St., 503-236-7195
Old Salt Marketplace: 5027 N.E. 42nd Ave., 971-255-0167
Oso Market & Bar: 726 SE Grand Ave., 503-232-6400
Ps and Qs Market: 1301 N.E. Dekum St.; 503-894-8979; psandqsmarket.com
Shut Up And Eat: 3848 S.E. Gladstone St., 503-719-6449
Tarad Thai Market: 601 S.E. Morrison St., 503-234-4102
“We're sustainable because of the deli,” Anderson says.
“Emily is a born entrepreneur,” Davis says. “She's had a ton of multi-faceted business ideas: a coffee shop with a record store, a flower shop with a bar. When we met, she had this idea to do a general store. I said, “If you had a market, I could do this and this with the food. The idea just grew and grew.”
Turns out, Anderson had been plotting the market for while. She recalls talking the idea over with Old Salt Marketplace co-owner Ben Meyer years ago. And before opening, she took a job at the Woodsman Market, a small food boutique attached to the Woodsman Tavern restaurant, to learn the trade.
Over at Crown Q, Lowe says he plans to add fresh fruit and vegetables to the market in May. He hopes customers will embrace his store as a smaller-scale alternative to big grocery stores such as Safeway and Trader Joe’s, the latter of which recently reverse plans to build a location a few blocks from Crown Q.
But mostly, Lowe wants to offer people a reason to swing by and hang out.
“This was a predominantly black area,” Lowe says. “Now that everyone's here -- the whole melting pot -- we're trying to make this a clean, community place where you can sit back with a glass of wine, a beer and listen to some Bob Marley or jazz music.
“We really don’t know what we’re doing, but it seems to be working.”
-- Michael Russell