: Thomas Teal

Ultimate Guide to Portland’s Pop-Up Restaurant Scene

These low-key dining experiences offer chefs a chance to experiment and create community all over the city.
Thomas Teal,  Photographer
May 28, 2024

Portland is the city of pop-ups, where your next exceptional meal may not come from a restaurant or a food cart. The rise of pop-up culture — where chefs temporarily take over a borrowed kitchen — is all thanks to the community-focused, creative spirit driving Portland’s chefs and food innovators. Some pop-ups occur on the days the restaurants are closed — either for a one-off special event or for an ongoing residency on specific days of the week. Others invite industry friends to collaborate on unique dishes or pairings that you won’t find elsewhere.

As an event producer of pop-ups myself, I’ve seen firsthand how these experiences offer both chefs and diners an innovative and cool way to try new food.  Chefs have opportunities to experiment with culinary ideas and foster camaraderie, and diners can sample new culinary trends, wacky combinations or dishes few people have tried in Portland. The menus come and go, and it’s always a festive atmosphere.

For a glimpse into Portland’s culinary pop-up landscape, here’s a guide to venues and residencies, plus some former pop-ups that have opened brick-and-mortars. Want to know where the next pop-up will be for your favorite concept? Follow along on social media, as dates are mainly advertised through Instagram and word of mouth.

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Interior of a small cafe/restaurant. Patrons sit at the counter and at a table.
Cafe Olli

From Pop-Ups to Brick-and-Mortar Restaurants

Did you know that several of Portland’s James Beard-recognized restaurants began as pop-ups? Before minimalist Vietnamese concept Berlu, Chef Vince Nguyen ran a dinner series called Jolie Laide. Chef Carlo Lamagna hosted Twisted Filipino dinners, which laid the groundwork for his restaurant Magna Kusina, at pop-up incubator Feastly. Indonesian-Chinese restaurant Gado Gado, from chefs Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly, was originally a brunch and late-night noodle pop-up. Chef Gregory Gourdet’s wood-fired Haitian restaurant Kann — one of the most sought-after reservations in town — debuted as Kann Winter Village, serving multicourse menus in outdoor yurts. 

Many pop-ups turned restaurants welcome colleagues into their kitchens to propel the city’s thriving global food culture forward. On any given day, you’re likely to find a pop-up at Street Disco, like Indigenous cooking by Javelina. When vegan comfort foods pop-up Feral opened its brick-and-mortar, it paid it forward by introducing other pop-ups, like Unwind pasta cart and Tzimmy Jewish fare. Burmese eatery Rangoon Bistro is known for hosting and collaborating with The Mad Man West Indian cuisine.

Landing a brick-and-mortar isn’t always the end goal, however. Jewan Manuel of Plant Based Papi — one of Portland’s most successful pop-ups, which did a stint as a restaurant and then a residency — returned to the pop-up game for more flexibility and creative freedom. You can find the beloved vegan food popping up at Cafe Olli.

Food shot of several Burmese dishes, from noodle to rice dishes.
Rangoon Bistro

Where Are Pop-Ups Popping Off in Portland?

Portland’s pop-ups come in different styles: ticketed prix-fixe dinners; reservations like a traditional restaurant; pre-ordering for pick-up; or first-come, first-served à la carte menus. Get your pop-up orders in early as the most popular ones regularly sell out.

Magna Kusina — along with Filipino collective Kolectivo — hosts a variety of pop-ups, often as community fundraisers. Drop by Zuckercreme cafe for themed pop-ups (think: strawberry, citrus or corn) with multiple chefs. Mestizo and sister restaurants Libre and Norah host pop-ups on the days they’re closed — including my annual Veganizer Pan-Asian Celebration dinner, which brings 10 Asian restaurants together for a collaborative menu. Asian American restaurant Xiao Ye regularly hosts Flavors & Friends brunches with Dear Francis coffee and other makers.

Restaurants aren’t the only spaces to scope out pop-ups. Mayfly taproom has been hosting a whole slew of pop-ups for years, while Company natural-wine bar and Division Winemaking Co. urban winery are buzzy pop-up venues during the summer. Community spaces like SWANA Rose Culture + Community Center are home to culturally specific pop-ups, like Jawaher Palestinian cuisine.

Interior of a small bar with modern decor.
Dame Collective

Dine at Portland’s Ongoing Chef Residencies

Dame Collective is one of Portland’s longest-running pop-up venues. Chefs in residency share the space and resources for different shifts throughout the week, while Dame handles the bar menu. The current lineup includes Luna Contreras of Chelo and Richard Le of Matta; a documentary video of Matta’s kitchen takeover at Multnomah Whiskey Library even won a James Beard Award.

Chém Gió serves Vietnamese snacks, from fried-tofu skewers to pho noodle soup, in residencies at White Owl Social Club and Mosaic Taphouse. Astral’s vibrant Mexican fare pairs perfectly with Duality Brewing’s pints and natural wines. There are beverage residencies too, like The Wayward Sailor nonalcoholic pub at Exquisite Creatures.

About The
Author

Waz Wu
Waz Wu is a food writer, content creator and event producer living in Portland, Oregon. She enjoys exploring restaurants, vegan cooking, gardening and cuddling her two cats Chloe and Lexi.

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