It’s starting to feel like you can’t walk more than a few blocks in this city without stumbling over a restaurant that serial franchiser Micah Camden currently (or previously) owned, from his six local Little Big Burger outposts and highbrow doughnut operation Blue Star Donuts to his Boxer Sushi and Ramen spots. (There are worse fates, Portland.)
Now comes word that spring will bring a sweet and spicy double punch from the local empire builder. Camden, with perennial business partner Katie Poppe, is currently rehabbing the prime SE Hawthorne Boulevard space long home to Chinese restaurant Fujin to house a second, roomier Blue Star Donuts.
Meanwhile, 20-blocks away on Southeast Division Street, he’s also transforming the Pizzicato across from the Seven Corners New Seasons market into a new concept: a fried chicken shack called “Son of a Biscuit.” He says, think Southern-style hot chicken spot upgraded with Northwest ingredients, from house-baked biscuits to Yamhill-bred, pasture-raised Kookoolan Farms birds spiced with Viridian Farms Piment d'Espelette.
With Blue Star Hawthorne, which boasts more room for seating, prep, and fryers, the chef promises more fresh doughnuts (the downtown space is notorious for running out by early afternoon) and expanded hours “from morning ‘til night.” What else? A roster of new cake doughnuts (including some potential vegan rounds) as well as heftier “fork and knife ready” treats, like the original Blue Star’s short-lived fried chicken doughnut and a Scotch egg doughnut. All may come online by the light, bright spot’s early March opening date.
Switching gears, Camden is fairly exploding with enthusiasm for his no nonsense fried chicken shack, an idea he says he’s had “marinating” for years, but got a boost from his recent trip to Nashville. “It’s going to be the shit,” he says. “You don’t know how many times I got off shift at Yakuza and just ate bags of Popeye’s. Now, I’m going after Popeye’s the same way I went after Burgerville.”
Indeed, the Division spot, which now sports a fresh coat of eye-popping light blue paint, follows Camden’s wildly successful Little Big Burger formula: an inexpensive, limited, take-out-heavy menu crafted with high-end ingredients. “I’m just gonna serve chicken,” he shrugs. To be specific, birds soaked in bourbon-brine, dipped in rye flour batter and fried; amped to varying dimensions of hotness built from blends of floral-to-fiery chiles, spices and, salt and vinegar powers. On the cheap, of course: “A whole bird, with enough biscuits, sides and pickles for a family of four is less than $8 a person. And you can call ahead and get it,” he rattles off without pausing to take a breath. “It’s gonna be tasty-tasty.” He's shooting to open Son of a Biscuit sometime in late spring.
“What’s ironic is that this is the only restaurant that I’m going knowing that I can actually do it. Usually I build it and then figure out whether I can do it,” he says, referring to his notoriously backwards process for creating his other flavor-bomb menus. “I'm no stranger to fried chicken. My mom was from Tennessee; my dad from Kentucky. I got this.”