Forget “be right back”—BRB now stands for Baked Roots Bar.
Located barely three blocks from Potato Champion, Portland’s premier destination for gourmet tuber-based goodness, Baked Roots Bar is tucked away in a row of commercial kitchens on SE Madison Street. The menu offers precisely seven items: six trays of topping-loaded fries and one dessert. Each dish is vegan, oil-free, and inspired by one of the Earth’s continents. The Libertadores, for example, features yuca fries (sourced from Venezuela via the Portland Mercado), pinto bean dip, chipotle crema, and corn fritter crumble.
The business is a joint venture between three new Portlanders: cousins Elvira Raposo and Sade Perez, and Perez’s boyfriend, Michael Partridge. The trio all went vegan two years ago, and moved from New York to Oregon last August with the hopes of starting a plant-based restaurant.
“We finished up school and were like, ‘We’re not going to do what we learned in school… what’s next?’” explains Partridge, who majored in material engineering and briefly worked with apps before co-founding Baked Roots Bar.
After experimenting with a variety of styles and cuisines, the team settled on an oil-free, root-based menu with flavors inspired by their globe-spanning cultural backgrounds. (Partridge is Greek, and Raposo and Perez are from the Dominican Republic.) Ingredients are largely organic, non-GMO, and local, with deluxe toppings like nori jerky, “Gooda cheese,” and tofu pepperoni all made in house. (The company’s website boasts a menu “made up entirely of energy food,” which, uh, sure.)
In a moment when Portland is having a vicious fight about cultural appropriation in the food industry, it’s hard to know what the city will make of a menu—co-created by two women of color—with items like “Ubuntu,” which features plantains, black-eyed peas, “Moroccan chermoula,” “West African creamy curry sauce,” and crushed peanuts. But I actually have another question: is Portland interested in paying $11 per tray for oil-free, plant-based baked roots? Is this normal in 2017? When in doubt, opt for the Antarctica-themed dish, “Glaciology,” which the menu describes as “chocolate peanut butter icebergs submerged in gloriously fizzing root beer.” In other words, a root beer float.