The Southeast Portland breakfast stop Slappy Cakes wanted to expand on its winning formula: cook-yourself pancakes on tabletop griddles, fresh local ingredients, full bar. But instead of looking across town or scanning the I-5 corridor, the family-run operation jumped the Pacific, opening a Tokyo location this winter. And while the concept remains the same, the two branches of this global small business offer a study in radical contrasts.
Portland A low-slung building on SE Belmont Street, home of TriMet’s no. 15 bus line
Tokyo The seventh floor of the Lumine Est shopping mall near Shinjuku, the world’s busiest train station, which serves about 4 million passengers every day
Portland In 2009, Adam Fuderer and some partners hatched a plan to embed hot griddles in tables and send waitresses around with pitchers of batter. Crowds lined up.
Tokyo Last year, a representative of the influential Maruha Restaurant Group, credited for introducing Thai food to Japan, came to Portland to pursue Japan’s latest culinary obsession: American breakfast.
Portland Bright, high-ceilinged east-side postindustrial, accented with liberal use of cheerful orange
Tokyo Wood-paneled and oddly faux-maritime. (Apparently the entire seventh floor of this mall at the world’s busiest train station has a beach theme—who knew?) Large paintings illustrate the steps to a DIY pancake.
BEER OF CHOICE
Portland Green Lakes Organic Ale
Tokyo Yebisu Premium Draft
Portland Pork belly Benedict, $12
Tokyo Country fried steak & the “Truck Stop” breakfast, tied at 1,300 yen (about $13.85)
Portland Optional ingredients include goat cheese, vegan sausage, and locally sourced dried cherries; six different batters.
Tokyo Only three batters so far. The head chef and outside consultants will work to maintain the original Slappy focus on local ingredients.
Portland A typical weekend morning at Slappy Cakes sees a crush of families, kiddie birthday parties, and adults in need of either the Stumptown espresso or the “Whiskey for Breakfast” cocktail—or both.
Tokyo According to Fuderer, the Lumine Est mall targets “young women on the go,” drawn by the prime shopping on Shinjuku’s east side.
Portland Fuderer says Portland has become an ideal testing ground for exportable culinary ideas, and he plans to expand in this country, too. “Portlanders have demands and expectations when it comes to food,” he says. “If you’re successful here, your formula can carry over to any market in the US.”
Tokyo The rapidly growing international restaurant market seems hungry for American concepts. “It looks like this will not be our only location in Japan or Asia,” Fuderer says. Meanwhile, the next Slappy Cakes will be in Maui. Pan-Pacific pancakes!