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The Word on Micah Camden’s Heart Pizza, Opening Friday, February 24

The cofounder of mini-chain breakouts Blue Star Donuts and Little Big Burger unveils his new Portland pizza concept and spills the beans on another project: fast, fresh Chinese in LA.

By Karen Brooks February 22, 2017

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A bacon pie with caramelized onion, roasted grapes, saba, and chevre.

Image: Karen Brooks

The slogan for Micah Camden’s newest project is “Pizza With Purpose.” The purpose behind Heart Pizza, opening Friday, February 24, at 417 SW 13th Ave, is manifold. It has a charitable bent, with $1 of every pie going to a local cause. It’s a chef-y approach to fast food: 14 pies ($12–15) come from the mind of Italian chef Morgan Brownlow, with roasted and cured toppings and perhaps a drizzle of aged balsamic, then blasted in a Stefano Ferrara gas oven, ready to go in 90 seconds. And it’s here to play: three outlets will be open by June, with locations on the Southwest Waterfront and in Northeast Portland, near Lloyd Center, with another on the way in Lake Oswego. It all fits with a kind of Camden purpose: turning zeitgeist flavors into stylish mini-chains, most notably at Blue Star Donuts (Portland, LA, Japan) and Little Big Burger (sold for $6.1 million in 2015). With Heart, Camden aims to fill the gaps in Portland’s pizza geography. “People always say location matters,” he says, “but they never listen to themselves.” 

The idea is an instant, take-out pizza night (or day, if you wish): quality pizza, salads, panna cotta, and a micro-selection of canned wine and Italian beer dispatched in fast-food fashion. Camden and co-owner Matt Lynch will serve only whole pies to go. They’re flash-cooked at 875 degrees and boom, ready to go. There are three salads, including escarole Caesar and kale panzanella, tumbled with Ken’s Artisan Bakery bread crumbs, garlicky chickpeas, and soppressata. 

Brownlow, a San Francisco Italian food vet who helped land Portland on the national food map at the storied Clarklewis, puts his signature touches to use here. That means pizza with roasted mushrooms and shaved lemons, and lots of olives floating around. One, an homage to his former Italian food mentor, San Francisco’s famed Paul Bertolli, has Castelvetrano olives, almond-orange pesto, and ricotta. His famed Clarklewis “Peasant Salad” turns up in pizza form—an iconic blend of chicory, toasted walnuts, crispy pancetta, and aged balsamic, now turned over a pizza dough, tweaked with a little rye flour and aged four days. This being Portland, I’m curious about the weekend-only brunch pizza, with Brownlow’s homemade maple sausage, roasted potatoes, egg, and hollandaise. 

Meanwhile, Camden is already busy drilling down into his next project: Chinwa. Eat Beat has learned that Camden is deep in development on his longtime dream to open a Chinese food... something. He says he’s already lined up $3 million in investment for what he calls “Chipotle-meets-Chinese”: fresh and fast with American-loving Chinese flavors. If it gets off the ground, Chinwa will open in LA. He’s already tapped Brownlow to help develop flavors. Kung Pao burritos, anyone? 

Heart Pizza
417 SW 13th Ave
11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily

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