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Portland Restaurants Quickly Pivot in the Days Following the Restaurant Ban

Ava Gene and Tusk embrace elaborate takeout while Eem and Hat Yai rethink their strategy.

By Karen Brooks March 17, 2020

A tropical cocktail at Eem

Image: Eem

In the last few days, some of Portland's most celebrated restaurants have suspended service. Among the closures announced yesterday: Le Pigeon, Canard, Beast, Expatriate, Bollywood Theater, Nostrana, Castagna, Clyde Common, Olympia Provisions, Maurice, and Holdfast. 

Meanwhile, as we reported yesterday, restaurants are struggling with the pivot to takeout/delivery/curbside models. Nate Tilden’s powerhouse group (Olympia Provisions, Clyde Commons, Bar Casa Vale, etc.), for one, has opted against the model.

But today, other big names have announced ambitious offerings, given the circumstances. On Wednesday, Ava Gene’s and Tusk will activate an extensive, all-day curbside pickup plan, 11-a.m.­ – 8 p.m. in the Ava Gene’s parking lot at 3377 SE Division St. The selection includes Tusk salads, Ava Gene's pasta, sauces and salad dressings, meal kits, bake-at-home chocolate chip cookies, and a larder list, with a bomb shelter-like foodie essentials.

And just in case you've forgotten that this is Portland, Oregon, you can still nail the perfect kale salad with the kitchen’s “Tuscan Cavalry Kit,” complete with breadcrumbs, sliced garlic, lemon wedges, chile flakes, grated sarvecchio, evoo, Maldon salt, and kale for $16. (Never forget: the guy who started the kale salad revolution in New York was Ava Genes chef/co-owner Joshua McFadden).

Also in the mix: a collection of $15 pizzas from McFadden’s Cicoria, originally scheduled to open this spring.

But other places have tentatively rolled back their a takeout programs, including Eem and Hat Yai. After going headlong into the model with his two wildly popular spots, restaurateur Earl Ninsom says it’s time to take a step back to make sure employees are safe and healthy. “We’re trying to figure out what options we have,” says Ninsom. “Want to make sure we calculate the number right. Want to make sure we can pay people. Everyone has been advised to file for unemployment. We’re all in the same place, the same situation.” Ninsom hopes to have a takeout plan in place in the next two to four weeks. 

“Everyone is thinking,” adds Ninsom, one of the city’s most connected restaurant owners. “We’re all trying to figure this out.”

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