n 2019, Gado Gado was Portland’s rising food star, a whirling mind-bender of Indonesian food. Its run of gloriously twisted eats screeched to a halt in March, like everything else. And then things really got interesting. Call it a survival plan or a last stand for having fun during doomsday. But somehow, owners Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly found the headspace to break our food brains, put disco balls and boom boxes in a takeout tent, and defy the gods of gastronomy in a brown paper bag. The couple hit the gas pedal with “Oma’s Takeaway,” a curbside spinoff at Gado Gado that found the missing link between Chinese BBQ, Malaysian breakfast, and Southern meat-and-threes.
Now Gado Gado is back, sort of, its singular menu available for takeout or patio reservations. And Oma’s Takeaway has its own home and purpose in the former Whiskey Soda Lounge, blessed with spacious backyard outdoor seating. The couple brought their disco balls, paper pineapples and curated Rock Steady playlist. Andy Ricker’s former joint left behind a Chinese roast duck oven, though don’t expect anything that straightforward here. Already, Thomas and his trusted right-hand chef Ian Schoening are firing up an innovative pork belly, its wild, wiggly skin injected with curry paste, all dispatched with electric green chili vinegar.
The surprise hit so far? Tempeh curry, mottled with peas and glowing like Indian tikka masala, rich, deep, warm-spiced. But don’t sleep on spicy fried chicken, its “crust” formed from thick red curry paste. Gado Gado’s alluring spice and funk pervades Oma’s “sides.” Even a melon-cucumber combo thrashes with fermented black crab and lime. The cabbage salad is a nose-dripper—sharp shallots, pickled mustard greens, fish sauce, screaming herbs, a rage of heat. Or just go for nasi lemak, Malaysia’s iconic dish fronted by fragrant coconut rice showered with peanuts, anchovies, and fiery samba. Desserts put the artful in plastic cup cuisine with eye-popping parfaits made from the likes of corn cake trifle, lemon curd, and Corn Pops.
For all of Oma’s Takeaway’s swagger, opening a patio/takeout restaurant with winter looming is terrifying. “Hope sustains us,” confides Thomas. “We’d rather go down swinging than bleed out into oblivion.” 3131 SE Division St, omastakeaway.com