Most know Aron Moxley as the former lead singer of The Slants, a Portland band that called itself the world’s only Asian-American dance rock band until it disbanded after its final show in 2019. Now, Moxley’s showing off his culinary skills at his new smoked meats pop-up, Stabs, which is holding a grand opening along with a collective of other businesses this Saturday, November 7 at Bar Carlo.
Though he’s more widely known for his vocal talents, Moxley’s no stranger to the restaurant industry; he’s been cooking and bartending for years. “I’ve always worked in restaurants my whole life. It kind of works with the rock and roll lifestyle,” Moxley says. The idea for Stabs—named because it was originally a skewered meats concept—was born eight years ago while on tour with The Slants in Austin, where Moxley fell in love with barbecue. Since then, he’s spent time in Vietnam, touring the country by motorcycle (his preferred mode of transportation, particularly Harleys) with his girlfriend Alison Elliott, who bartends at Bar Carlo and runs the front of the house at Stabs—and eating as much Vietnamese street food as possible.
“I’ve been wanting to do Asian food with smoked meats. Just mix it up like that, take the traditional, make it a little different,” Moxley says. “I grew up in a multicultural family. I was adopted from Vietnam from the war, and we adopted three other kids from the Philippines. I have two white sisters. We had a lot of different foods all the time,” Moxley said, ranging from pancit to adobo to rattlesnake and porcupine stew, plus dinners with his grandparents at Pho Hung on the weekends.
At the center of the menu are the banh mi, filled with house-smoked meats and house-pickled daikon and carrots on an An Xuyen Bakery baguette. Brisket, which is served on Fridays and Saturdays only and often sells out, is already a clear favorite among Stabs customers. Moxley offers a choice of lean or fatty brisket, smoked for sixteen hours and allowed to rest for two. The menu also includes banh mi stuffed with smoked pulled pork, smoked chicken, or smoked tofu, plus specials like blackened snapper and kimchi-infused Italian sausage made in-house by Elliott's mother, Lia Baratti. The sandwiches are served with a punchy, fiery kimchi that Moxley makes himself— “I’m a spicy guy,” he says—and a petite cup of black rice. Moxley also makes handmade sesame-peanut noodles rolled to order, a skill he picked up working at the Columbian Cafe in his hometown of Astoria, where he was tasked with making fresh pasta.
Soon, Moxley plans to offer pho made with cold-smoked bone marrow. It’s based on his high school best friend’s family recipe, a favorite after-school snack. “His mom would have a bowl of pho just simmering on the stove almost every day that we went over there, and nothing beats that, especially in Astoria, where it’s rainy all the time,” Moxley says. The smoked bones, though, are a Moxley addition.
“I was talking with my buddy about the pho recipe. He’s like, ‘Why are you smoking pho? No one does that,' And I’m like, 'exactly.'”
Also a planned addition to the menu: cocktails made with cold-smoked water that’s been turned into ice cubes. Food and drinks can be enjoyed at the bar’s outdoor picnic tables, and they’ll be screening kung fu movies and samurai films in the bar’s alley.
Saturday also marks the grand opening of “Foster Familia,” a pandemic-era collective at Bar Carlo founded by the bar’s owner, Mel Archuleta. The collective includes Bar Carlo, which is serving Mexican and American food during the day and drinks all day long, a plant shop called Glasshaus Gardens, a shop called Manifest Mercantile, and of course, Stabs, which is open for dinner only. The grand opening party runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a performance from Super Secret Band at 7:30 p.m.