When Nicolle Dirks and Jose “Pepe” Arancibia traveled to Chile in 2004, they planned to stay for six months. Instead, they opened a vegetarian restaurant in Valparaiso and stayed for several years.
“After those eight years, I wanted to be closer to my family, so we came back to the States,” Dirks says. “In our restaurant in Chile, we served non-South American vegetarian cuisine and drinks. So here in Portland, we're going to do the opposite by serving food and drinks inspired by the Andes region of South America.”
Like the duo’s previous eatery, Epif—short for “epiphany”—is devoutly meat-free, opting instead for mushroom ceviche, soy curl empanadas, and tofu-stuffed eggplant. Light, fruity sauces splash brightly-colored plates anchored by portobellos and purple potatoes. Options abound for even the most allergy-cursed diner; dishes like Lentejas (stewed lentils) and Quinoa Altiplanica are gluten-free, soy-free, and vegan. The bar boasts booze-filled window boxes and a Pisco-centric cocktail menu crafted by Bull in China.
The brand-new space was built from the ground up in the couple’s own yard, replacing a detached garage and garden. Perched on the corner of Northeast 28th and Flanders, the new eatery features cheerful teal paint and—is that a tree branch bisecting the roof?
“Our contractor realized that the giant tree limb we thought was going to be near the building was actually going to intersect with the building,” Dirks explains. “So rather than cut it down and harm the tree, we re-designed the building to incorporate the limb so that we could keep the tree in place.”
The restaurant features other reclaimed materials as well—think tables made from gym bleachers, countertops fashioned from skateboard scraps, and church pews chopped into booths. The antique door that welcomes guests was bought by Dirks’s parents in 1970s Peru. Walk through that door yourself next week—the restaurant opens on Wednesday, November 4, at 4 pm.