That was my best guess when Lisa Wood at Big-Ass Sandwiches noted online that the cart would be closed Thursday, May 21st for a major announcement that afternoon. I was sort of right.
Big-Ass Sandwiches will soon be a brick-and-mortar!
Lisa and Brian Wood's initial hope in 2009, after she'd gotten fired from her radio job, was to open a restaurant/bar, but at the time the finances didn't pencil out. A food cart did. Which has gone well for them (getting positive national attention helped with that, obviously, but making consistently good and even fun sandwiches and specials was the biggest part of that). Six years and a series of unexpected events later -- that's their story to tell -- it's happening. They can't publicly say yet exactly where, but soon.
Worth mentioning in its own paragraph: the cart will stay open until a few days before they open the sit-down location. THEY ARE NOT GOING OUT OF BUSINESS. (A fair number of people saw the Craigslist ad selling the cart and assumed that, and I've corrected that when I've seen someone get that wrong impression. That's happened a couple of times so far.)
Today was Brian and Lisa's last day personally running the cart before they hand it off to their employees for the final weeks of running the cart (yes, it might be that soon before the restaurant opens), so I visited. So did a camera operator for KOIN News 6, who interviewed them near the end of today's shift. That end came early; they sold out, soon after I'd arrived (I'd already eaten elsewhere) around 2:30. I was within earshot but out of their line of sight -- I didn't want to be hover-y -- as Brian explained to the news person that this had gone more quickly and smoothly than any restaurant set-up he's been involved with. (He's been involved in others as an employee, like Jones Bar in the former McFadden's downtown, not as the owner.)
After the interview ended and the OPEN sign got turned off for the day, I hung out in the cart with Brian, Lisa and employee Crystal as they did end-of-shift cleaning/prepping. Lisa showed me pictures of the inside of the new location -- including a small bar, a fair amount of indoor seating, and a basement prep kitchen -- and told me about plans for the soft opening. Soon. Oh boy, soon. They plan to hire a mutual friend of ours to make a cool-looking menu of their main dishes, though as most bars do they'll have a chalk board for specials and anything else that changes. Meanwhile, they roasted turkey that will be in next week's sandwiches (the cart's currently open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 to 5 with longer hours on Thursdays), and visited other friends who showed up at the cart door to congratulate them.
They've hoped and prepared for this, and it's finally happening. And Lisa has cracked about how elegant it would be if whoever buys the cart turns it into Oregon's first legal weed-selling cart. That prrrrrrrrrobably won't happen, but it amuses Lisa to imagine that.
* Why I guessed that: when the cart had to leave its Central Eastside location earlier this year, they lost the prep kitchen/commissary the cart had shared there with the SE food cart Potato Champion. That space is going away in the remodel of the former site that will put a bar in that building -- and a beer garden where the cart used to be.