Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

Scenes from a future restaurant (Big-Ass brick and mortar, coming up!)

It makes me smile, knowing how close Lisa and Brian Wood are to opening the shop version of Big-Ass Sandwiches. I spent Saturday afternoon at the shop -- formerly a Lebanese place, before that a well-liked sandwich place -- seeing the work they're putting in to make the place their own.

It won't take much longer. They've already set the date for the soft opening, when they'll do a test run to see how well it works as a restaurant and how to make it work better. I'll tell you about that once it's happened. Before that, there are only three more days of cart operation: the Big-Ass Sandwiches cart will be open today, Wednesday, and one more Thirsty Thursday, then...the next step. Like Zach's Shack, Lardo, and Shut Up And Eat, all of which started out as carts and became brick-and-mortars.

Their shop has lots of prep space, both in the main floor kitchen and in the basement. The basement has a good-sized walk-in freezer. Beer and soda are already on tap, as they work through what stock remained from the previous Lebanese restaurant. I didn't have a beer, as I hadn't yet eaten much that day, and a) no food's left over from the previous owners and b) Brian and Lisa will bring their own food later. "That's the one thing we don't have," Lisa said, though in the middle of remodeling isn't it best to order pizza? (Shoot, now I wish I had brought pizza for the Woods and their friends who were helping them. Pizza goes with painting and remodeling!)

Nice to take breaks during the work to shoot the breeze, and to see Brian and Lisa and the others brainstorm how to take care of, say, replacing the sign. It still has the name of the previous restaurant, and maaaaaaaay be a pain to take down and redo, but they'll find at least a temporary solution to that. The perfect will wait, the good should show up sooner.

They even had prospective customers! While Lisa was inside painting, and Brian and their friend (and former employee) Trevan were on the sidewalk discussing the sign, a car with an Uber sticker in the window drove up. Brian asked the two guys in it "You're probably here for the Lebanese place, huh?" and they said no, they were hoping Big-Ass was open there. Brian told them where to find the cart; I hope they did get over to it...

By the way, of all the amenities the brick-and-mortar has, maybe the one that makes Lisa and Brian happiest? A/C and heat. Carts are a *pain* to climate-control: winters you're bundled up in five layers, summers it can get to 120 F or higher. (They have a thermometer in the cart. They know.) By Portland standards it's hot right now (80s yesterday, 90 today), so the restaurant A/C was working. We appreciated that, loudly. And talked about how it's good we don't have Southern or Eastern heat here.

It wound up being a productive day for them and their friends who'd chipped in, to the point that they headed home in the afternoon, earlier than they'd planned. (Friday, they had worked until past 11 p.m.) I hopped a bus to Beulahland, for dinner and the tail end of the Canada-China game in the Women's World Cup, which Canada won 1-0 on a well-earned, well-shot penalty kick. Two of the kids who were at the bar with family jumped up and danced at that score.

Yes, there will be Portland Timbers soccer, plus Trail Blazers basketball, at the new Big-Ass Sandwiches, but they'll make sure that the TVs they'll install will never be on just to be on. One of many, many considerations they have as they figure out how to make their restaurant -- holy crap, they'll have a restaurant! -- as great an experience for them, their employees and their customers as possible.

More to come.
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