June 7th, 2015

Flavored Calories.

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.
Star Wars - Fly away...

A quick and easy pilgrimage. Huh. That sounds kind of wrong.

The breeze tempered the warmth today -- didn't break it, but moving air is almost always preferable to stagnant air (with exceptions like tornados, hurricanes, and the wall of cold or whatever characters were running from in The Day After Tomorrow. (Darn, I should've gone with a nod to The Happening. Killer wind!) So I made sure to get out: first while on my way to buy groceries this afternoon, pulling over in an area I don't usually get to in order to walk and look around, then tonight after dinner. Walk, sit in a park, get on a bus, reading all along as I do...and stopping at Carts On Foster.

The cart version of Big-Ass Sandwiches had closed for its third-to-last day. Its final two days are this Wednesday and this Thursday. Soon after that -- not my place to say when -- the brick-and-mortar opens. This is a big deal for people in my circle, so indulge me writing about it.

I've gone to Brian and Lisa's cart since their second day, in Old Town Portland in December 2009 near Voodoo Doughnut. (They opened Dec. 21st.) A few times in mid-2012 I helped out at the window, taking orders. Later was their Central Eastside location, the attempted "Super Pod" that dwindled to just BAS over time; overlapping with that was their attempted second location, on N. Mississippi next to Prost! Bar -- and also, it turned out, the wrong location for them. (N. Mississippi was where they were most likely to get customers asking "You make vegan salads?") That cart ran for less than a year, from fall 2013 to mid-2014, then they sold it.

I've been back to that pod next to Prost!, so far just to visit. The former BAS there is now some other cart, though the new owners for some reason kept BAS logo stuff on the side. Lisa confirmed that the new owners flat-out wouldn't remove them. Odd, but not my place to ask why. Makes me not want to eat there, though, I'll tell you that. I'd try other carts, especially the ramen one, as it's good at noodles and noodles are still possibly the perfect food. (Reminds me: noodles -- spaghetti noodles -- have been used in a BAS special.)

Being a good patron: that's one continued goal. I'm still not sure why, but I went to Carts on Foster only once before BAS moved there, even though I've lived within walking distance of it since last June. BAS got me to go, and to see that it's a good place to go; so I'll keep doing so. (That first time, in fact, was to have drinks with Lisa and Brian as they scouted possible locations to move to, when they were about to get kicked out of Central Eastside earlier this year.)

I'd wondered about being a patron at the cart this weekend, but I wasn't, since it was one eating-out expense more than I felt I could spare right now. I may or may not have a chance to get food from the cart one last time; my schedule this week is up in the air. But it seemed right, on this warm evening, to get over there, even just to see it. I patted the counter on the front of the cart. From there, people I like have served food I like...and not too long from now, these good people will serve good food from a building, not a cart.

And then, I'll be trying more food at more carts. Take advantage of what's nearby. Including the newer food cart pod that's even closer to this house...