On March 17, 2020, Bijou Cafe, certainly one of Portland’s oldest breakfast eating places, celebrated its forty second birthday by asserting it will shut for “at the least 4 weeks, or nevertheless lengthy this can take to get by means of,” promising to return.
“WE WILL BE BACK!,” the cafe at 132 S.W. Third Ave. posted on social media. “We’ve weathered many storms and refuse to exit like this.”
Within the weeks that adopted, Bijou Cafe employees donated 1,500 eggs to Blanchet House, painted its freshly boarded-up windows with colourful flowers and a “Black Lives Matter” slogan then briefly reopened in the spring with a new takeout menu and brunch bins for Father’s Day.
However it was to not final. On July 13, 2020, Bijou introduced it will shut briefly as soon as extra to “reevaluate our present enterprise mannequin.” Regardless of fan feedback wishing the restaurant would reopen, together with some posted as not too long ago as final month, it will show to be the cafe’s final message.
When the pandemic arrived, Bijou Cafe proprietor Kathleen Hagberg, 74, was already considering retirement. Final spring, Bijou started pivoting to takeout, becoming a member of different eating places all through the world. However the shift wasn’t simple, and breakfast dishes don’t sometimes journey effectively -- a few of COVID-19′s first restaurant closures had been brunch spots comparable to Helser’s and Arleta Library Cafe. Bijou went from being financially sound to bringing in lower than $150 a day, which wasn’t sufficient to assist its staff. Hagberg’s landlord let her out of the 4 remaining years on her lease.
“Workplace employees went away, the vacationers stopped coming, and it was only a catastrophe,” Hagberg stated. “After which Mom’s Bistro shut down. Between the 2 of us and Stumptown, we form of acquired the road okay, however when all people begins boarding up their home windows, no person’s going to return down right here.”
(Mom’s Bistro and Stumptown have since reopened.)
Regardless of the tough finish, Bijou had an enviable run. The restaurant, which Hagberg opened with pal Bonnie Allen in 1978, sought out natural components earlier than they had been available, with employees typically driving to a Eugene co-op to select up produce. (Allen, who left Bijou to open a pure grocer in Port Orford, died in 2009.) The restaurant, which expanded into its full nook area in 1980, took the occasional crack at dinner, together with a memorable run within the Nineties underneath chef Leather-based Storrs, however the neighborhood struggled to assist night hours, Hagberg stated.
Bijou’s breakfast menu, alternatively, felt virtually timeless, prominently name-checking native producers and rising areas, in a mode that may finally take maintain at many more recent Portland eating places. Through the years, the restaurant turned recognized for its small-batch granola, good Nueske’s bacon, fried Willapa Bay oyster hash and deceptively easy French omelets, which Bijou made long before they became cool again. As not too long ago as 2019, Bijou Cafe was nonetheless certainly one of Portland’s best brunch spots.
“Once we first opened, we had been like, we’re going to make the most effective breakfast, as a result of no person else cares about it,” Hagberg stated. “You may go to Elmer’s and all these locations, however they don’t actually care about it. We needed to make it good. And so we did.”
As I biked by the previous restaurant area on Tuesday, a pair rolled down their automotive window, instructed me that they had moved away from Portland 20 years in the past and requested me what had occurred to their favourite breakfast spot. I instructed them I wasn’t certain, and that I hadn’t reached the proprietor but, however that the brand new PoBoyz signal hanging from the brick wall appeared fairly definitive.
Randall Willhite, a former soccer participant for the Oregon Geese, confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive.com that his tasty po’ boy cart PoBoyz is taking up the previous Bijou area with a brand new Cajun-Creole restaurant, full with a brand new chrome steel bar and a stay music stage. Willhite is capturing to open in August for lunch and dinner, with breakfast to observe as soon as the brand new restaurant is up and working.