Farewell, Pono Soul Farm Kitchen

One Kusshi oyster from Puget Sound, sitting atop a bed of rock salt studded with whole spices, accompanied by a ponzu mignonette, chives, and a microgreen. It was plump and meaty, and tasted almost sweet. My favorite oyster to date.

Pono Soul Farm Kitchen, I’ll miss you.

On June 23 I read the news that one of my neighborhood restaurants, Pono Soul Farm Kitchen, will close on July 8.  I’ve read three reports on the impending shuttering—from Eater, The Oregonian, and Portland Food and Drink—and none of them indicate the reasons why, not even a touch of speculation. Eater quotes part of the press release from co-owner Ted Nakato, who thanks his customers for their dining and support, but that’s about it. Personally, I wish we knew more.

If you’re unfamiliar with Pono Soul Farm Kitchen, it is a farm-to-table restaurant that primarily serves as a place to showcase Pono Farm’s meats—beef, pork, and eggs raised in Bend, OR. The offerings have been called “Japanese soul food”—dumplings, ramen, and hot pot, to name a few; their sushi is excellent, too. They source their produce from places like DeNoble Farms, Groundwork Organics, and Gathering Together Farm, among others. Menu changes semi-regularly.

Their meats are very healthy: “Our livestock are slowly grown,” they say, “raised naturally on pasture, and have never had any contact with antibiotics, administered growth hormones, or steroids.” I spent many years in the traditional foods community in NYC and came to value meats, eggs, and milk that is produced in the way Pono’s are. I’ve been really happy to have this quality product at a restaurant in the neighborhood, and the absence of that is something I will miss.

I have some great memories of meals shared there; all were during happy hour, which was a good deal for the quality and tastiness of the food. There was the time I met up with a colleague in person, when before I’d only had a long distance work relationship with them. And then there was the meal I shared with one of my dearest friends, where we commiserated on how one single errant hyphen can make or break a job. I’m glad to have these memories and am sorry that Pono won’t be around to host future ones.

What We Ate

Last week T and I stopped by to have one last meal there, and it did not disappoint. To start, the bartender fixed me a delectable Paloma—sweet, citrusy and a touch bitter—named The Good Hombre on their Signature Cocktail menu. There was some oyster and sushi action, pork karaage, pork dumplings, and their Wagyu cheeseburger. Everything was delicious. And the bar area was packed, even at 5:05pm (happy hour runs between 5pm and 6pm at the bar). I guess a lot of folks want in before its gone.

Here are some shots of what I ate during my farewell meal.  Thanks for being a place to create memories over good food. Perhaps one day I’ll make it to your butcher shop in Bend; I’ll make a point of visiting your station at the PSU Farmers Market soon.

Service ends Saturday, July 8—stop in before it’s too late!

Pono Soul Farm Kitchen, 4118 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland
ponofarm.com | Instagram | Facebook

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Bridgetown Bites is written by Meg Cotner, a food loving freelance writer, editor and published author in Portland, OR.

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