These Portland Classics Gave Several Locals Their Very first Style of Korean Cuisine

Long ahead of Korean foodstuff became mainstream-hip at Han Oak and Kim Jong Grillin, decades just before white cooks had been boasting the probiotic added benefits of kale kimchi, and in some situations even just before Beaverton turned the go-to burb for Korean stews and barbecue, many Northeast Portland old-university dining establishments have been training clients how to pronounce bulgogi. Irrespective of whether in hash browns, in teriyaki marinades, or on Italian bread, these cafe proprietors aided primary non-Korean palates for sesame-soy, garlicky goodness.


 

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Cameo Café 

Opened in 1969, Cameo has many star dishes to pick from: the blueberry-studded hotcakes so massive they are dubbed “quarter acre” bindaetteok, a.k.a. Korean pancakes, with bacon, eggs, and toast bulgogi-topped kimchi hash squeeze bottles of dwelling-designed raspberry jam and sweet-spicy “Oh Baby” gochugaru-garlic very hot sauce. Then there’s the star of the eating area, Sue Gee Lehn.

“I am incredibly wild—a little bit of a ridiculous side,” Lehn says. “You see me, you feel, ‘She’s a funky woman.’”

The Seoul-born 76-12 months-aged matriarch and 1966 elegance pageant queen even now roams the dining room, which is bedazzled with a mini carousel and a fork-and-knife chandelier, each day. She attire to the nines, greeting regulars and newcomers alike. A previous newspaper editor in Korea, she purchased the café in 1992 knowing practically nothing about the restaurant business—only that she required to make a dwelling for her two children.

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“One day I just opened the Oregonian newspaper. [It said] ‘Restaurant for sale—includes residence. Breakfast and lunch.’ I was extremely excited, so I made the decision to push down and [check out] the small very little cafe. I’d by no means eaten pancakes I’d only eaten kimchi and rice,” Lehn recollects.

But her early days at Cameo Café had been tough. “Somebody [came] in [and said], ‘Chinese [people] scent a Chinese girl owns this put.’ I truly cried. We are not welcome to being a cafe owner of an American breakfast place. How can I at any time check out introducing my Korean food items?”

But Cameo Café commenced developing a name for its breakfasts. Soon after a few of many years, she released her very first Korean-influenced dish: stir-fry. “They beloved it, so I considered ... I’m gonna make kimchi. [I made] a single smaller, one particular-gallon jar of kimchi. I place 1 piece of kimchi, explained ... ‘Try [it].’ Some people really like it, some persons just spit it out, drink a ton of h2o. Then I produced bulgogi. Now I’m going to add [more] regular Korean banchan.”

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Lehn has not only offered quite a few Portlanders their initial taste of Korean food stuff, but she’s also come to be a group fixture. Some of her workers have labored at Cameo for 25 many years. She fills her cost-free time at the Portland Rotary Club. For 16 decades, she skilled Pass up Oregon hopefuls at Cameo Café’s Vancouver department. Pictures of her trainees adorn the partitions, as does a photograph of her daughter Kimberly, pictured meeting with Barack Obama though working for the Condition Section in DC—proof that individuals many years of tricky work had been really worth it.

“I adore men and women. I enjoy my prospects. I like my staff,” Lehn says. “They’re my blood, my bones. So I’m a very joyful girl.” 8111 NE Sandy Blvd, cameocafe.com


 

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Du’s Grill 

Friends made use of to ... only take in at Du’s Grill,” Portland-born Aminé raps in his tune “Turf.” It is evidence that Du’s, open up considering that 1995, is a legitimate Portland institution. But what Du’s devotees may well not know is that whilst the word teriyaki is Japanese, Du’s Grill is probably the city’s finest example of the Korean-style teriyaki well known all through the Pacific Northwest.

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The mom and dad of the present-day owner of Du’s, Anthony Park, took more than the business in 1998. His mom refined the teriyaki sauce recipe, and now virtually every customer requests an extra container or two with their purchase. That sauce is basically based mostly on a bulgogi marinade, showcasing soy sauce, garlic, and sugar. “I assume all Koreans know that taste is acquainted,” Park claims. Along with grilled chicken, pork, and beef: the identical clingy-grained white rice you’d obtain in Korean homes, plus optional sides of kimchi. That popular poppy seed dressing, though, is his mom’s riff on an American recipe.

Park took in excess of Du’s from his dad and mom in 2009. He retained the menu accurately the exact until the pandemic, when he and his spouse introduced spicy chicken teriyaki inspired by Korean sweet-spicy fried rooster. Will much more Korean-inspired goods appear to the menu? “I would absolutely be open up to it,” Park states. “I’m just happy that Korean food and Korean cuisine has received a ton more reputation, and people today are studying and being a lot much more open to other cultures.” 5635 NE Sandy Blvd, dusgrill.com


 

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Style Tickler 

When it will come to retro appeal, Taste Tickler, opened in 1971 by German immigrants, provides in droves: an outdated-school illuminated menu board with a few letters missing, assorted baggage of chips galore, and, in nonpandemic situations, a back again eating home with tennis balls on the chair legs. Grant Large pupils, design personnel, and work-from-house folks alike reliably flood this sandwich store in close proximity to the Lloyd Centre each individual working day at lunchtime, but that wasn’t always the case.

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“Oh my Lord, it was so slow,” claims Andy Kim, whose mother and father acquired the sandwich shop from a pair of Korean brothers in 2005 when he was 19. “Just me sitting down there, trying to continue to keep myself busy or studying a magazine.”

Kim’s moms and dads improved upon classics like the Well-known Tickler, an previous-faculty Italian sandwich with pepperoni, ham, and salami. They’ve also snuck bulgogi marinade into their Philly cheesesteak sub for a long time. But Kim credits a lot of their accomplishment to additional modern explicitly Korean creations like the bulgogi sub, which his mothers and fathers begrudgingly additional to the menu right after a lot coaxing.

And now, he’s including even additional Korean dishes to the menu: a tofu-kimchi rice plate, japchae, and banchan like pickled garlic and cucumbers.

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“It might sound like I’m biting off more than I can chew, but I sense self-confident. It is an fascinating time for our cafe. This past calendar year was genuinely really hard for our loved ones,” Kim says. “I’m just so grateful for even the scaled-down factors. I’m carrying out a whole lot of things that I’ve set off and have been wanting to do for a extensive time.” 1704 NE 14th Ave, fb.com/TasteTickler

Trisha Anderson

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