World foods come to Beaverton
Crowds braved Friday's cranky clouds for the debut of Beaverton's first food cart pod, the BG Food Cartel, on Southwest Rose Biggi Avenue behind City Hall.
The space features room for 31 food carts, plus an indoor/outdoor bar, a fire pit for Oregon's notoriously fickle weather, and space for public events. It's being described as the largest food cart pod in Oregon.
And it's the culmination of nearly two years of work between the City of Beaverton and the Biggi family. Around the start of the last century, Rose Biggi picked some horseradish on her farm in Beaverton and sold it at Portland's farmers markets. That grew to become Beaverton Foods Inc., one of the world's largest marketers of mustards and horseradishes.
That farm sat on the same location as the new food pod.
"It all starts with grandma," said Domonick Biggi, one of three siblings to create the pod. "Instead of growing horseradish here, now we're growing businesses."
The other co-creators are siblings Dana Biggi and Dean Biggi.
The pods include a wide array of offerings, an ethnic blend as diverse as Beaverton itself.
Belly Bar is the creation of Beaverton resident Stephen Corley and focuses on the Southern tradition of breakfast offerings, such as biscuits and gravy, and chicken and waffles.
"I love breakfast. I'm crazy about breakfast. Who isn't?" said Corley, who's worked in brick-and-mortar restaurants. "Hey. I'm running my own show now."
A couple of slots down from him, Beaverton High School students Carter and Riley Gill, resplendent in bow ties, were serving coffee and doing business as Bow Tie Baristas from the quirky confines of a re-imagined, deco-silver Spartan trailer. "We're definitely going for a retro look," said Riley Gill.
Carter Gill leaned out the window to hand a customer a steaming cup to match the crisp weather. The customer said, "Thank you. Do you have Mr. Caputo for math this year?"
"Yes, ma'am. Here's your change."
On the other side of the spacious pod, Tommy Grajo of Island Style was serving chicken through his window to the first customers of the day. When asked about his offerings, Grajo, a Hillsboro resident, said, "Step into my office."
In back of his trailer, a double-wide, barrel-style barbecue was billowing tangy smoke as row after row of chickens sizzled. Grajo said the food is South Pacific's Mariana Islands — the 15-island archipelago spills up his arm in the form of tattoos of his homeland.
"My wife and I, cooking is just such a passion for us. We cook for friends. We host gigs. Then this came along."
Neither Tommy nor Bettina Grajo had the time to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant — Tommy Grajo has served in the Oregon National Guard for 21 years — but a food cart? That was doable.
"The food? It's everything. It's Southeast Asian, it's got influences of the Spanish conquistadors, the Germans, the Americans, the Japanese..." he said. "We got colonized. A lot."
The Biggi siblings had talked about doing something special with the land: Grandmother Rose Biggi couldn't get a loan in the first few years of the 20th century, and had sold off this section of land to pay her taxes. Her grandchildren bought it back a couple of years ago. The adjacent building used to be a Spaghetti Factory and dates from 1953.
Together, they thought up the idea of a food cart pod, along with a bar.
"We thought, why not?" said Domonick Biggi. "You know: sit outside, grab a beer, some food. It was kinda cool."
His sister Dana said the siblings toured as many food pods, and bars, as they could find, looking for the right blend. "Oh, we stole only the best of the best ideas," she said, laughing.
In 2016, they applied for a matching $25,000 grant from the City of Beaverton to get the project started.
Randy Ealy, chief administrative officer of Beaverton, addressed the opening-day crowd on Friday, saying the matching grant now looks like a pretty good bet.
"We're here today on 25 grand," he said.