Neighborhood leader opens roadside café in Powellhurst-Gilbert

Discover how a love of cooking led this past Spirit of Portland awardee to open the first ‘micro café’ in outer East Portland …

Good words are spreading about the great food and reasonable prices at Mark White’s South of Holgate Microcafé.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The corner of SE 122nd Avenue at SE Raymond Street is an unlikely spot to find a new dining establishment. But, word of the “South of Holgate Micro Café” is beginning to spread, from those who have dined at this unique eatery since it opened the first of July.

Mark White, better known as a past Spirit of Portland award winner, as well as President of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, is the proprietor and chef of a new restaurant.

Chef Mark White prepares an order of “Stir Fry Teriyaki Chicken”.

With a professional background in project and real estate management, White said he got the idea for the business when the City of Portland changed the property zoning along SE 122nd Avenue.

“My property, where my house is located, was included in that,” White told East Portland News. “I wanted to do something with the property on the west side of my house, but I wasn’t sure what it would be.”

Yes, Mark’s Stir Fry Teriyaki Chicken tastes as good as it looks.

He decided on building a food cart. “It’s has a small footprint, would fit on my property, and would be visible from SE 122nd Avenue.”

As he cooked our order of “Stir Fry Teriyaki Chicken” – fresh chicken with onion, bell

peppers, and pineapple, over herb and garlic rice; reasonably-priced at $3.95 – he told what drove him, philosophically, to open a business.

“There is very little commercial business along the road now,” explained White. “It seems pretty clear to me that the Portland Development Commission is not really interested in making anything happen here. The way I look at it is we have to make it happen ourselves.

“I hope that my Café will be a stimulus to get that going.”

About becoming a commercial chef, White said, “It’s funny because I’ve done all the cooking in our home over the years. This is because I’m really picky about what I eat. I like to cook what I enjoy eating, and I love food that is really good quality. Everything I serve here is really fresh.”

While whipping up meals might seem like work, “It’s relaxing to me; it’s like working in the yard. I don’t think a lot of people like pulling weeds, but I find it incredibly relaxing.”

Mark White says he’s willing to carry on his own “business stimulus” project in his neighborhood.

Serves the ‘foods of his life’
Asked to tell what inspires his eclectic menu, White thought a moment before replying. “It represents the ‘foods of my life’. Most of the items on the menu somehow relate to a little part of my life, at one point or another.”

For example, being part Portuguese, White said that linguica – a tasty Portuguese sausage – is featured prominently throughout the menu. “The ‘Kitchen Sink Salad’ came about because I enjoy the tomato, red and green onions, olives, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, peperoncini, marinated artichoke, kidney and garbanzo beans, pickled beets and carrots, much more than the iceberg lettuce.”

Update: Does this salad sound good? We ‘ordered the “Kitchen Sink Salad’ during a visit in September. My goodness, it is tasty!

One surprise at this decidedly up-scale food cart, serving high-class meals, is the low prices. Almost every meal is priced at less that $4.00.

“It’s kind of necessary to have low prices, to serve the people who live in and around the area in which I’m located,” explained White. “If the Café takes off, I’ll ask them if they prefer getting a little less – or paying a little bit more. I’m not going to be able to keep pricing the way it is if I have an employee or two.”

Ingredients don’t get any fresher that those Mark White grows, right outside the back door of his café!

Speaking of providing “really fresh” meals, White showed off his garden. “Right now, I have snap peas; but I’ll have a zucchini and couple other vegetables coming up really soon. I have a half acre, so we’ll be growing a lot of our own food.  Coming up next is that we are building a chicken coop, so we’ll have really fresh eggs.

“Ultimately my goal is to have most of the food I serve be grown on the property!”

South of Holgate Microcafé

Hours: Most days, 8:00 a.m. until at least 4:00 p.m., some days later; closed Saturdays.
12215 SE Raymond Street
(503) 351-4890
See the menu at their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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