Sweet Lorraine’s Latkes to Close After Three Years

Owners point to multiple moves, inflation and a harsh environment for small businesses as reasons for the closure.

Sweet Lorraine's Latkes (Sam Gehrke)

Sweet Lorraine’s Latkes announced it is closing up shop, effective immediately. In a long, heartfelt statement on social media, owners Aaron Tomasko and Rachel Brashear detailed the reasons their restaurant venture must shutter, concluding that “we’re not sure how anyone can maintain the level of quality food and service we value without going into massive debt.” Their last day of service was May 26.

Sweet Lorraine’s started in 2021 at the Killingsworth Station food cart pod, serving Jewish soul food, such as potato pancakes, knishes and kugel, and classic New York sweets, such as black-and-white cookies and egg creams. Upon opening, WW described Sweet Lorraine’s potato and onion knishes as “bigger than a fist”; the kugel as savory, rich and hearty; and the latkes, a Hanukkah classic, as “crispy, pillowy and fried to order.”

“We were inspired by our ancestors—immigrants that came to America to build better lives for themselves through this type of work,” Tomasko and Brashear wrote. “A family business that shared our cultural heritage with our community. Our kids helped out. We bought supplies from people in the community every chance we could get. We never paid ourselves enough, but the connections we made and the small profits were enough to keep us fed and happy.”

From those optimistic beginnings, challenges piled up. Their Killingsworth landlord sold the property and Sweet Lorraine’s had to move. They struggled to stay up to code with changing government regulations on food carts, an issue that has bedeviled other pods, such as the one at Portland State University. They had to move again, and then again, finally landing at Lefty’s Café at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education—a “wonderful, warm and inclusive place.” Unfortunately, it is also small and doesn’t do a ton of business, Sweet Lorraine’s owners wrote.

The cost of doing business has ballooned so fast since 2021 that they could no longer make enough to cover the rent, they say.

“We don’t want Sweet Lorraine’s to end. Period. But we are just two people. We can’t change the economy. We can’t change the harsh realities of running a business in Portland….If other people want places like Sweet Lorraine’s to exist in Portland, it might require a huge shift in how things are done.”

Tomasko and Brashear tell WW they do not have plans to reopen and instead plan to pivot back to their careers as musicians, with a new album coming soon.

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