Johanna Ware Returns: Smallwares Chef Will Open Casual Spot in the Zipper

Most of your favorite items will return in the new spot, called Wares


Our last meal at Smallwares, which closed last September, was one of the most bittersweet moments we had all year. On a Tuesday night, we went to the old Fremont spot, where we encountered other Portland food writers and foodniks paying their respects to chef Johanna Ware's excellent "inauthentic Asian" restaurant, our runner-up Restaurant of the Year for 2012.

Well, now it's not bitter. It's just sweet. Smallwares is returning.

Ware hopes to open the restaurant by mid-February.

Technically, the new pop-in restaurant that Johanna Ware will be opening in the Zipper food pod on Northeast Sandy Boulevard will be called "Wares," but Johanna Ware tells us that many of your favorite dishes from Smallwares will be returning.

Fried kale? Check. Oxtail? Rice cakes? That too. Oxtail? Probably on special.

Despite the fact that the restaurant is part of a casual complex, Ware says that most of her menu will be favorites from Smallwares, so it'll bear more resemblance to the fine dining spot than her 2015 summer fling with fast casual, Lil'wares.

"I thought, no, I won't do fast-casual, but I really liked the space," Ware says. "I thought if I want to do something bigger I would need an investor. This was in my price range. I talked a lot with the landlord Kevin Cavanaugh, he worked hard for me to get in there. I thought, I could do kind of a casual Smallwares."

Once it was clear that the owner of Bywater Grocery in the Zipper would be leaving, Jason Myer from Basilisk had worked to get Ware into the space.

"I said, 'I'm not doing this,'" says Ware. "Then three hours later we were at the bar. I feel like it fell into my lap for a reason. So fuck it, I'm gonna take it."

Drinkwise, Ware plans some "fun wines" and possibly a beer shandy, alongside a solid beer list. The shared liquor license also means that after 4 pm, patrons can bring over cocktails from Paydirt.

Ware says she's planning a seven-item menu, but will augment it it with plentiful specials and possibly even some 16-person prix-fix pop-ups. Regular items she's currently planning include ramen and seasonal vegetables, along with that famous kale.

Other ideas she's toying with include a mu shu pork taco Tuesday, dollar oysters after 10 pm, and bento box with chawanmushi.

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