A few months back, this story would have started with a firm suggestion to mask up, take advantage of the relatively light pandemic traffic, and journey out to Southeast Powell and 172nd, where Johnny Huff Jr. and Marcell Goss of Everybody Eats had turned their catering company into a food stand, dishing out fish baskets, chicken and waffles, and seafood mac ‘n’ cheese at the Oriental Food Value supermarket.
With no events or parties, it was a move born of necessity. Now they’ve made another move out of opportunity, transforming into a full-service bar and restaurant in the heart of the Pearl District.
Huff Jr. and Goss both grew up in North and Northeast Portland, and both attended the Oregon Culinary Institute, though not at the same time. They met at a catering gig—Huff Jr. has been doing that as Everybody Eats since 2016—and eventually joined forces, sharing a passion for both food and community that’s embodied in the name.
“It’s about everybody being taken care of, and being together,” says Huff Jr. The restaurant also has a related nonprofit, Black and Blue PDX, which pairs up police officers and young Black men for cooking lessons with Huff Jr. or Goss in hopes of forging some kind of connection and understanding through food.
Huff Jr. also has family roots in Texas and Louisiana, which is apparent on the menu. There’s a fried shrimp po’boy ($18), blackened Caesar salad with chicken, shrimp or salmon ($8 during happy hour), and the showstopper, the Ultimate Seafood Mac and Cheese ($30), which includes, shrimp, lobster and crab in double iterations, mixed in with the cheese sauce and the noodles, with half a lobster tail, two prawns and lump of crab meat on top. It’s the restaurant’s bestseller, along with the banana pudding French toast ($18).
“I just like Southern foods, with a Northwest twist like we put it on,” Huff Jr. says. “It’s comforting and filling.”
At night, you’ll also find such entrees as Smothered Turkey Wings ($22), a fish plate ($26) with salmon, snapper or catfish, and blackened salmon nachos ($22), while the brunch and lunch menu also includes a Philly cheesesteak ($16), a traditional breakfast plate ($15) with two eggs, toast, potatoes and either turkey sausage or turkey bacon—there’s no pork on the menu —and three chicken-and-waffle variations: regular ($16), strawberry shortcake ($18) and peach cobbler ($18).
The restaurant’s liquor license is still in process, but a full bar will eventually feature both festive, fruity drinks like hurricanes and daiquiris and house cocktails, such as “Bad and Boujee” (D’Ussé, Angostura bitters, Prosecco, sugar cube) and “For Your Health!” (vegetable-infused Grey Goose and bloody mix, with an optional shrimp add-on).
“We want our bar to bring people together that probably wouldn’t normally be sitting at a bar together,” Goss says.
Obviously, that will have to wait until the world is back to normal dining, ideally with crowds of people wandering the blocks that Everybody Eats shares with the likes of Powell’s Books, Portland Center Stage and Little Big Burger. Until then, takeout (with a $1.50 surcharge), outdoor seating and limited dine-in is available, with ordering at the counter. It’s worth stepping inside just to see the work of local artist Tristan “TK” Irving, including a graffiti-inspired wall logo, a spectacularly painted oversize chair, a “dogs playing poker” riff, and portraits of Stacey Abrams and Jackie Robinson.
The significance of two Black Portland chefs getting their own brick-and-mortar in 2021, and in the Pearl District no less, is clearly not lost on the Goss and Huff Jr.
“With everything that was kind of happening during COVID, there’s no better two guys to have down there to revamp it and rebuild it than me and Johnny—humbly speaking,” Goss says. “We want to bring a different vibe and energy back to our city. Show something different.”
Everybody Eats’ Peach Cobbler Chicken and Waffle
It’s three mini-waffles rather than one big one, making it perfect for sharing, especially if you also want some shrimp and grits or steak and eggs. It’s also ideal for soaking up more fruit per bite. “The waffle is really the key,” says Goss. Light and fluffy, it’s made with regular milk rather than buttermilk, plus a “little secret ingredient,” according to Goss. When I suggest that there’s a strong vanilla flavor, he and Huff Jr. both laugh knowingly.
Boneless chicken breast gets a simple egg wash and breading combo before frying. They previously used buttermilk, but the batter cooked up faster than the chicken, making it too brown and crunchy. The current version is more airy, crispy and golden, with a bit of fiery kick that contrasts with the sweetness of the fruit. The secret to the spice mix? “We put a little extra love in it,” says Huff Jr.—and probably several kinds of pepper.
THE PEACH COBBLER
Similar to the spice mix, Everybody Eats makes its peach sauce from scratch with “a lot of love and a lot of vanilla,” says Goss. The cobbler’s provenance is also not a secret: It is made from crumbled Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, which are neither too rich nor too sweet. “We definitely don’t want it to be a dessert-type dish,” says Huff Jr. “We want people to enjoy it as a breakfast.” Even with a dollop of whipped cream.
EAT: Everybody Eats, 138 NW 10th Ave., 503-318-1619, everybodyeatspdx.com. 11 am-3 pm and 5-11 pm Tuesday-Saturday.