If there’s a naked patch of pavement within a 30-mile radius of downtown Portland, you better believe the food carts will find it.
That’s how a modest-sized collection of wheeled kitchens ended up assembling on one of the more unlikely slabs of pavement to become a pod: a sprawling pubside parking lot, tucked into an industrial corner of Beaverton.
At the Garages is more than just a pod. It’s a rock venue—with an almost-secret passageway to the Garage Sale Warehouse, an adjacent antiques and oddities store where it’s dangerously easy to lose an entire afternoon.
Since February 2019, the converted Fred Meyer automotive shop has provided a decidedly unpretentious haven for live music. There are live performances seven nights a week amid a cavern of wall-mounted peculiarities that migrated from next door. Though less than 2 years old, the bar feels like a resurrected piece of Old Portland, now out in the suburbs.
“We built it that way on purpose—the almost museumlike look” explains CEO and managing partner Kent Drangsholt. “If you walk around, you just see hundreds of items from the decades.”
Rummage sales and rock shows are two events that rarely intersect, but before Drangsholt hosted sold-out crowds, he attracted another kind of following as an antique hunter—inspired by the A&E show Storage Wars. The very first repossessed unit he ever bought yielded a whopping $36,000 worth of goods.
Drangsholt began selling the valuable contents from his home, which became such a popular attraction, customers would come rapping on his front door if he ever missed a weekend. Eventually, he outgrew that space and moved into a 1,300-square-foot store in Beaverton, naming the business after his wife’s observation that he had turned their personal three-car garage into a warehouse.
The Garage Sale Warehouse continued to swell with vendors, forcing Drangsholt to make the jump to his current 45,000-square-foot space on Southwest Western Avenue. That left him with room to grow, so the former radio disc jockey tapped into his love of music and began booking bands to play in the underused Freddy’s auto repair outlet.
Renovations made the place more hospitable, but there’s only so much you can do with a 1950s-era shop. While the Garages possesses a surplus of ambience—nearly every inch of wall space is plastered with vintage posters, team pennants and brewery paraphernalia—its kitchen is of scant means. Really, you could call it a galley with a hardworking microwave.
So the Garages’ parking lot—a surface the size of a truck stop—became one of its best assets. Drangsholt began welcoming food carts that would bring their own star power to his jam sessions.
Ochoa’s Lupitas Tacos, which started folding savory meats into tortillas under a tent on Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway nearly 10 years ago, was the first to roll up. Other vendors soon followed, rounding out the diverse food court-style offerings you want from a solid pod.
If Stanley Tucci’s love letter to the cuisine of his Italian heritage, CNN’s pandemic hit Searching for Italy, has you craving soul-soothing bowls of cacio e pepe and spaghetti alla Nerano, your first stop should be Love Pasta. Its fettuccine Bolognese is an Americanized version of soffritto, with a meat trio of spicy sausage, hamburger and ground turkey taking the place of traditional offal. An unexpected blend of Tabasco, red chiles and diced fresh jalapeños offers the sauce a gentle simmer, like slipping into a bubbling hot tub.
At Thai Lao Teriyaki, a tangle of thin rice noodles in the pad thai arrive a delightful shade of tawny, a sign they’ve soaked up all of the roasty peanut sauce. The cart doubles down on the nuttiness by sprinkling the stir fry with a brittlelike crumble. It’s rich and sticky and just about perfect.
If you’re in the mood for a meal that’s truly over the top, Ochoa’s prepares a torta that’s the size of a basketball, triggering heart palpitations at first glance. Five layers of beef, chicken and sausage puff this sandwich up so much, your cook will apologize that the size of the dish makes it impossible to close the box’s lid.
There’s even a dessert camper serving gauzy bags of cotton candy and gussying up mini Dutch pancakes with Oreos and Butterfinger bars.
Be warned, though, that your time to visit this unique pod is limited. The Garages’ lease is up in February, and at some point the building will be razed to make room for apartments. Fpod The future for the food carts, however, is less certain.
“We’re anticipating that these guys will have to scramble,” Drangsholt says. “We’ll help them out in any way we can. We want to bring at least one [to Lake Oswego].”
The Garages’ next move is a welcome improvement for Drangsholt. He’ll be operating with a full kitchen, more than double the show space and a larger stage. Drangsholt also acquired the bar’s lasers, so once his lighting is installed, the dais will be illuminated by $300,000 worth of equipment.
“This is really an elevation in terms of being able to produce high-quality, local premier bands, where you don’t have to go to Moda Center,” says Drangsholt. “You can come to us, and our lighting is as good as theirs. Our sound is better than theirs, because there’s no echo. Our environment is more relaxing because you’re in a row seat there and you can’t get up and get to the dance floor.”
For now, then, the most significant challenge is the packing, especially the warehouse. Every single piece from its collections, as well as the bar décor, is making the move—from the early ‘80s Code-a-Phone answering machine to a Sigmund Freud action figure.
“It has a brand of its own,” Drangsholt says of the accoutrements. “We call [the pub] Beaverton’s living room. But at the Lake Oswego location, we’re going to call it Oregon’s living room. I want people to see what we can show, and we’re going to grow that even more.”
EAT: At the Garages Satellite Pub, 4810 SW Western Ave., Beaverton, 503-941-9139, atthegarages.net. 11 am-1 am daily.