[Editor’s note: Jut after this story went to press, WW learned that the staff of both Lottie & Zula’s and Erica’s Soul Food were quarantining, due to potential COVID exposure. Lotties & Zula’s has since reopened. Erica Montgomery of Erica’s Soul Food told WW that her plans have been put “into limbo.” She’ll set a date to move her cart when everyone is cleared to return to the kitchen.]
When Lottie & Zula’s sandwich shop first opened on Northeast Russell Street, it was a takeout window. The timing—October 2020, deep in the coronavirus pandemic—called for its charmingly makeshift nature.
Co-owner John Fletcher Halyburton—known to most as “Fletch”—planned to eventually make full use of the former Toro Bravo space as an East Coast-style deli, market and cafe. It just wasn’t supposed to take 14 months. But now that the time has finally come, Fletch is not only fulfilling his original idea, but expanding on it.
Lottie & Zula’s has a covered outdoor dining patio that also serves as the new home of Erica’s Soul Food, the Southeast 82nd Avenue cart beloved for both its hot lemon pepper wings and owner Erica Montgomery’s community-minded spirit. And on Jan. 15, the indoor space will also have a record store, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vinyl, operating as kind of a permanent pop-up.
“This is our third attempt to open the market up,” says Halyburton. Delays stemmed not just from COVID-19 precautions, but also the difficulty of getting equipment, such as coolers and refrigerated cases.
In addition to the restaurant’s current breakfast and lunch menu, which includes coffee, cocktails, beers and baked goods, Lottie & Zula’s will be more grab-and-go and make-at-home food, with such possible offerings as pints and quarts of egg and tuna salads, rotisserie chicken and lasagna. And while the restaurant specializes in mostly hot and toasted sandwiches, it’ll now also have cold ones, made with shokupan from An Xuyên bakery.
To eat on the premises, you’ll head outdoors to a patio on the west side of the building that was formerly used as storage space. And that’s also where you’ll find the yellow Erica’s Soul Food cart.
Montgomery had previously used the kitchen at Lottie & Zula’s for catering projects, and has also provided it with meatloaf for sandwiches. Now she’ll have both prep and a walk-in pantry space, putting an end to the food cart grind of having to shop and restock almost every day, while still cooking in the trailer.
“Now that I’ll have more space, I plan to do more creative stuff, and come up with more specials,” Montgomery says. “Because I’ll have more resources and support, I feel like I’ll be able to spread my wings.”
Pairing with Lottie & Zula’s also gives Erica’s a ready-made bar and beverage program, which she may also contribute to, including seasonal Southern beers.
Montgomery originally opened her cart, in a convenience store parking lot at Southeast 82nd and Morrison Street, because it was extremely close to where she lived. That also happens to be Halyburton’s neighborhood.
The two chefs are both devoted to the food of their home regions—Rhode Island, in Halyburton’s case, and Atlanta in Montgomery’s. Montgomery says she both will and won’t miss having her workplace so close to home—it means a longer commute but better work and life boundaries. As an activist, a Black business owner and an Atlantan, she’s also well aware of the significance of moving to a spot that is so close to both Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the Legacy Emanuel campus that upended Portland’s historically Black Albina neighborhood.
“Yeah, and that’s one of the major reasons why Fletch was really adamant about allowing space for me,” Montgomery says. “He told me that the building was actually built by Black Freemasons. I feel like it’s divinely supported. The fact that he and the building owner want to bring Black businesses back into that area and create space for us, I respect both of them so very much for that. We need much more of that.”
Halyburton’s inspiration for the other new addition, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vinyl, came from Charlotte, North Carolina. There his sister and business partner, Emily Peterson, runs Tip Top Market, selling beer, wine, food, records and books. “The minute I went in there, I was like, ‘Man, this is the coolest thing ever!’” he says. “You get to order a sandwich and then grab some beverages and flip through records while you wait.”
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vinyl will be run by Pete Maita, who has sold records out of Crossroads for the past three years. He and Fletch bonded over their love of ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelia and progressive rock, as well as Texas band the Sword. That said, punk and metal won’t be a huge focus of the inventory, as those genres are already covered by the full-time record store across the street, Black Water.
Of course, coincidentally, Black Water is also in the bar business. And Maita—no relation to the local musician—is also a longtime customer of Turn! Turn! Turn!, another hybrid bar, food and record business, which provided inspiration for the name. What TTT got from the Byrds, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vinyl takes from Iron Butterfly. “I was trying to think of something that was kind of like in that mold,” Maita says. “A song from that era.”
The record cases—right now no more than half a dozen, holding around 420 records each—will fill the space that used to be Toro Bravo’s hidden-away dining nook, on the east side of the building. Hours will be limited to weekends, as well as nights of Wonder Ballroom shows, with Maita as the sole employee and clerk.
But while you may not be able to buy vinyl and a sandwich at 1 pm on a random Wednesday at Lottie & Zula’s, there’s always going to be some music playing, including a movable DJ cart for both inside and outside. Montgomery, whose own vinyl collection is still back in Georgia, says she’s ready: “Oh yeah. I’m a huge music person, and I’m super-hyped about this whole vibe. I should be a DJ as my second job.”
EAT: Lottie & Zula’s, 120-A NE Russell St., 503-333-6923, lottieandzulas.com. 9 am-3 pm Monday-Saturday.