Portland Pop-Up Marble Queen will open a food cart on North Williams

During lockdown in 2020, chef Johnny Sullivan spent a lot of time tending to his plants. The chef had worked in front and back of house restaurants for 25 years, honing his craft at places like Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Lounge in Seattle and the Brooklyn institution Diner, but the industry l had exhausted. As his professional career took an enforced hiatus, he channeled his energy into caring for his indoor plants, including a pothos – specifically a marble queen. He adopted the name of the slender, multicolored plant for his pop-up.

“It was a random element,” Sullivan says. “I liked the name; it sort of disrupts your mental imagery on some level.

The thought-provoking name is an apt moniker for the vibe of the pop-up, whose eclectic menu has been in a constant state of creative evolution. During Marble Queen’s appearances at markets and restaurants like Grains of Wrath and Cafe Gertrude, dinners included everything from wok-fried noodle dishes to fried chicken sandwiches to charcoal-grilled meats, incorporating a wide range of culinary influences. Soon the Marble Queen will have a new palace: the former MF Tasty trolley on North Williams. The restaurant has been offering occasional services in its new location since August, but will open permanently on October 20, serving dinner Thursday through Saturday.

Asian ingredients are prevalent on the menu, appearing in dishes like the loaded house fries, which are dressed in a homemade chili crisp, and the collard greens, braised in dashi. Nods to Sullivan’s bicoastal background also appear, with offerings like New York egg custard made with oat milk, chocolate syrup, seltzer water and salad. of Dungeness crab seasoned with fermented chili and furikake. When the cart makes its debut, diners can expect a hit debut menu from the Marble Queen catalog, including shrimp toast with S&B mustard and lime shoyu, chow mein with brisket homemade pork jerky and fried chicken sandwiches.

“The way I approach things now is very different from when I was a young chef,” Sullivan says. “I have a different attitude and thought process about it. I think I had the discipline instilled in me, but I didn’t really approach the hospitality world with an artist’s eye.

Sullivan himself resides close to the Cart and intends to turn the space into a neighborhood joint. While he’s appeared sporadically in what is now his own space, he’s also been working on making changes to the restaurant’s exterior: the once-colorful cart has been painted matte black and a new front fence is in the works. be erected for a more secluded dining experience. There are also plans to winterize the patio, with the addition of covered seating and heaters.

Much like the space’s former tenant, Marble Queen regulars will expect an ever-changing menu, one that adapts to what diners are enthusiastically responding to. Sullivan wants to serve ingredients in a way that diners may never have experienced before. Whatever direction Marble Queen is taking right now, one of its fundamental driving forces is to bring together ideas from different places to create a harmonious end result on the plate.

Marble Queen will open at 3925 N Williams Avenue.