MAMA SAN SOUL SHACK is a North Portland eatery and drinking spot that serves ASIAN SOUL FOOD to dine in or take out. We blend the cuisines of the Southern United States and the continent of Asia to create fresh and delicious rice bowls, burgers, fried chicken and boozy slushies. We’re kitchie Soul babies who love to color outside the lines.
The mission of MAMA SAN SOUL SHACK is to celebrate and promote harmony between different cultures through great food, drink and hospitality in the underserved North Portland neighborhood of St. Johns.
It was during a tour of Southern Black colleges back in ‘04 that a young Chef Hopkins first stumbled upon an unexpected blending of Southern and Asian cultures. Traveling with his family in the summer heat they had stopped off at a corner store to grab a cool drink. Walking inside he heard a voice with a thick Southern drawl he assumed to be a Black woman. Turning towards the voice he was shocked to find it belonged instead to an Asian woman. The experience made a big impression on the young would be chef and got him thinking how easily the lines of cultural identity could be blurred.
Hopkins had grown up cooking Southern and Soul food, taught mostly by his Father and the men in his family. Although his people were from the South, he had been born and raised in Portland where he also studied at the culinary arts school, Le Cordon Blu.
After graduating he moved to the island of Oahu where he was befriended and essentially adopted by a local Korean family. The Grandmother of the family took him under her wing teaching him, from memory, all kinds of recipes and techniques, including how to make traditional kimchi from scratch.
Hopkins returned to Portland a few years later with a wealth of new knowledge and a crazy idea of blending his roots of Soul food with his new found love for Asian flavors. Bridging the gap through pork and pickles.
In 2014 Hopkins found himself working the grill at Tasty & Alder in downtown Portland, biding his time until he could open his own shop. Behind the bar was future partner & New York transplant, Andy Boggs. Once the two discovered they were both skateboarders and lived in the same St. Johns neighborhood, a great friendship was quickly formed.
Boggs, although born and raised in Oregon, had opened the award winning cocktail bar, Huckleberry Bar, in Brooklyn, NY in 2007. In 2012 he became a Father and decided to return to his home state to raise his Daughter and take part in the burgeoning Portland restaurant world. After designing and implementing the cocktail program at Ken Forkish’s Trifecta Tavern in 2013, Boggs was wanting to turn his years of experience with craft cocktails in a more family friendly direction within his own neighborhood.
Acutely aware of the lack of good restaurants to be found in St Johns, Hopkins & Boggs formed a partnership and set out to do something about it. So after a skate session at Pier Park followed by a cold beer at Slim’s Tavern one afternoon, the idea for Mama San Soul Shack was first hatched.
St. Johns is one of the few neighborhoods in Portland where you can find a genuine mix of different cultures and ethnicities. Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, White and Latino families all reside together on the St. Johns “Peninsula,” Portland’s 5th quadrant.
Hopkins & Boggs wanted to honor that blend of cultures and it was the perfect setting to introduce Hopkin’s blending of Asian and Soul Foods. Complemented by Boggs’ deconstructed craft cocktails riffing off of Southern delights like Purple Drank and Boozy Slushies.
The deliciously satisfying result was New American Street Food, specifically ASIAN SOUL FOOD. A healthy yet hardy take on traditional Soul Food. Clean & delicious everyday street food with enough variety and range to satisfy every member of the family, no matter what their dietary restrictions and needs might be.
Once we found the space, a 720 square foot metal building originally constructed as an auto body shop in the 50’s, quite literally a shack, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place and in the fall of 2015, MAMA SAN SOUL SHACK was officially born.
An ode to that anonymous culture blending Mama San from down South. Thanks for the inspiration. As varied and different as we can all be, at the end of the day, errybody’s got a Mama and errybody gotta eat.