Here’s an absolute treat of a story for you. We’re diving into one of our favorite local eateries: Nacheaux. Chef Anthony Brown was kind enough to tell us about his family’s journey from smash hit food cart to brick-and-mortar (during the middle of a pandemic!).
It’s a truly delicious story — so let’s dig in.
We sat down with Anthony Brown, the co-owner of Nacheaux and Unicorn Creationz Food Hall over on Fremont Street, to talk about how he and his family balance restaurant life, and the crucial importance of community in business. Here’s what he had to say:
What sort of food do you serve up at Nacheux?
At Nacheaux, we do Mexican and Southern fusion; however, when you come here, you’ll also find everything from ice cream, crunch wraps, all the way to nostalgic Hamburger Helper. When people ask what we do, I say Mexican-Southern, but I then send them over to Instagram to see what we really do — nostalgia food.
Tell us what community means to you?
We’re a very transparent company; if you follow us on Instagram, you’ll get everything from what our family is doing, how we’re doing, and all the new food we’re making. To me, food is a conversation piece. My wife’s from Louisiana, and I’m from LA, with a grandma from Atlanta and another from Mexico City — so we always came together around food.
It’s important to introduce me and my family to the neighborhood and their families. There are two kinds of people along Fremont Street: young business families and then folks who have been there for 30 years. That neighborhood is very specific — it’s unique from Burnside, Alberta, Division because it’s more of a family-oriented kind of space. There are plenty of nice restaurants and food spaces along Fremont, but they tend to be more upscale and not so kid-friendly.
We’re a blended family of four, which we talk about a lot on social media because the transparency part is important to us. Everyone has some walk of life they come from and different experiences, and I’m not afraid to connect with my community through those things. We don’t have customers — we have a community.
The Brown Family first hit the Portland food scene with their successful food cart dishing up nostalgic dishes with a twist, before moving into the old Alameda Brewhouse building. (Courtesy of Anthony Brown)
And it’s because of our community that we have this space today. The outpouring of support has allowed us to bring on more people to our team — we even have a sous chef now!
Every half hour or so, I come out of the kitchen and walk the dining floor to see how everyone’s doing and ask how their day is.
Okay, now tell us about your fabulous food hall
It’s called the Unicorn Creationz Food Hall— Unicorn Creationz being our parent company. And the meaning behind the name is that these businesses we’ve created are things that unicorns would create.
We have an ice cream space that we call Karnival Kreations, where you can taste all our sweets and desserts, like our milkshakes and beignets. Basically, you’d come to the counter and say you wanna order a pop tart flavored cookie, another one rolled in Lucky Charms marshmallow dust, and a lemon-flavored Trix cookie. We’ll pop those in the oven, they take nine minutes to cook, and voila! You’ve got your hot, fresh cookie. And we have the Bourbon St. Bar where you can order cocktails and such. And, of course, there’s the food.
What kind of drinks do you have on tap?
Gin fizzes, daiquiris, mojitos, all that good stuff. We’ve got some really fun lemonades in the making that come with a light up flashing LED bulb inside. That’s our vibe — it goes with the fun.
Do you offer more than just food and drinks and fun?
Fremont’s first private dining hall is rentable. You can rent the room by itself, a catering program, or a drinking program because the speakeasy bar is still there. So if you’ve got an event and come to us, we’ll get you set up right, and the day before we’ll send you a special code for you and your guests to get into the space — sort of a modern take on a speakeasy.
Where is Nacheaux in all of this?
Nacheaux has stayed right where it has always been. Now you just have three different points of sale, which means that you’ll need to order separately at each. And that’s all part of that family feel; we’ve got younger kids so, when we go to a restaurant sometimes, they don’t want to sit down, they want to get up. This food hall lets them do that — your kids can wander around, maybe go get a picture with our unicorn mascot Gregory, or see how the chefs are making beignets. And that is exactly how it’s supposed to be.
The menu at Nacheaux is often changing, but you’re always bound to find something delicious like this peanut butter, Butterfinger chicken and waffle sandwich. (Courtesy of Anthony Brown)
How has it been making the leap from food cart to brick-and-mortar?
The transition was actually pretty smooth. It’s a little hard to talk about because before this I came from a background of working at restaurants that aren’t really part of the Portland food scene anymore. And I feel for them and for that loss — I worked at Pok Pok for a bit before they closed.
My wife’s been a huge contributor when it comes to things like our menus, online services, insurance, everything that goes into running the business side of things. We had a baby during this (his name is Boss Brown 😉), and she was doing payroll the day after she gave birth. It’s hard because we sacrifice so much in order to do the business the way we need it to be. There are some days I’ll leave for work at 8 a.m. and get back home at 10 p.m. There are times when I don’t see my daughter for a while.
But my wife and I have talked about all of these things and did so before we went into business. We knew we’d have to make sacrifices and asked each other if we were willing to do that. Because once I’m in on something — I’m in on it and so is she. We’re very strategic about the way we did things. For example, our food cart – we agreed to try out running a food cart for a year, and that if it didn’t work, then I’d go back to working at restaurants. We rented our food cart for the first year, which gave us an opportunity to dabble in it — and it turned out great. From there, we moved into our brick-and-mortar phase and even that was great because it was a shared space. So we had another opportunity to test things out. We signed another one-year lease, and it was sort of like a test fire.
I said to my wife, “look if we don’t like it, if we can’t make it work, we’ll go back to the food cart.” From the outside, folks look at us and say that we moved pretty fast, but honestly we got here through a lot of trials and strategy and having a back up plan.
What else should Portlanders know about?
We want to be embedded in our community. Sure, tourism is fun, but the one thing that got us to where we are now are our locals and our regulars.