I LIVE up in the far northern collar of the city, in a neighborhood politely described as "in transition" from a rougher time. Amateur thugs in primered donks still mark the intersections of Dekum Street with swirling black tire scars, and the iron-fortified bodegas still sell a rogues' gallery of fortified wine, along with single rolls of toilet paper.
P's & Q's Market opened its doors at NE 13th and Dekum three months ago, two years after partners Emily Anderson and Paul Davis first started tracking down the owners of the spray-painted building that had been vacant for years. It had been a church, and a couple of soul food restaurants—Izogie's and Sylvia's Corner. Now, fully gutted and restored, it's taken to life as a thriving neighborhood market and modest but impressive restaurant.
Davis, 30, has been a cook in Portland for years, with long stints at Kenny and Zuke's, Broder, Podnah's Pit, and Dove Vivi. Those years are evident in his well-composed plates: a comforting dinner of salted, air-chilled roast chicken with crisp, spot-on shoestring fries, creamy garlic sauce, and tarragon vinegar ($12) would be precisely at home along the Seine, and Grandmother Hawley's biscuits with West Virginia tomato gravy and an egg ($7.50) are actually those of his grandmother, Mrs. Hawley. His roast beef sandwich ($8)—the bright, cleanly flavored meat perfectly rosy and tender at the middle—is filled with peppery arugula, paper-thin radishes, and a spread of butter. A winter-proof BLT (tomato jam takes the place of tomatoes) showcases his thick, house-made molasses bacon between two perfectly griddled slabs of Woodlawn brioche ($9.50).
My pick from their eight-item weekend brunch menu is the bacon and brisket hash with a fried egg—the hash is filled out with kale, sweet potato, and apple ($10) instead of the usual monotonous potato. Also recommended is the rich but clean-eating breakfast sandwich of paper-thin coppa, fried egg, arugula, and Sriracha mayonnaise on a tender potato bun ($7). A "streuseled apple pielet" ($5), warm from the oven, can be dressed with cheddar cheese and whipped cream, to go with a high-quality drip coffee (their current sole caffeinated offering).
Two dinner specials are available in addition to the seven-item midday sandwich menu, seven nights a week. The aforementioned chicken is a no-brainer, but a remarkably smooth, lightly smoked house-made bratwurst ($10) with sweet, deeply caramelized cabbage, whole grain mustard, and toasted rye bread is another standard go-to that begs for a pint from their three taps ($4.50, currently Pfriem Pilsner, Amnesia Desolation IPA, and Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest). Past dinners have included roast pork shoulder, chicken salad sandwiches, fried green tomatoes, chicken and dumplings, and jerk chicken.
The dining area is open to the store, and its casual comfort benefits from the happy flow of shoppers. It's a nice place for a meal, a mid-day coffee, or simply a pint and some decent people watching along Dekum.
When Anderson, 29, says, "I hope we're part of a positive change in everyone's eyes," the word "everyone" seems validated by an afternoon spent watching from a table. People from the old neighborhood and the new neighborhood actually do mix here; P's and Q's is, therefore, a significant part of Woodlawn's transition.
Their artful displays of groceries look precious at first—like the usual gourmet boutique where they have nothing you need and it's too expensive anyway—but a closer look reveals a deep and carefully thought-out range of versatile pantry staples and household needs, consciously priced lower than New Seasons. Quality canned goods, beans, grains, spices, and the produce of five different farms share shelves and cooler space with fresh milk, a lovingly curated selection of beer and cider, and charcuterie, some of it house-cured. Of the dozens of well-chosen wines, rarely is a bottle above $15, and many go for under $10. You can buy local, farm-fresh eggs with your EBT, Juanita's and cilantro for your nachos, macaroni and cheese that kids actually like, and literally everything you'd need for carbonara or good deli sandwiches.
If customers can't find something they want, it goes on a list. During one review lunch, a kid of about nine groused that they didn't have Sour Patch Kids, and he informed Anderson that they could be purchased up NE MLK at Walgreens (which apparently fell outside the radius of his liberty). The next afternoon, while I was interviewing Anderson and Davis, he came in and there they were. He was so happy he treated himself to an after-school plate of french fries at the counter ($2).
P's & Q's Market is open daily 9 am-9 pm. Brunch is served Sat-Sun 9 am-1 pm, lunch menu 11 am-9 pm daily, dinner 6-9 pm nightly. Easy street parking.