When you think back to your early days, what foods take you there? Mac and cheese? Burgers? Strawberry milkshakes? What if you could get all of that, but with an elevated flavor profile? Anthony Brown is making that happen with Nacheaux, a restaurant that specializes in nostalgic Mexican and Southern fusion food in Portland, OR.
Born in Los Angeles to a Belizean father and an Atlanta-born mother who remarried a man from Mexico City, Brown grew up with diverse cultures, close-knit family ties and bold flavors. It’s that childhood filled with various tastes that formed the foundation for his pandemic brainchild. The idea came to him in February of 2020 and by March, he was full-up and running his food truck.
But the road was not all smooth sailing.
Because Nacheaux opened during the pandemic, he wasn’t able to receive PPP loans because he had to show proof of loss. There was no loss because there was no business before the pandemic. He was also not able to apply for any grants because Brown is a person with prior justice system involvement.
Chef Brown doesn’t want his past to define him; nor does he want what hindered him to be what hinders others. “The life I’ve lived in the past is not who I am now, but it gives me that fuel, that hunger to succeed,” he said. “Mostly in life you don’t get a second chance.”
It’s why he so firmly believes in hiring cooks who have also been involved with the criminal justice system. Turns out, he says, they are some of his most solid employees.
Brown, who’s self-taught, credits his growth to the fact that Nacheaux features a rotating menu that brings new influences to old recipes. His motto: “Color outside the lines with us. Turn ordinary into extraordinary.”
That means items like a “Southern AF” pulled pork sandwich featuring seven-hour cooked pork mixed with house-made BBQ sauce topped with slaw, Nacheaux sauce, three fried shrimp and fried onions on a cheesy brioche bun; a Nacheaux smashburger topped with cheese, carnitas, slaw, pickles, Nacheaux sauce, fried onions and Cajun fries and a fried chicken sandwich with special sauce on top of garlic sauce, fried onions, house-made pickles and slaw on a brioche bun. There are also milkshakes.
And in other “sweet” news, Brown recently opened a downtown restaurant called Fast Feathers featuring wings with unique flavors (such as Doriteaux and Honey Pecan), fries, tots and spicy pickles.
Brown notes that prior to Covid, the Portland food scene included standard staples popular with tourists. Over the past two years, however, those establishments have evaporated, creating a gap Brown and other entrepreneurs like himself are filling with casual, non-traditional menus and environments.
“We’re here for the food and to satisfy people’s palates while uplifting everyone around us,” said Brown, who admits work never feels like a job. “If I could pay my bills with ‘Thank you!’ and ‘This is delicious!’, I would.
“Putting a smile on someone’s face through delicious food is my passion.”
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