Taking cues from the legacy of the classic Portland restaurant Campbell’s, third-generation Tory Campbell has re-created the BBQ sauce and spice rubs that made the restaurant a hit while reviving the community.
Roxana holds the front, happily selling her family’s barbecue and history in quick taste tests. She’s utterly convincing. Or maybe it’s the spicy-sweet heat of the sauce. Apron-clad Tory holds down the back, making sure their daughter is fed and sauce jars are stocked.
The grandson of Felton and Mary Campbell, Tory claims the “founder and steward” title of the line of bbq sauces, developed by his grandparents and made famous in Portland for 20 years at Campbell’s BBQ. Campbell’s, which started in 1989 in SE Portland, was known for doling out community and great barbeque to everyone who passed through the doors.
Originally from Texas and Alabama, Felton and Mary met in the Bay Area. When retirement drew near, they packed up and headed to Portland. Once they got here, however, retirement was a dull prospect, so they opened up a wildly successful barbecue restaurant. Now, 30 years later, Tory is reviving his grandparent’s legacy by bringing back the family recipes. Felton and Mary sold the restaurant in 2006, retaining all the recipes, and the new owners closed it down for good just last year in 2015. Tory started making the barbecue sauces and rubs two years ago with his wife Roxana. They curated a relationship with New Seasons, who agreed to sell the sauce under their own label (with the Felton and Mary name alongside).
Now they’re branching out under their solo label to farmer’s markets, Green Zebra grocery, and a few local accounts. His favorite offering is their spice rub. “Barbecue sauce is important, but it’s secondary to a good rub,” Tory says. “With a spice rub, you can take it off the grill and eat it right away without sauce. If there’s a bit of spice, it means you cooked it right.” He adds it to chicken, pork, and even salmon. They’re expecting to branch into a few more inherited recipes, like an upcoming coleslaw sauce and Felton’s famous link sausages. The barbecue sauce itself reflects his grandparent’s spirit, he thinks. Tomato based, it’s heartier than most and always draws a crowd.
Felton and Mary were passionate urban farmers–growing up with them, Tory would be sent into the backyard to get vegetables for dinner. His grandfather worked for NASA, had a lot of international friends, and loved to experiment with recipes. Tory grew up eating mofongo and lumpia; “All these things we thought all black people ate. Turns out they’re Puerto Rican and Filipino!”
His grandparents’ ability to gather folks into friends was key to the success of Campbell’s. A restaurant that created community along with great food is long remembered in the area, and Tory’s market booths often have folks coming by with fond memories to share. One day a gruff gentleman was reluctant to chat, but as Roxana showed him their goods and began telling him the story, he lit up. “Campbells?” he said. “Wow!” He went on to tell her how much respect he had for the restaurant. It had opened at a time and place with a lot of racism and Klan activity, he told her, but Felton and Mary graciously opened their doors to everyone and offered not just great food, but community and generosity. “It speaks to their legacy,” Tory says, “that we can still have people coming by that remember not just the food but the whole place. We get people who remind us of that legacy all the time.”
Photos thanks to MFM volunteer, Jenny Ampersand.
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Natasha, the owner of Nectar Café. Natasha has been a consistent presence at the market since 2010, although the business name of Nectar Café only came into being in 2013. (Some of you may remember Da-Pressed Coffee, which was featured in the book Portland Food Cart Stories: Behind the Scenes with the City’s Culinary Entrepreneurs.)
Natasha started roasting coffee beans over 9 years ago. Her approach is that of “I roast the coffee that I like” – a choice which has led to an excellent finished product. Beans are sourced from a single origin, the source of which changes about every six weeks and varies from Ethiopia to South or Central America. The beans are done as a medium light roast, and can be purchased at the market in 12 ounce bags.
Selling coffee beans is but a small part of what Natasha does. Besides their delicious vegan meals served at the market, Nectar Café also has a full espresso lineup, as well as French press and cold brew coffee.
Cover photo thanks to Jenny Ampersand, above photo thanks to Mary Diehl.