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Above: Wild Chive Vegan Brunch. Photo courtesy of Stacy Michelson.
It took two weekends for Wild Chive—the brainchild of Brooklyn-based vegan chef powerhouse Soozee Nguyen—and its vegan brunch on Sundays to turn Portfolio Coffeehouse into a full-fledged dining destination.
Hungry followers would be willing to eat standing, sit on the curb, or find any makeshift eating area possible—and that is precisely why Nguyen will be moving her operations to MADE by Millworks in DTLB beginning Sunday, November 5.
It will not only allow her to serve without infringing upon existing patrons—regulars soon stopped visiting Portfolio on Sunday for a coffee because there was rarely standing room let alone a place to sit—but finally provide her the freedom to serve some much-requested alcohol during her brunch. Heather Kern, manager of MADE, reached out Nguyen to create a “truly mixed-use space” where patrons will dine in the backspace art gallery of the Long Beach-centric store.
In other words, it marks a massive transition for Nguyen and her followers.
“It was so successful that we had countless iterations while she was at Portfolio,” said Kerstin Kansteiner, owner of Portfolio. “We decided to do a separate POS, we tried to separate the dining-from-coffeeshop, we brought in servers… It was originally intended as a popup and it just has outgrown Portfolio. It’s really quite amazing.”
Nguyen’s keen sensibility for high quality vegan food kept vegans and non-vegans alike returning back for signature dishes like stuffed french toast filled with house-made chocolate-hazelnut spread, fresh strawberries, bananas, coconut whip and topped with maple and almonds. Or a breakfast bánh mì filled with tofu, tempeh bacon and ham, pickled veggies, cucumber, cilantro, chile, fried shallots, and a chive-cilantro aioli.
Yes, there’s even a vegan Monte Cristo sandwich and vegan mac’n’cheese.
“It’s genuinely been a wonderful year of serving vegan brunch at Portfolio, but The Wild Chive is moving to MADE,” Nguyen said. “The space will be a bit bigger—which is rad—and we’ll continue to serve our signature dishes along with brand new specials I won’t divulge just yet. But let’s be clear, I owe so much to Portfolio and especially Kerstin over there—she’s been such an incredible mentor to me. I honestly can’t say The Wild Chive would be where it is today without her and her constant guidance and support. I’m excited about what’s to come, and can’t wait for The Wild Chive regulars (and newbies) to taste it all.”
Nguyen will still be using Portfolio as her kitchen, a space that Kansteiner offered her after discovering the budding entrepreneur was using inefficient spaces up north and trekking back down to serve.
In other words, it was a partnership that both deeply loved.
As for how long the partnership will last is uncertain as Nguyen is actively searching for a brick-and-mortar to permanently house her vegan operation. As of now, she is eying her original neighborhood: good ol’ Retro Row, where so many of her faithful followers brought her success in the first place.
MADE by Millworks is located 240 Pine Ave.