4411 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Open 7 days 11 am – 9 pm
Tali Ovadia had an idea for a business, one that had been simmering in her mind for years. When the software company she was working for got bought out fifteen years ago, she decided it was time to put her business plan in motion and started a push cart food booth in the Pearl called The Whole Bowl.
At the time, the City required permission from building owners to set up in front of their property. This proved to be more difficult than it sounds and things were looking a little grim until Tom Walsh and Al Solheim saw the magic in what Ovadia was proposing.
They gave her the go ahead to set up her first location at 11th and NW Glisan. To these gentlemen she is eternally grateful.
The story of how Ovadia morphed a software career into The Whole Bowl food cart/restaurant goes back to her days at the University of Oregon.
One of her favorite places to get a bite to eat was at Cart de Frisco. She enjoyed the simplicity of the offerings, the autonomy of the owners, being outside, talking with people and the turn-around service they had to offer. She thought she could see herself doing something like that.
Going even further back, a food business was in her bloodline. Her grandfather, Morton Keller, opened a restaurant in Cincinnati in 1941 called Sugar N’ Spice that served classic breakfast, lunch and sides.
Sugar N’ Spice was the first restaurant in the area to employ African Americans. At the time it cost him some customers but he was a man of conviction and integrity, and over the years these qualities gained him the reputation as a pillar of the community.
Now seventy-five years later, the landmark restaurant is still serving the same menu he created decades ago.
When The Whole Bowl cart opened up on Hawthorne Blvd. thirteen years ago, it was unique. People flocked to the stand to get their serving of brown rice, red and black beans, fresh avocado, salsa, black olives, sour cream, cheddar, cilantro and Ovadia’s special sauce.
The only decisions to make were what topping you wanted or how spicy it would be.
Ovadia was fortunate to have chosen a recipe that was satisfying to everyone and healthy. At that time, no one was talking about gluten free or folic acid (a necessary nutrient for pregnant women) and The Whole Bowl was both. The food appealed to vegetarian, vegan and nut-free health-conscious eaters.
She said a lot of moms claim their kids won’t eat rice and beans unless it’s from The Whole Bowl.
Recently a mom sent her sixth-grader’s critique assignment. She had chosen The Whole Bowl – a page and a half examining the wonderfulness of it and a great critique.
After starting out in the Pearl, she opened the downtown and Hawthorne Bowls, then Sandy, NoPo, PDX and the latest on 9th and SE Ankeny. The location on Hawthorne has become a glorified cart with indoor seating which works well in our unpredictable climate.
“The City of Portland is supportive of small businesses. The Whole Bowl could have been homeless without the food cart allowance,” Ovadia said.
A transplant herself, she welcomes the growth and is relying on The City to maintain livability. That’s the main reason everyone wants to live here.
Tali Ovadia wants to extend thanks to all the great customers who rely on her to receive the same Bowl they’ve been eating for the past fifteen years.