By Nina Silberstein
Before opening her restaurant, Emma Dye sold medical equipment to large systems around the country. Although she worked at a fast-food restaurant when she was 14, was a busser in a fine dining restaurant at 16, and a server in her early 20s, Emma never thought she’d be in the restaurant business.
Today she holds the official title of founder and chief salad officer at Crisp, where salads are the specialty of the house.
Crisp has two locations: one at 3901 N Williams Ave., and the newest at 2045 SE Division St., which opened last August.
“It’s a great area and we really look forward to serving the folks who live and work nearby great, healthy food,” Dye says.
The Cobb and Crispy Chicken salads are the two most popular at Crisp. Any salad can be made into a wrap and they offer made-from-scratch soups, hot bowls and a chickpea chili.
Dye is a big fan of their NoPo Salad, which includes arugula, field greens, Oregon hazelnuts, cranberries, feta cheese, wild smoked salmon and a marionberry dressing.
The San Pancho is their version of a Tex-Mex salad with spinach, field greens, roasted corn, black beans, avocado, pico de gallo, tortilla strips, roasted pumpkin seeds and a chipotle cream dressing.
“All of our dressings are made in-house with no icky fillers or preservatives,” she explains. “All are gluten-free and dairy free/vegan, except the blue cheese. The honey mustard technically isn’t vegan because it has honey in it.”
Crisp offers several vegan salads, including the San Pancho mentioned above, Emma’s Detox (spinach, cabbage, arugula, pickled onions, beets, sunflower seeds, carrots, radish, avocado and garden ranch dressing) and the Hail to the Kale (kale, organic tempeh, vegan parmesan, crispy chickpeas and Caesar dressing).
Salad lovers can customize a salad by removing or adding toppings and ingredients.
“All of our soups and warm bowls are vegan and gluten-free, although many customers choose to add chicken,” Dye adds. Ingredients are sourced locally as often as possible with their number one supplier being Pacific Produce.
While Crisp has dining rooms at both their locations, they opted not to open these even when the county allowed half capacity.
“It was just too difficult with the restrictions in place to feel safe doing so,” she said.
They were fortunate to have already been focusing on online ordering for takeout and delivery and have continued to focus on that.
At the Division St. location, to-go orders are placed in their super-sanitized, secure Minnow Pod and customers get a text message when their order is ready. All they have to do is hit a link when they arrive and their own individual cubby door opens where they can grab their order and leave without contact with anyone.
Crisp had outdoor seating at both locations, but with pandemic restrictions that were put in place November 18, they removed those tables.
“For our style of restaurant and with the weather, it’s not a terrible hit for us, but I feel for my fellow restauranteurs,” Dye said.
“So many put thousands of dollars into outdoor seating with heating and tents to help get through the winter and now they aren’t even allowed for at least a month to utilize those resources. It’s heartbreaking.”
The restaurant is a great choice for catering because they have options to meet any dietary need. Keto or vegan? Low-carb or whole-30? They’ve got it covered.
“We can do large salads and soups to share or individual packaging, depending on who we’re serving. And we deliver,” Dye adds.
She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and moved to Portland in 1996. Her husband, Kirt, works full time in real estate. Crisp’s director of operations, Dave, has been with them for four and half years and according to Dye, has been “instrumental in their success.”
She mentions that Crisp has received a warm welcome from the neighborhood. “We already have several regulars who come in often, which is so great.”
She also notes they are really grateful they have been able to keep all their employees working throughout the pandemic, plus add another 15 jobs in this hard-hit industry.
“We’re trying to provide real, healthy whole foods to our community, which the larger chain restaurants just can’t offer,” she says. “We also love how so many Portlanders support small, local businesses like ours.”
2045 SE Division St.