SE’s Newest Pizza Place Brings Spam and Salsa to Fermented Dough

By Daniel Perez-Crouse

Once a pop-up and now a permanent fixture, the creative mix of Mexican and Hawaiian/Filipino elements on uniquely fermented dough creates Portland’s newest addition to its growing pizza empire, Pan Con Queso in Living Häus Beer Company.
“I think we’ve all had the same pizzas. You know, the standard margaritas and pepperonis and we just wanted to try something different. Especially since Portland is all about the different cultures here together, you know, it’s got an exciting pizza scene. Also, you know, so many different types of people,” said co-owner and executive chef Henry Martinez.
Martinez and partner Mikeila Magno combine their backgrounds into a unique style of pizza and side offerings. Martinez’s Mexican influence is shown in elements like salsa verde, chorizo and an elote pizza. Whereas Magno’s Filipino and Hawaiian roots can be seen in the Mr. Macarthur pizza with Spam and pineapple. Martinez said the first time someone saw him put ingredients like that on a pizza, they were offended. But then they ate the whole pie and thought it was great.
Martinez also wants to push boundaries and be more modern with how he ferments and uses his dough. “I read a lot about fermentation. I’m just into experimenting. You know, you’ve got your sourdough, and it’s at its peak. That’s when you do your mix, and we do a little different approach that allows us to extend our fermentation.” He says that’s what gives their pizzas a unique and more modern, bold flavor.
“There is such a thing as going too sour and too far. But if you’re manipulating the process, whether it’s with refrigeration or leaving the dough out longer, you’ll see a drastic difference in flavors. And that’s what we are trying to do. We say our pizza is fermented for four days. But I’ve let it ferment for six days and it’s like wow, I can’t believe it’s still going. It’s still rising, and it’s not overly sour.” Martinez says this gives them some leverage if the bread were to accidentally ferment a bit longer and not have to worry about it ruining the flavor.
Originally, they wanted to start a food cart but the recent rules around septic systems made that difficult. After meeting one of the owners and operating a pop-up space at Living Häus Beer Company, they found another option. The brewery wasn’t doing much with their kitchen space so Martinez suggested the possibility of renting it. The brewery was all for it. “It was honestly by luck.”
Martinez says they also have big ideas for their small kitchen and are toying around with new offerings already. “I am currently working on other breads. I want to do a traditional telera bread for some sandwiches.” Martinez also loves making English muffins and wants to do some type of brunch service in the future. “One of my and Magno’s favorite things is fried egg and Spam breakfast sandwiches. Maybe on Sundays in the future.”
Martinez said growing up, a friend of his would come over on Fridays and bring pizza. Martinez would always ask, “Que es eso?” or “What is that?” His friend would respond saying “pan con queso” in a teasing way. “It just had a ring, and I always thought it was funny. And when you think about it, pizza is bread and cheese.” That also goes into the experience Martinez wants people to have eating at his restaurant. “It’s just really good bread that has some really good toppings.”
Pan Con Queso is open Monday-Thursday 3-10 pm; Friday and Saturday 12-11 pm; and Sunday 12-9 pm.

Pan Con Queso
628 SE Belmont St. (inside Living Häus Beer Company)

Top photo: owners Henry Martinez (left) and Mikeila Magno (right). Photos by Daniel Perez-Crouse.

SE’s Newest Pizza Place Brings Spam and Salsa to Fermented Dough

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