Portlanders are ridiculously spoiled in terms of food options, but sometimes we can’t even believe how lucky we are to have places like Tabor Bread right in our backyard. Owner Tissa Stein has transformed an old medical building on SE 51st and Hawthorne into a cozy haven from the rain. With exposed beams, a gorgeous wood-fired oven on display and the smell of warm bread in the air, we were smitten from the moment we stepped inside. Tabor Bread is the first bakery in Portland to mill its flour in-house and bake all of the bread in a wood-fired oven. It’s also (probably) the only bakery in Portland that has a 22-year-old baker prodigy at the helm! The result? Incredibly wholesome and deliciously fresh bread that we thought was only possible in our dreams. Along with the bread, you must try the soup (2 soups daily), sandwiches (like Olympic Provisions sweetheart ham and Gruyere cheese on a fresh baguette or peanut butter and house-made preserves on spelt), savory bread pudding, whole grain pastries (like scones, cookies and weekend-only sticky buns) and a cup of Spella Caffe coffee to wash it all down. All of the ingredients are sourced locally, with the grains coming from Camas Country Mill in Eugene. Tabor Bread has only been open for a few weeks, but it already feels like an indispensible part of the neighborhood. Stop in and say hello to Tissa and her wonderful team! We did, and here’s what she had to say:
E+E: Tell us a little bit about your background and your journey to opening Tabor Bread.
Tissa Stein: About 20 years ago, I bumped into a man who was baking bread in the town where I lived. He baked a very simple whole wheat bread that he milled the flour for himself, once a week in a wood-fired oven, and he hand-delivered the bread to his friends. I had 2 small kids, so I always looking for healthy food for them, and this bread was such a hit with my kids and I loved it as well so it became a staple of our diet. Because he was baking it in a wood-fired oven, I got intrigued with the whole idea of a wood-fired oven. His name is Alan Scott and he kind of put wood-fired ovens on the map in this country. He designed them and built them, so I decided to have him build me one. I built a small one on my property in Sonoma County, California, and I baked in it casually, not with any kind of commercial intention. And then a friend of mine decided to start working at recipes and baking in it more formally; he was kind of in a career change. We started having a weekly bake, like my friend Alan. We just put a table at the end of the driveway with a “bread for sale” sign. Our little bake day got so popular that we had people driving from across the county to get the bread every week. So my friend who worked up the recipes decided that this was going to be his new career. He looked for a new location and he built a big oven, and I helped him get it started, and it’s (Wild Flour Bread) still going strong, it’s a really cool place. And then, I moved up to Portland and I just needed a project. So I thought, well, it’s been done once, it was successful; this would be a good time and place to do it in again, so that’s how Tabor Bread happened.
E+E: What brought you to Portland?
TS: Well, dear friends first of all. I ended up selling that property with that oven on it and found myself in Portland, having visited here for years and finally deciding to move here. And then honestly, one of the attractions was the Argentine tango scene here. Did you know Portland was a destination for Argentine tango? You’ll notice the wood floor. That’s because the sort of background theme for this space is to be able to have tango events here. We’ll probably open it up once a week for tango classes in the future.
E+E: We did not know that actually. Real question…what do you do with any leftover bread?
TS: We sell day-old bread at a 25% discount. We’re closed Monday and Tuesday, and on Mondays, if we have bread leftover, I put a table out front and people can self-serve—there’s a basket full of envelopes and they put the money in the mail slot. I’ve had incredible success with that—I sell everything I put out there, they love it. It’s steeply discounted, so it’s a good deal, because the bread holds up really well.
E+E: What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
TS: I love the breads; my favorite is the Fife Boule. It’s just a really beautiful 100% whole wheat bread that tastes fantastic. Just toasted it’s amazing, it lasts for a really long time. It’s really flavorful and full of nutrition.
E+E: Why is having an in-house mill so important to you?
TS: It just makes such a difference with whole grains. The minute you mill the grains, all the oils that are contained in there start to decompose, so you’re losing flavor and nutrition when it sits on the shelf. A lot of the flavor in our bread has to do with our freshly-milled flours.
5051 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97215
Written by: Lauren Kodiak