Charlie Mattouk and Ali Matos are spreading love in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown, one fresh deli sandwich at a time.
The young married couple, originally from southern California, opened Charlie’s Deli about two months ago. They both feel right at home in the Rose City, serving up “real food, from scratch, every day, with love.”
“In Southern California, we had the ocean,” Mattouk said of their old stomping ground. “You can’t sell sandwiches to fish.”
Located at 22 N.W. Fourth Ave in what was a Chinese restaurant, the new shop claims plenty of loyal fans, including the residents of the neighboring homeless campground. Mattouk said the campground, Right 2 Dream Too (R2D2), offers the feeling of a neighborhood “security compound.” Both he and Matos are grateful for the proximity to R2D2 and its residents.
“They’re our biggest fans; why could we not love them?” Matos told The Oregonian.
The couple drops off extra food to R2D2, and other customers come in to buy dozens of sandwiches for the R2D2 residents.
The couple said downtown’s urban grit reminds them of their hometown.
“That’s what we like,” Matos said of the central city location. “We’re comfortable with that.”
From the frequent cheery Facebook updates to the meticulous menu of homemade deli classics (plus a few Portland-appropriate innovations – grilled vegan seasoned tofu sandwich, anyone?), it’s clear Matos and Mattouk are invested in their new home.
“We kind of fell in love,” Mattouk said.