Last time around we chatted with Henri Schock of Mr. West, whose new café-bar serves up espresso, light fare, wine, vermouth pours and more alongside freshly cut flowers and pretty, punchy lifestyle magazines, at the heart of one of downtown Seattle’s vibrant mini-neighborhoods.
This week I had a chance to chat with Joe Nazir about Tov (pronounced “TOE-v”), his new double-decker-bus-turned-café, which resides in Southeast Portland at Hawthorne and 32nd. Here, Nazir welcomes patrons and slings shots from Seattle’s Espresso Vivace (roasting his own beans is on his mind for the future). With an espresso bar inside and tented seating on the second level, Nazir’s festive bus is unique in the way it mixes a food cart-style business model with the seating and atmosphere of a full-on café, all inspired by Nazir’s Egyptian heritage and love for the Rose City.
How did you settle in Portland, and what do you love about the Pacific Northwest?
I first came to Portland in ’98…Before then, we had just arrived in the States in ’97, down in LA. I visited [Portland] and just fell in love with it. My parents and I moved to Portland a few months after. I went to finish high school here, then down to Corvallis for OSU, and after a couple years in San Francisco I decided to move back to Portland, just because I had a great time here. Yeah, it’s always raining but you learn to love the rain after awhile. I love the Northwest, love the people, love the green. Portland is an amazing city.
Where did you get the bus for Tov?
I got the bus, an old tour bus, from San Diego. The owners had a few buses and were trying to liquidate things and move on with their lives, so I got it from them. It was driven up about a thousand miles to Portland. I was looking online for something I can have a coffee shop in that’s already established, like a brick and mortar but on wheels. I went for it. Why not? People are drawn by the bus…On the outside it may not be pretty, but on the inside they are blown away.
What does Tov mean?
Tov means good or beautiful. Overall, I believe my bus lives up to its name.
Do you feel like your coffee bus fits in with the Portland food cart community?
I think it’s a little bit different, absolutely, but it fits right in with everything else. It’s on wheels, it’s tiny, it’s metal. [laughs] Who said anything about not having a bus as a coffee cart? It’s like having two food carts lumped together, or four. I feel like I’m starting something, or that something’s already started. Somebody else came by and told me he bought another double-decker bus and is fixing it up…Something’s going on, maybe we’ll see a few more double-deckers in the future.
Your go-to coffee drink of the moment?
I really just go for an espresso shot. There’s always new discoveries in espresso, just being able to taste it and train my palate for what’s good and what’s bad. It has everything I need. Simple yet complex.