Sizzle Pie buys Checkerboard Pizza, Portland’s best slice shop

Checkerboard Pizza, Ken Forkish’s slice-focused pizzeria from Ken’s Artisan Pizza, has been sold to Sizzle Pie owner Matt Jacobson, who plans to relaunch the brand in two new locations, including one at the club level of the Moda Center.

Originally opened as the Trifecta Annex in 2016, the Pine Street Market food hall kiosk in downtown Portland changed its name to Checkerboard in 2017. In 2018, The Oregonian / OregonLive chose Checkerboard as their name. “Portland’s best pizza by the slice” after citywide search. Sizzle Pie also made a top 10 spot at No.8, the top ranked channel. While not necessarily one of the most well-known pizzerias in town, Checkerboard had many fans, including Jacobson, who fell for the marinara pie, an east coast-style tomato pie simply topped with red sauce, d olive oil and minced garlic.

“The Checkerboard is one of the best pizzas in Portland and not many people have heard of it,” Jacobson said. “I want Checkerboard to be the same as before, but in a better location.”

To this end, Jacobson bought not only the intellectual property of Checkerboard, but also the expertise of Forkish, who recently helped train the pizzeria team on the finer parts of the dough mixture. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The first new checkerboard will be part of the Moda Center’s exclusive club-level concessions when the Trail Blazers’ regular season opener kicks off on October 20. A stand-alone Sellwood location is slated to open next year in a building Jacobson recently purchased at 7981 SE 17th Ave.

“It’s a forfeit,” said Jacobson. “I understand everything, equipment, recipes, his expertise is built into it all. And it’s pretty awesome. He is such a master in his trade. And I’m super excited to be able to carry the torch. “

For Forkish, selling Checkerboard is a chance to continue the downsizing project he started in 2019 with the closure of Trifecta Tavern, his restaurant, bakery and bar in Southeast Portland.

“My lease was coming to Pine Street Market and I didn’t want to do it again,” Forkish said. ” I’m slowing down. I’m in my sixties and want to do less.

(Interestingly, Forkish and his team at Ken’s Artisan Pizza spent much of the past year selling a new 18-inch style reminiscent of the Checkerboard that quickly became my go-to pizza in times of pandemic. But with the reopening. from Ken’s dining room for indoor service in July, the wood-fired oven had to revert to baking Ken’s standard 12-inch pies exclusively, but with a few topping adjustments – cups of pepperoni, grated Pecorino – familiar to Checkerboard fans.)

A share at Checkerboard Pizza. The pizzeria opened at the Pine Street Market food court in 2016 by Ken Forkish was purchased by Matt Jacobson of Sizzle Pie, who plans to operate the two pizzerias as separate brands.Oregonian

While waiting for permits and construction delays, Jacobson hopes to open the Checkerboard location in Sellwood within the year, with outdoor seating and a delivery to follow. He believes giving the pizzeria a home of its own will help boost its name awareness, a lack he attributes to Checkerboard’s hidden location in the dining room and a clientele of tourists and office workers to proximity. Jacobson plans to operate his two pizza brands separately.

As for Sizzle Pie, the vegan pizzeria is trying to bounce back after an 18-month stretch that saw sales plummet by $ 8.9 million due to the loss of dining, nightlife and reduced traffic at the center. -City of pizzeria and Moda Center. The restaurant received a federal grant of $ 4.725 million through the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund in July, a figure based on lost revenue in 2020 (Forkish applied for a grant under the same program but did not receive funding.)

But finding staff remains difficult, said Jacobson. After opening restaurants in New York and Seattle, Sizzle Pie is now at three locations in Portland – the original near East Burnside, another attached to the Hollywood Theater in northeast Portland and the downtown corner – town of Powell’s City of Books on Southeast Oak. Street – and one in Reno. An upcoming location in Old Town Beaverton is on hold after a newly hired general manager was needed at another location.

Checkerboard’s first new location will open on the Club Level of the Moda Center on October 20. A standalone Sellwood pizzeria will open at 7981 SE 17th Ave. next year.

Michael russell, [email protected], @tdmrussell

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