Ryan Bernstein dropped by Portia’s Diner for the first time July 27, just three days before the vegan restaurant closed its doors for good.
Bernstein, a pescatarian, was dropping his car off at nearby Bernie’s Garage & Auto Shop and decided to grab a bite to eat.
“I thought I’d check it out,” said Bernstein, who lives on the South Side.
After two and a half years in business, Portia Yiamouyiannis decided to close shop, 3269 N. High St., after failing to reach a lease agreement with the landlord.
“Anytime a local business goes out, it’s disheartening,” Bernstein said.
Five years ago, Yiamouyiannis purchased much of the equipment from the previous tenant, Whole World Natural Restaurant & Bakery, a vegetarian destination that opened in 1978.
But she had difficulty getting the small space ready. What was to take two months turned into 36 months.
Yet, Yiamouyiannis said she has no regrets opening the spot, preferring to see her effort as positive.
“I feel like I accomplished something, so that’s a good thing,” she said. “I like challenges, so I did it.”
She still owns Portia’s Café, at 4428 Indianola Ave., and Clintonville Natural Foods, 4398 Indianola Ave., both of which are vegan, too.
The cozy, brightly painted diner had a few tables and seating at the counter.
It was known for homemade breakfast items, wraps, salads, soups, pizza and desserts – all created without the use of dairy or other animal products.
She said she developed many recipes at the café, open nine and a half years, before opening the diner. Some diner classics will appear on the café’s menu, she said.
Customer Auzzy Om of the University District said he visited the diner two to four days a week and often visited the café, too.
Om said he generally follows a vegan diet but enjoys culinary adventures.
“It’s kind of amazing because I can walk down the street to eat at the diner and I can’t really easily walk to the other one,” he said of the café on Indianola.
Chef Andy Ark said he’s returning to The Ohio State University this fall to finish his electrical engineering degree.
Ark said he loves to cook, and even hosted a pop-up pancakes and pour-overs event at the diner, and would like to pursue his passion in addition to an engineering career.
“It’s a little said,” he said of Portia’s Diner closing. “I’m going to miss the food a lot.”
Yiamouyiannis said he recently purchased a food truck and plans to be at local festivals starting in August.
She hasn’t ruled out opening another diner, but it must have parking, an open kitchen and attractive landscaping around the building.
“I’m excited about the future,” she said. “I’m excited for the opportunities, what the future holds for me.”