We all love the delicious food at Dub’s St. Johns, so we thought we’d sit down and chat with the owner, William Travis (more frequently known as “Dub”). He gave us the inside scoop on how Dub’s St. Johns came to be and what makes it such a great place to grab some soul food.
A North Portland native, Dub grew up learning how to cook soul food from his mother. He’d spend hours and hours peeling potatoes and rutabagas before his mom let him run outside to play basketball.
From these humble beginnings, Dub began to pick up those things that only really good chefs know, like how to blend flavors, how to cook meats low and slow, and how to make a great BBQ sauce. He traveled the country, learning about different types of cuisine and challenging himself to cook it. He’s also a self-proclaimed barbeque connoisseur, trying every single kind he can get his hands on.
And this led to Dub opening not one, but two, restaurants on the same day in 2012. Dub and his partner, Mack, opened Mack and Dub’s Breakfast Club and Mack and Dub’s Excellent Chicken and Waffles. The first struggled because of its location. The second was burned down in a fire, which was determined to be arson.
Though distraught at the loss of his fledgling restaurant, which had received rave reviews in the short time it was open, Dub decided to open yet another restaurant. He knew he’d be leaving something important unfinished if he didn’t give it another shot.
And so, in December of 2013, Dub opened Dub’s St. Johns with just $100 and no marketing plan to speak of. As it turns out, the food speaks well enough for itself, and the restaurant has never needed a marketing plan.
Dub’s St. Johns was quickly given top honors from Thrillist, Cheap Eats, Willamette Week, and The Portland Observer. And then the people started pouring in.
Though most of Dub’s patrons come from the North Portland area (and Dub’s delivers in most North Portland neighborhoods for just $2), people come from all over to try his famous soul food. Dub’s welcomes clients from Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Gresham, and British Columbia. And yes, even clients from the southern U.S. who remember grandma’s fried chicken—and make the blasphemous statement that Dub’s fried chicken is even better.
Dub has a rule that he won’t put something new on the menu unless he craves it—and eats it—for at least five days straight. That’s how his favorite menu item, the Johnny Cheesesteak, came to be. He ate that one for a good week straight.
Dub is quick to give part of the credit for the restaurant’s success to his girlfriend, Anita Tsourmas, who is a key part of keeping everything running. Dub is adamant that he couldn’t do what he’s doing without her help and the help of his other employees.
Dub thinks St. Johns is the best neighborhood around. He loves the relationships he’s building with people in the area and is dedicated to making it a better place to be. He lives by the motto that a lot of people doing a little bit can get a lot done.
The restaurant frequently participates in neighborhood fundraisers and community events. Dub is currently working with volunteers to deliver 100 meals a day for 100 days, serving a total of 10,000 meals to the area’s homeless.
When asked why you should try Dub’s St. Johns if you haven’t yet had the chance, Dub said, “God gave us food. Dub’s gave us soul.” And that’s reason enough for us! Check it out at 9520 North Lombard Street here in Portland.