"Kargi Gogo" - Georgian restaurant in the U.S
18 February, 2019
"Kargi Gogo" - Georgian restaurant in the U.S
If you happen to be in Portland, the U.S, make sure you visit an American couple’s Georgian restaurant “Kargi Gogo” (good girl). The couple were so impressed with the traditional food and wine in Georgia that they decided to open the one and host Georgian food lovers in their cozy restaurant. Nino Tsipuria, a journalist of Georgian Journal talked the Americans Sean Fredericks and McKinze Cook about the story of the restaurant.
Sean Fredericks and McKinze Cook
"My wife and I lived in Georgia from 2010 to
2012 in Akhaltsikhe. We were Peace Corps volunteers. We learned to speak Georgian, learned about Georgian culture, became friends with many Georgian people and fell in love with the food and wine. After two years, our program was finished and we returned to America. We were sad to leave for many reasons, and one of those reasons was because we knew we could not get some of our favorite foods at home - khachapuri, khinkali, badrijani, etc. So in 2013, we decided to open a small food cart (ჯიხური) in Portland, Oregon, to sell khachapuri, khinkali and a few other things. The cart became very popular with Americans (and Georgians), and we operated it until the end of 2015. At that time we closed the cart to pursue other interests, even though business was very good. We returned to Georgia in 2016 and lived in Tbilisi for the spring and summer. Then we moved back to Portland and got jobs doing other things: my wife works in online banking, and I did marketing consulting. By the end of 2017, I missed working with Georgian food and wine and decided that I was ready to open a small Georgian restaurant. I began working on it in January of 2018 and we opened in July.
We opened Kargi Gogo to share Georgian food with Americans. Most Americans have never had Georgian food, and we believed that if they tried khachapuri, khinkali, badrijani, qartuli ghvino, etc. they would love it like we love it. Over 90% of our customers are Americans, with the remaining 10% Georgian and people from post-Soviet countries (Russia, Ukraine, etc.). I love it when Georgians come to the restaurant. They have been extremely supportive and are very happy that we are open. Many of them say the food reminds them of their childhood or their mother's cooking back in Georgia. These are my favorite compliments! It means so much when Georgians like our food because I know they understand what it's supposed to taste like.
We have a small menu that focuses on different kinds of khachapuri and khinkali. Then we have a few side items (badrijani, salata, jonjoli, pkhali, etc.). We are not trying to be a full-service Georgian restaurant like Samikitno that has all of the Georgian dishes. We are focused on doing a few dishes very well. Sometimes we have specials (we have made chakapuli, mtsvadi, kharcho) and private dinners where we make some of our other favorite Georgian dishes (like achma). All of our important spices come from Georgia (kindzi, zaprana, utskho suneli, etc.) so the flavors are authentic. We work hard to develop good recipes, then we have a very talented staff who learns the recipes and makes them every day.
Our most popular item is khinkali. We make beef & pork, mushroom, and potato & cheese. Our second most popular item is Acharuli khachapuri. People also love our Imeruli, pkhlovani, kubdari and badrijani, and we make our own red adjika and green adjika. The badrijani is probably the most challenging dish to make because the eggplant has to be cut thin and cooked perfectly.
I love coming to Georgia. I was in Georgia twice last year (March and October) and will definitely be back this year. Actually, we are bringing a tour group of 10-15 Americans to Georgia in October, which will be very exciting. We will be taking them to Kakheti, Stepantsminda, Mtskheta, Akhaltsikhe, Vardzia, etc.
Learning about Georgian food and wine is a lifetime adventure. There are many recipes I don't know. The fun part is continuing to learn about them!
For the future, we want to continue introducing Georgian food to Americans, as well as Georgian wine, spices, sauces, and other products. We currently have the largest selection of Georgian wine for sale on the west coast of America and love to share Georgia's winemaking culture and traditions. We also want to continue supporting our partners and friends in Georgia. Perhaps one day we'll be able to live in Georgia, too! It is a very special place for us and I think it will always be a big part of our lives. "
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