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Tigard food cart turns barbecue passion into business

Despite weather, barbecue season never ends on Pacific Highway

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jeka Storozhuk sprays down and turns racks of ribs at his BBQ joint in Tigard.Barbecue enthusiasts have heard of Memphis-style and Kansas City-style, but they’ve probably never heard of Tigard-style.

Until now.

Since October 1, Jeka’s BBQ along Pacific Highway has been drawing in customers with its offerings of ribs, chopped pork and fried okra.

Owner Eugene “Jeka” Storozhuk opened the cart last month, becoming one of the few food trucks operating in the city.

Storozhuk (pronounced store-oh-jook) left his native Ukraine at the age of 11. Pulled pork and ribs weren’t something he ate growing up in Eastern Europe, he said.

“That’s not a Ukrainian food,” he said. “Now, shish kabob, kafka, lots of lamb — that is, but it’s nothing like brisket.”

After settling in Portland when he was a middle schooler, Storozhuk soon came to appreciate the smoky flavors of American barbecue.

And with nine siblings, he helped introduce them to the distinctly American taste as well, he said.

“Oh, man, my parents didn’t understand what brisket was until the third time I cooked it for them,” he said. “It’s one of those things they had to get used to.”

Storozhuk’s cart, located at 12825 S.W. Pacific Highway, began drawing in business as soon as it opened, he said. Its spot in a gas station parking lot is nothing fancy, but he said he’s keeping plenty busy, even as traditional barbecue weather fades into winter.

“It’s that smell,” he said, motioning toward a large smoker parked near the busy highway. “They might drive past it the first day, but I see them pull in on the second or third day. They come in and say that they’ve got to give me a try. That smoker does wonders. This street gets so busy.”

As he talks, a woman approaches the counter and orders three ribs for herself.

“You like your barbecue sauce on the side, right?” Storozhuk asks, handing her a paper plate with meat.

“I’ll be back for dinner,” she says, getting back into her car.

“She comes all the time,” he said. “Her first order was just three ribs, too.”

Food cart desert?

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jeka Storozhuk talks with customers about his barbecue offerings.Jeka’s occupies a relatively lonely spot in the city’s culinary landscape. Tigard is home to few food carts and no dedicated pods.

“The Westside is new to food trucks,” Storozhuk said. “I mean, you can’t get better than this.”

North of town, the city of Beaverton is looking to establish food cart pods and has relaxed rules that prohibit mobile food businesses from staying in one spot for long. Those rules haven’t come to Tigard, where food carts are treated like any other restaurant.

City planners say that if more businesses wanted to come to Tigard, they’d be willing to take up the idea.

“We keep getting the question,” Cheryl Caines, associate planner with the city, told The Times in 2013. “Our code is really silent on that; it doesn’t really address it.”

The Times profiled several carts in 2013, but most of those have since moved outside of the city or have closed up shop.

Storozhuk said he plans to stay.

“We’ve wanted a barbecue place around here for some time,” he said.

Storozhuk isn’t the first Tigard-area resident to get into the barbecue business. opened in Newberg in 2013Slicks Big Time Barbecue , after years as a successful Tigard barbecue sauce company. And Buster’s Texas Style Barbecue chain operates a location near Interstate 5.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Ribs and a chopped pork sandwich at Jeka's BBQ in Tigard.

Keep it simple

Storozhuk started cooking with family shish kabob recipes.

“That’s what we do in the summer time when we go to the park,” he said. “I started messing with that and soon I realized that I could do barbecue. I have a passion for it. I’ve always liked cooking with wood and fire.

The secret to good barbecue, however, isn’t just in the ingredients.

It’s “passion,” he said, spraying the meat in his smoker with a mist of apple cider. “That’s what it is.”

Storozhuk said he wants to keep things simple. The restaurant offers two entrees — chopped pork sandwiches or baby back ribs — along with fries, coleslaw or fried okra.

There’s no seating at his small food cart, so everything is made to go.

“Doing dishes is such a hassle,” he said. “It’s so much better to do something simple, but do it good.”

Storozhuk said he’d eventually like to move to a more traditional restaurant space, but he’s willing to take his time.

“I want to grow into that,” he said. “I want to do this for a while.”

By Geoff Pursinger
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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  • 30 Nov 2015

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