Trigger. The word embodies the pop culture. Roy’s horse. Willie Nelson’s guitar. Hip-hop’s fury. And soon, home of the world’s first Bunk-Mex cantina. In October, Portland’s sandwich kings will go underground with a rock ‘n’ roll Tex-Mex eatery beneath the Wonder Ballroom at 128 NE Russell Street. Here, Portland’s hoagie heros Tommy Habetz, Nick Wood, and Matt Brown will mash up Tex-Mex juju with Bunk Sandwiches’ eclectic, big-flavored, high-low approach. The space, known as "under wonder lounge" has never fulfilled its potential. After a modest makeover, expect a rock ‘n’ roll vibe with a good jolt of Tex-Mex joint kitsch, 40 to 50 seats, and a bar focused on first-rate margaritas. Lunch, dinner, and late-night hours are on the drawing board.
"I don’t want to overly classify it," says Habetz. "It’s not true Tex-Mex, but a bit of love bit of love letter to to Tex-Mex cuisine." Trigger will pull off its own ideas about roasted chilies, masa, queso, grilled meats, and torta sandwiches, blistering—in true Bunk fashion—with craft and playful imagination.
The menu is still in works, but the drawing board includes meats pulled from the house smoker, enchiladas, briskets, and a reprise of some Tex Mex–inspired Bunk sandwich specials: the monumental chile relleno torta and the amazing chorizo negro, stacked with pinto beans and guacamole.
"Authentic is a fleeting idea," says Habetz. "Like jazz, you can riff on ideas. Keep it open. We use a template but define it our way. I was thinking authentic gay cowboy cuisine."
For Habetz, Trigger marks a long-awaited return to the kitchen, following legendary stints at the Ripe Supper Club and Gotham Tavern. Long before Bunk Sandwiches laid down a new vision for sandwiches on SE Morrison Street, Habetz was a towering presence on the scene. His cooking bristled with Southwest flavor intensity gleaned at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in New York, and Habetz clearly carries the bold DNA of his former mentor, the Italian-American food god Mario Batali.
Meanwhile, Trigger’s assembling a cast of impressive talent to man the kitchen, bar, and meat smoker. "Like Bunk, we will have our versions of classics," Habetz promises. "But nothing too fancy. If you make it fancy, it won’t satisfy. You’ll miss the point."