Sunnyside Neighborhood: Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Q&A with Joseph Nazir of Tov Coffee

Have you enjoyed a latte on the big red bus? That would be Tov Coffee, Portland’s utterly unique Egyptian coffee bar, housed inside a mid-century double-decker bus imported from Britain. This Sunnyside staple has been parked at 32nd and Hawthorne since 2015, serving delicious coffees flavored with cardamom and rosewater alongside baklava, mango black tea, and cold brew with fragrant mint.

Tov is the work of Joe Nazir, an Egyptian immigrant with a deep background in coffee, including a half-decade working for Starbucks. Now Nazir’s singular and instantly memorable coffee bar is preparing to make a great next step – taking over an abandoned café space across from the Bagdad Theater at 3639 SE Hawthorne. “I want this to be the neighborhood’s living room again,” says Nazir. “This part of the city has become like home to me, and I want this cafe to feel that way, too.”

The new brick-and-mortar Tov Coffee will open in early October. I chatted with Nazir, who lives with his wife and their new baby in the Foster-Powell neighborhood, to learn a bit more about his story, and what’s planned for the new space.

I know many in the neighborhood are familiar with you already from Tov, but please introduce yourself. 

Joseph: My name is Joseph Nazir and I’ve owned Tov, the double decker coffee bus on Hawthorne and 32nd, for the last eight years. I’m Egyptian, which informs the atmosphere and style of my coffee shop. Portland is famous for craft coffee, but ours is unique. We offer Turkish- and Egyptian-influenced coffee options and play around with flavors like cardamom, pistachio, rosewater and apricot. We also feature pastries that are made by my mom and dad.

I’ve been in the coffee business since 2005—first at a little coffee shop in Corvallis, and then at Starbucks where I worked for five-and-a-half years. Starbucks taught me a little bit about coffee, but also about time management and speed of service. But before long, I realized there was more to coffee and I wanted to do more. This is how I came to open Tov eight years ago. And now we are preparing to open our second location, just up the street, at 3639 SE Hawthorne, in a former Starbucks location!

What a full circle moment for the neighborhood. Since your new cafe is only a few blocks away will the original Tov bus move or will it close?

Joseph: Good question! For the first month or so I plan to focus on getting the new space going and making sure my staff is feeling good about the whole thing. After that, I’d like to resume operation of the bus until the end of the year; then I’ll shut it down for 4-5 months during the cold season. In the meantime, the bus is available for private events, birthdays, whatever parties folks want to host in the neighborhood—perhaps even a New Year’s event! If you’re interested in renting the bus for an event get in touch by email ([email protected]) or Instagram (@TovCoffeeBar).

What do you have planned for the brick-and-mortar space?

Joseph: I can do so much more here than on the bus. This will be Portland’s first Egyptian pastry shop. I’ll be making pastries including baklava and konafa [a type of syrup-soaked spun pastry], and we’ll be serving more food items including breakfast sandwiches and grab-and-go options.

There is much more seating space here and I’ll be able to incorporate a Turkish / Egyptian coffee bar as part of the space. You’ll be able to sit and watch us make coffee in this unique style, watch us brew and pour, ask questions and take photos. It’s going to be really cool.

It’s great that your new cafe is staying in the neighborhood. What is it about this part of the city you’ve come to appreciate?

Joseph: It’s become home to me for almost a decade now. I’ve seen the changes on Hawthorne over the years. I know it has had some rough stretches. I think the neighborhood is bouncing back and I want to be part of helping bring back something special to this community. I remember the first time I visited this neighborhood, all the way back in 2001, and how special the vibe felt. I want to make it feel that way again and to put my heart and soul into beautifying it.

I never thought I would take a corner where a Starbucks used to be, but this is my chance.

Really, like many who work in coffee, I am a Starbucks child. I worked there for so long and that location is worthy of a comeback. It’s been empty for three years now—somebody had a lease on it, and I heard there was going to be a cannabis dispensary there, but it didn’t happen. As soon as the space came up for rent again, I jumped.

I want that corner to be pretty again. I want it to be beautiful. And, I want Tov Coffee to feel like Southeast Portland’s living room. The space is perfectly set up for coffee; all the neighbors are so excited to have a “third place” again to enjoy coffee and people watch. No pressure, but with God’s help I will make that place a good spot to hang out at again.

How to be a Savvy Food Label Reader

A healthy diet is crucial to our overall health, energy, and longevity. Deciphering food labels is half the battle. Packaged and prepared foods come with nutrition facts and an ingredients list. Knowing how to read these can help you choose the best products. Here are 10 tips to remember:

1. Be Skeptical of Health Claims

Most of what you see on the front of a container is marketing. A company’s primary motivation is to sell a product, often extolling the latest diet fads. For example, a product might say “low fat” or “light” but look at the whole story because other aspects might not be as healthy.

2. Read the Entire Label Including Ingredients List

The information in the ingredients list can help you determine if the food is truly healthy. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity. A product may say it doesn’t have trans fat or is low fat, but then has palm or coconut oil in the ingredients. 

3. Check Serving Size

The serving size is often smaller than you think. All of the information on the label is based on one serving and a serving size can be small. If a package has four servings and you eat the whole package, you will need to multiply everything (calories, fat, etc.) by four.

4. Check Calories Per Serving

Calories are the amount of energy you get from the food you eat. It’s easy to consume more calories than we need, especially if you’re not looking at the serving size (#3 above). If an item has 250 calories per serving but has four servings, if you eat all four servings then you consumed 1,000 calories. Little known fact: The FDA allows companies to round down to zero if an item contains half a calorie. Since companies are allowed to make very small serving sizes, they can say “calorie-free” or “fat-free” for that one small serving, but if you eat the whole package, you might consume more fat and calories than you realize.

5. Look at Calories From Fat

If weight loss or heart disease is a concern, limit your fat intake to 30% or less of total calories. The recommended level of saturated fat is 10% or less of total calories consumed per day. The label will not always tell you the percent of calories from fat. Look at the grams per calories. Keeping the fat content to about 2 grams for every 100 calories is one approach.

6. Check Sodium Content

Packaged foods often have high sodium content. The RDA recommendation of sodium is 2,300 mg or less per day. For folks with heart disease or high blood pressure, it is recommended to keep sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less per day. Compare the sodium content to the calorie content. Keeping the milligrams of sodium listed on the label close to the calorie content is a good tip. 

7. Avoid Trans Fats

If you’re concerned about heart disease, try to avoid trans fat entirely. Partially hydrogenated oils, palm oils, shortening, and margarine all contain trans fats. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat are easier on your heart, but they still have the same amount of calories: nine grams (vs. four grams for carbohydrates).

8. Check Sugar Content

Hidden sugars are everywhere, so you need to inspect the “added sugar” column. Watch for words such as corn, rice or maple syrup, molasses, malted barley, barley malt, honey or any word that ends in “ol”, such as maltitol or sorbitol, as well as words that end in “ose”. Often you will see multiple sugars in a list: dextrose, fructose, and barley malt, for example. Avoid foods that have added sweeteners listed as the first three to five ingredients. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 2-18 get no more than 25 grams of sugar per day (about six teaspoons). While that may sound like a lot, it’s easy to achieve. (One 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar; a 11-ounce can of San Pellegrino sparkling soda has 29 grams.) 

9. Keep it Whole Grain

Often the label is misleading. The first ingredient listed should say WHOLE GRAIN. If it says wheat flour, it is not whole grain—it is still refined. You want as many of the ingredients that are flour- or grain-related to say “whole grain” as you go down the list. Look for at least three grams of fiber per serving. That will ensure a more whole grain product. 

10. Fiber is Underrated

Only 3-4 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of fiber. The RDA recommends consuming 30 grams of fiber per day. Research shows that fiber is beneficial to the microbiome of the gut.

Sunnyside Mennonite Montessori School Welcomes You

In 1978, Portland Mennonite Church dreamed of a way to serve the Sunnyside neighborhood in their effort to “bring peace to the city” (referencing a verse from Jeremiah) and thus Sunnyside Mennonite Montessori School (SMMS) was born. For 45 years, it has provided high-quality, half-day Montessori preschool for children ages 3-6. With the financial support of the church, SMMS is able to offer a sliding scale for tuition making the preschool experience affordable for all families. 

SMMS is a single-classroom school with approximately 20 students each year. Using the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, teachers provide a safe, loving, nurturing environment, facilitating learning opportunities for the children to grow in their independence. Lead Teacher Denée Longan has close to 20 years of teaching experience and enjoys the challenge of meeting each child’s unique needs. Assistant Teacher Eric Zimmerman brings his passion for children’s theater to SMMS and is inspired by the creativity and energy in the classroom. Check out their website at or email [email protected] to set up a tour in the coming weeks. They’d love to show you around and welcome your family into the SMMS community. 

Help Start A New Children’s Museum!

The Board of The FLIP Museum is looking for volunteers. FLIP is a 501(c)(3) that seeks to open one or more multicultural children’s museum(s) in the Portland area. Its Board formed to give local children a place to learn through play, with a special emphasis on accessibility, inclusivity, and fostering connections between children and their caregivers. FLIP seeks to create a place where children of all backgrounds, abilities, and identities can learn and connect with their communities through play. FLIP is a young organization, but it has begun this project by creating a mobile exhibit (a play food cart) which it brings to community events in the Metro area, free of charge. FLIP intends to create more mobile exhibits in the future, and has just secured funding to hire its first Executive Director. To learn more about FLIP, check out its website:

FLIP is currently looking for new members of its Board and Advisory Board, as well as volunteers who are interested in helping staff events. The time commitment is variable depending on how large of a role an individual wishes to take on, but FLIP is hoping to build a team of people willing to volunteer long-term. FLIP is particularly interested in people with backgrounds in fundraising, grant writing, event planning, early childhood education, marketing, or nonprofit development. If you are interested in helping bring a new children’s museum to Portland, please email [email protected]. FLIP welcomes donations of any size. To donate, please visit and click on the Donate Now button.

Newsletter Delivery Help Needed

Have you ever dreamed of having your own paper route? Join the newsletter delivery team! Each month, about 60 dedicated volunteers deliver the neighborhood news to every household and business in Sunnyside. When a volunteer moves away or gives up their route, we add these blocks to the “Gap Map,” which is printed on the back of each issue, showing where we currently need delivery help. 

It’s a great way to meet your neighbors, get some exercise, and give a little bit back to the community. Most routes cover one or two blocks and take about 20 minutes to deliver. The newsletters will be delivered to your door. If you’re interested, please contact Diana Deumling at [email protected]. 

Thanks to all the volunteers who bring this newsletter to our doorsteps!