As a child, Bonnie Morales (née Frumkin) watched her parents prepare elaborate, traditional dinner parties as members of her family emigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union. After picking up the newly-arrived family from the airport, they would come home to a table already covered in cold zakuski, or small dishes meant to be enjoyed with toasting and merrymaking. Pickles, Herring Under a Fur Coat, baltic sprats on pumpernickel, caviar, cod liver pashtet—the dishes were so perfectly arranged in tetris fashion across the mismatched tablecloths that it was difficult to stick a finger between two plates. Every chair in the house was drawn up to this table of abundance, and family would sit for hours, grazing and toasting and singing, before hot entrees were presented.
As Bonnie grew up and studied French cooking techniques at culinary school, she felt distanced from the Belarusian cuisine of her childhood. It wasn’t until she brought Israel Morales home to meet her family that she “began to see things anew through his eyes.” The traditions and stories behind the dishes began to unfold, and Bonnie and Israel fell in love with the food and each other. Their goal began to take shape: how could this cuisine and way of eating be brought to other people? As a professional chef, how could Bonnie reclaim the food of her family?
Kachka opened its doors in April of 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Kachka is considered by many to be the best Russian restaurant in the country, and is the only Portland restaurant to be included in America’s Essential Restaurants of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 by Eater, inducted into their restaurant “Hall of Fame.” Kachka was named one of GQ’s Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2015 and Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant nominees in 2015, and was a semifinalist for 2015’s James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. In 2018, Kachka moved to a new, larger location in the Goat Blocks building on SE 11th Ave, and Kachinka was introduced to the original space. A cookbook of recipes, Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking by Bonnie Frumkin Morales with Deena Prichep, was released in November, 2017 from Flatiron Books to critical acclaim.
Kachinka is Kachka’s little sister program in the original SE Grand location. At Kachinka, it’s happy hour all night with Eastern European-inspired bar food til midnight.
Lavka, a market and deli, is scheduled to open Summer 2019 in the upstairs of the new Kachka location.
BONNIE MORALES - CHEF / CO-OWNER
The first-generation American daughter of Belarusian immigrants, chef Bonnie Morales (née Frumkin) grew up in Chicago in a large family that brought with them the distinctive culture of food and drink of the former Soviet Union. As an adult, Morales first began her professional career in product design, but after briefly working for a design consultancy in NYC, she left to pursue a career in food. She trained at the Culinary Institute of America, then honed her skills in several of New York and Chicago’s Michelin starred restaurants including Tru, where she met her future husband and business partner, Israel Morales. In 2014, the Morales’ opened Kachka, their dream restaurant devoted to the food that Bonnie grew up with, inspired by Russia and former Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and Uzbekistan. Kachka has received accolades from publications such as Bon Appétit, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vogue, and Food & Wine. Eater National included Kachka on their list of Best Restaurants in America in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 the only restaurant in Portland to be included. Bonnie Morales was named one of Tasting Table’s “New Originals,” and nominated for Food & Wine's The People's Best New Chef in 2015. In 2018, Morales was named a Rising Star Chef by StarChefs, and a finalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northwest. In 2016, Bonnie and her partners launched Troika Spirits, and released their bottled horseradish vodka in retail markets. In summer of 2018, Kachka expanded into a larger space in Portland’s Central Eastside, and Kachka’s original location reopened as Kachinka, a fun, casual sister restaurant focusing on Russian-inspired drinking food. Morales’ first cookbook, Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking, co-authored by Deena Prichep, was released in 2017 to critical acclaim.
ISRAEL MORALES - CO/OWNER
A true passion for hospitality drives Israel Morales in his work overseeing Kachka’s dining room, operations and bar program. Israel has worked in restaurants for his entire career, and during his tenure as Dining Room Manager at the lauded Tru in Chicago, the restaurant was awarded the James Beard Award for Outstanding Service. What inspires Israel daily in his work at Kachka is introducing guests to the Russian way of eating and drinking — where food and drink are inextricably intertwined, and meals follow a cadence that is a new experience for most diners. He’s developed a distinctive beverage program to facilitate this, particularly in the restaurant’s renowned vodka list and selection of seasonal house made vodka infusions, which range from traditional Russian formulations to those that utilize ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. Israel also manages Troika Spirits, Kachka’s retail line of vodka infusions, launched in 2016. Israel studied music theory and composition as an undergraduate, and holds a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu and is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. While not running the restaurant, he and his wife and business partner Bonnie enjoy time with their two sons.
Learn more about Bonnie’s family history with The Story of Kachka.