A plate of square tater tots with a creamy sauce and chopped scallions garnishing it is set on the dining table of The Bottle Room in Uptown Whittier, a hip yet casual pub fare with an indie rock playlists that manages to always be on point. Stephanie Portugal quickly grabs her Canon camera and begins snapping away shots of the carb-heavy plate. A few hours later, Portugal uploaded the "Tony Tots" picture onto her Hungry In Whittier Instagram account and received hundreds of likes within seconds.
"Uptown Whittier is just as good as Downtown Pasadena or Downtown Fullerton now...I think it's better," says Portugal, the 26-year-old Whittier native behind the popular Hungry In Whittier Instagram account that curates the best eats in Ye Friendly Towne and has garnered
She never meant to do so. Just a year ago, Portugal simply started posting photos of her
Portugal credits her account's popularity to Whittier's booming food scene, prideful locals and her efforts to communicate with her friendly followers on Instagram. "I think me going out of my way to making a personal connection really spoke to people
Now, the busy entrepreneur photographs weddings (another one of her passions), sells Whittier centric merch online and gets paid to promote local eateries through her Hungry In Whittier blog, for which she offers no apologies. "I actually do get paid for posting," she says, shaking off the haters who gonna hate. "A lot of people ask me that question, and I do."
Portugal listed off a few of her favorite eateries such as The Bottle Room, Chema's Tacos, Off The Hook, Mr. Giant (Los Sanchez, if you're nasty) Four Bricks, The Commoner, La Casa Del Cocinero, The Cellar, Seafare Inn (R.I.P.) and just about anything "on the strip" of Greenleaf Avenue or Whittier Boulevard. And she noted that the once-forgettable shopping plaza off of 1st Avenue and Leffingwell is now a burgeoning food hub that houses Toast and Luna Estrella Mexican Cocina.
She also shared her aspiration to open a Mediterranean restaurant in celebration of her Armenian heritage. "I want it to be in Uptown and I won't settle for anything else."
Currently, Portugal is busy curating her top Whittier choices for her upcoming takeover of the @YouGottaEatThis Instagram account, a nationwide food blog. She's also compiling recipes from fellow Whittier residents for a Hungry In Whittier cookbook.
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As Uptown Whittier is currently undergoing a "revival" (read: gentrification) arguably being spearheaded by the rising food scene, Portugal reminisces about how her mother wouldn't allow her to roam the very streets that are now frequented by out-of-towners grabbing a bite, brew or both. "It wasn't safe up here but now it totally
Some Whittier natives may have concerns about corporate greed inevitably making its way to Whittier. But Portugal says that at least Uptown Whittier's historic district is protected by the city from developers, and while she's around, she'll do her best to "keep small businesses alive", one Instagram post at a time.