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“Hungry In Whittier” Is Blogging Whittier's Rising Food Scene, One IG Post At a Time

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 a whopping 23.6K followers and counting while doing so.

She never meant to do so. Just a year ago, Portugal simply started posting photos of her foodscapades around town on her personal IG account when not working as a teller at a Bank of America branch, without any plans of becoming a food blogger. After her foodie photos were well received, she decided to create a new account specifically for her dining adventures named Hungry In Whittier. “I never thought it would catch on,” she says.

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 here.” she says while sipping on a craft beer. During our interview, The Bottle Room bartenders, servers and other Whittier chefs paid their respects to her on a first-name basis. Whittier locals have even stopped Portugal for photographs while she's dining throughout the town making her a local celebrity, even if Portugal is too modest to admit it. “I made a lot of more friends in the city that I didn't know.” she says, “The city is big, but it's small.”

A photo posted by HUNGRY •IN• WHITTIER (@hungryinwhittier) [1] on

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.

As Uptown Whittier is currently undergoing a “revival” (read: gentrificationarguably 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 is” she says, “it really has come a long way.”

A photo posted by HUNGRY •IN• WHITTIER (@hungryinwhittier) [2] on

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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.

For more information on Hungry In Whittier or to shop the Hungry In Whittier merch store visit hungryinwhittier.com [4]. Follow Hungry In Whittier on Instagram: @HungryInWhittier [5]