A Pod to Build a Dream on

Today was Food Cart Friday for Mette and I, so we decided to check out the Dreamer’s Marketplace on NE Martin Luther King Blvd. My motivation in making the trek was two-fold: 1) This pod’s been on my must-eat list for a while, and 2) my Foursquare buddy, local mixologist and writer Jacob Grier, has been checking in repeatedly at Wet Hot Beef, so naturally I was feeling like he had one up on me.

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The Dreamer’s pod, which half fills a parking lot just down the way from lovely Alu Wine Bar, has an interesting mélange of mobile eats. While waiting for Mette, I spied a lone trailer at the far end of the pod, Viking Soul Food. Since Viking soul food has thus far eluded me in this life, I was hooked. “For the Valkyrie within,” the menu promised. This initially conjured up a vision of Tom Cruise, which was very unappetizing, but according to trusty Wiki, a valkyrie is actually an ancient Norse term for “chooser of the slain,” a gang of hot girls who decide who will die in a battle, then escort them to the big mead hall in the sky, when they aren’t romancing heroes and feeding their pet swans pickled cabbage. Now you know.

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Viking Soul Food’s owner, Megan Walhood, a former sous chef at Nostrana and Vino Paradiso, grew up eating her Norwegian father’s fare and wanted to share it with Portlanders. After cooking for 15 years for other people, she was ready for a kitchen to call her own. The foundation of her menu is the “lefse,” a thin potato flatbread that very much resembles a fresh flour tortilla. Megan fills the homemade lefse with savories (meatballs, smoked salmon, mushroom and hazelnut patties) and sweets (lingonberries, lemon curd, spiced pecans), then folds them into little Viking burritos (they may use another term besides burrito in Norway, I do not know). Megan also makes a refreshing lingonberry iced tea. I had the Lefse with meatballs, Norwegian cheese sauce, and surkal (aka: pickled cabbage/swan food). After eating it, I did feel a hint more like a valkyrie and was dazedly looking around for my mythological pet swan when Mette arrived with Tim, a dashing dieting German/coworker.

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We headed over to Wet Hot Beef, which also has a unique mission statement: “We can’t wait to put our WET HOT BEEF in you.” If I had a nickel for every time…well, never mind.

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While we checked out the menu, owner Shane Hendren offered us fried banana chips tossed with a bit of sugar, which were fantastic, and a random lady waiting for her dose of Wet Hot Beef offered us one of Hendren’s potato chips, which were still warm, paper thin, perfectly salted, and actually one of the loveliest homemade potato chips I’ve tasted. If, when you arrive, Shane isn’t in the window waiting for you with banana chips, just give him more cowbell.

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In keeping with the whole naughty beef theme, you can get your sandwich one of three ways–Naked (Shane’s signature sliced Piedmontese beef on a cushy French roll), Dressed (beef, caramelized sweet onions, and a mixture of thinly grated pickled beets, carrots, and shallots), and Indecent (the Dressed + extra au jus and cheese sauce). Puritan that I am, I ordered the Dressed. It comes suspended over a pool of au jus in a Wet Hot Beef cup, rendering one end Wet and Hot and the other end un-Wet and Hot.

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Tim, whom I may have mentioned is steadfastly dieting, opted for a (small) burrito at Cilantro and Limon, the Mexican cart next to Wet Hot Beef. Tim was very taken with the menu’s tiered sizing format, which allowed you to order a burrito in a multitude of sizes, to fit any appetite, even a dieting German’s. Mette ordered the large nachos, and I will regret to my dying day not taking a before and after picture of her meal, an oversight that occurred because I was too distracted by my Wet Hot Beef. But imagine an enormous pile of nachos heaped with melted cheese, hunks of grilled carne asada, and duck egg-sized glops of guacamole. Then imagine blinking and all that’s left on the plate is lone piece of carne asada and a chip crumb. That’s what happened. Mette’s appetite is a thing of wonder and she is honestly my hero.

And with that, we all rolled out of the Dreamer’s Marketplace changed people. Mette had just inhaled a plate of nachos the size of a Norse swan and had thus achieved hero-hood. Tim was up 400 calories and would have to do something about it, something unpleasant, something that involved sweating and possibly a stair machine. I had a Viking meatball burrito and a lot of Wet Hot Beef getting frisky in my stomach. Oh, the joys of Food Cart Friday!

Viking Soul Food Menu

Viking Soul Food Menu

Wet Hot Beef Menu

Wet Hot Beef Menu