- Addy’s Sandwich Bar
- Brunchbox & Sidecart
- Built To Grill
- Koi Fusion
- Mississippi’s Delta BBQ
- Nong’s Khao Man Gai
- Nuevo Mexico
- Perierra Creperie
- Pho Sam
- Potato Champion
- Swamp Shack
- The Big Egg
- The Grilled Cheese Grill
- The Portland Soup Company
- The Sugar Cube
- Whiffies Fried Pies
- Whole Bowl
- Wolf & Bear’s
Food carts are the new covered wagon. Nomadic pioneers striking out in compact vessels with just the shirts on their back, the bread in their baskets and the rice in their pots, seeking to claim their own piece of this burgeoning culinary frontier. Seems like every day a new cluster of food carts springs up where once there was only a vacant patch of asphalt, and regardless of your craving, there’s nothing you can’t buy out out of a trailer now–from delicious basics like tacos, pizza, sandwiches, crepes, and noodle dishes galore, to hot cones of french fries with tarragon anchovy mayo, peanut butter and chocolate chip fried pies, and duck confit & apricot jam sandwiches. So paint your wagon, tuck your napkin in your shirt collar, and go have a food cart adventure. Here are my favorite spots to eat mobile.
For an extensive and well-organized coverage of the burgeoning Portland food cart scene, be sure to check out Portland Food Carts.
Addy’s Sandwich Bar
Reading the chalkboard menu at Addy’s Sandwich Bar gave me a psychic jolt–I felt like Addy’d read my mind and listed every sandwich I adore and a few I’ve only dreamed of. Formerly of Sydney’s Cafe in NW Portland, Addy wanted a place of her own and bemoaned the lack of a good baguette sandwich source in downtown Portland, so she set up shop in a sparkling little silver trailer on SW 10th & Alder in early August. Her menu reads like it was imported from Paris–ham and gruyere with butter, turkey with Brie, cucumber and creme fraiche, country pate with mustard and cornichon, duck leg confit with apricot sauce–then takes a Spanish twist with the chocolate with olive oil and sea salt. All sandwiches are made on fresh Little T American Baker baguettes, and you can accessorize with an organic vegetable salad ($2.50), a cup of homemade soup, or Tim’s potato chips ($1.50). Nantucket Nectars, Izze sodas, Pellegrino, and Talking Rain bottled water are all available for $1.50.
I love sausage in all its incarnations. Pork, salami, kielbasa, linguica, bangers ‘n mash, chorizo, andouille, kishka, boudin blancs…a sausage by any other name smells, and tastes, as sweet. So when the lunchbell tolls, I’m first in line at the Altengartz German Bratwurst food cart on SW 10th and SW Alder, making eyes at the passing downtown suits while I wait for Bratwurst Purveyors extraordinaire George and Jameson Wittkopp to customize my sizzling grilled brat. Born from the secret Wittkopp family recipe, which involves Carlton Farms pork and 14 different herbs and spices, these brats are swoon-worthy even unadorned, but I recommend dousing them with sauerkraut, cheese, garlic, grilled onions and healthy dobs of whole grain mustard. For the calorically brave, order the käse, a fondue-like spread made from Swiss cheese, wine and garlic. Vegetarians rejoice, for Altengartz makes a chickpea-based Veggie Brat just for you. I’ve also heard a rumor that their burgers are fükenamazing, but I simply can’t resist the bratwursts long enough to find out. And if you need an afterhours bratwurst fix, you can visit the cart at SW 2nd & Ash from 11pm-3am on Friday and Saturday nights, or if that’s past your bedtime, just buy a few packs of brats and breakfast sausages to go.
Brunchbox & Sidecart
Perhaps the most dynamic duo since Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, Scooby & Shaggy, Reese’s & Pieces–now there’s Brunch Box & Sidecart, definitive proof that life is so much better when you find your other half, especially when your other half serves sweet potato fries and deep-fried candy bars. Once upon a time, Brunch Box was hurtling through life as a hip, happening single food cart, enjoying its youth and success and good looks, turning out oft-praised favorites like the Youcanhascheeseburger–a 1/4 pound of Black Angus beef cradled between two Texas-toast grilled cheese sandwiches, and the OMG! Burger with egg, ham, spam, bacon and cheese. The lines were long, the press was positive, the burgers and breakfast sandwiches and hot dogs and Capri Suns were flying out the door, er, window…but something was missing. That something was sides. What’s a burger without fries? What’s a hot dog without cheesy tots? Where were the mac ‘n cheese bites, chicken tenders, zucchini sticks, onion straws, cole slaw, hush puppies, fried okra? Where was the stuffing?! So Brunch Box gave one of its ribs to the Food Cart gods and voila, Side Cart was born.* Side Cart not only has a plethora of pleasing side dishes to placate your palate, but it also offers a D I frY fry job–bring them anything edible (no, your boss’s head does not qualify), and they will batter it and fry it for a few dollars. The batter recipe is courtesy of supercute Portland chef David Siegel, so you know your deep-fried Voodoo Maple Bar or anchovy sandwich is being fried with the best. And, if you just looked in your wallet and realized that your better half once again cleaned you out of cash to subsidize their Spella Caffe habit, worry not–Brunch Box and Side Cart take credit cards! They really are the perfect couple.
*Or something like that.
Built To Grill
Good Italian can be hard to come by in downtown Portland’s Food Cart Land, but Brook and Aisha have set out to change that with Built to Grill. Peek inside the spotless little silver cart on SW 3rd Avenue to see a lineup of luscious paninis sizzling under foil-wrapped bricks–like the spicy meat-laden Italian Hero with proscuitto, salami and mortadella with spinach, and pepperonicini, the satisfying Grilled Chicken with spinach, mozzarella and sundried tomato pesto, and the Portabella mushroom with carmelized onions and mozzarella, all made on Fleur de Lis Bakery ciabatta rolls. Chef Brook is pulling from a lifetime of experience as a chef and member of a food-loving Italian family, which would explain why his rich bean and pasta Pasta Fagioli soup is so good, why his pastas are so satisfying, and why his bruschetta is so addictive. A small lineup of sodas and water is available to drink, and stay tuned for homemade cannoli in the near future; as soon as Brook and Aisha suss out the perfect homemade cannoli shells.
Once I had a nasty case of Waffle Fever brought on by some very tasty waffle sampling at Taste of the Nation and some truly ogle-worthy waffle porn in the newest Williams Sonoma catalogue, so I called an impromptu meeting of my work lunch club and we headed straight for FlavourSpot waffle cart, “home of the Dutch Taco, Portland’s Original Waffle Sandwich.” We scarfed Ham & Cheese waffles–thick slices of smoky salty Black Forest ham wrapped around a slice of creamy melted Gouda cheese, cradled taco-style in a freshly-made, slightly crisped to golden perfection but still tender, 7-inches-in-diameter waffle; Sausage & Maple waffles–plump pork sausage patties (vegetarian sausage available for $.50 more) and 100% pure organic maple spread’ S’mores waffles–fluffy billows of stark white marshmallow creme nesting with a creamy slash of Nutella inside the prettiest golden-brown waffle you ever saw this side of Grandma’s kitchen, and Fifth Avenue waffles–peanut butter and Nutella. It was a better cure for Waffle Fever than chicken waffle soup.
As we learned from a winged Jeff Goldblum, fusion attempts gone wrong aren’t pretty. But Koi Fusion’s marriage of Mexican and Korean street snacks is fusion gone wild in a good way. Inspired by a stomach-provoking visit to LA’s Kogi BBQ, Koi (Korean Oregon Infusion) owner Bo Kwon deserted his corporate job to pursue the Great Portlandian Dream of owning your own food cart, and now he and brother Jeremiah drive their shiny truck all around Portland bringing deliciously unconventional bulgogi tacos, burritos, quesadillas, k-dogs, and sliders to the grateful masses. The tacos are a standout–soft homemade tortillas stuffed with tender shredded Korean short ribs, sweet garlicky BBQ beef, spicy BBQ chicken and pork, and tofu marinated in sweet soy sauce–all made from Mama Kwon’s family recipes, then topped with shredded cabbage, chopped scallions, bean sprouts, onion, cilantro, daikon radish sprouts, and Korean salsa. Six dollars will take you far at Koi, you can get three tacos, or a kimchee quesadilla, or a K-dog (Hebrew National meets bulgogi), or the K-sliders–three baseball-sized bulgogi burgers topped with green cabbage, cilantro, and American cheese. Smooth-talking charmer that he is, Bo shares his fusion love between a handful of downtown parking lots so you have to check his website to find out where to get your Koi Fusion fix. Also follow Koi on Twitter–Bo’s frequent tweets inform you about spur of the moment deals like three tacos for $5.
Mississippi’s Delta BBQ
Mississippi’s Delta BBQ owner and operator, Brian Rodgers, starts talking up a Southern storm as soon as you pause in front of his tiny downtown food cart, which is really more of a food wagon, perched inconspicuously beside a lumbering concrete parking garage and across from 24 Hour Fitness on SW 4th & Columbia. This supercute Southern boy (he looks like Josh Lucas from Sweet Home Alabama) told me how he dragged his big smoker all the way here from Mississippi, and how he slow cooks his beef brisket for 14 hours before slicing it into tender juicy ribbons, and how long it takes him to hand pull his juicy pork after roasting it for 10 hours. I order a small brisket sandwich and a small pork sandwich, which aren’t small at all–they’re the size of softballs when he’s done dousing them in sweet spicy homemade BBQ sauce and delicious homemade slaw that has a kick like a mule, and at $3 each, they’re an astonishing value. I ask him when he’s open. Monday through Friday, he drawls in his charming Southern accent, then adds that he won’t be open this Friday. “I’m outta wood,” he explains, “I gotta go cut down a cherry tree.” He seems puzzled when I howl with laughter. “No, really,” he tells me. “It’s the best wood.” I believe him, I explain, you just don’t hear too many people telling you about how they’ve got to chop down cherry trees when you’re ordering lunch downtown. I thank him, grab my sandwiches, and take off. Two blocks later, I realize I completely forgot to pay, so I run back. “It’s not the first time it’s happened,” he says, making change for my $20, “When I get to talkin.’”
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
The other day, I was half-listening as a friend of mine kept trying to talk to me about how he was a common guy. “Way to embrace mediocrity,” I lectured him as I tried to read the NY Times Dining & Wine section in peace. He looked at me like I had four ears, which of course, I don’t, or I might have been listening to him a little better. “It’s hardly mediocre,” he said astonishedly. “Have you eaten there?” Now that made me perk up, and we were able to commence a more coherent conversation that turned out to be about one of downtown Portland’s most delicious–and simplest–food carts, Nong’s Khao Man Gai. Standing at the neat little red and yellow cart at SW Alder & 10th (across the street from Jake’s), it won’t take you long to peruse the menu–you can order chicken and rice, or…chicken and rice, although for a dollar upgrade, you’ll get a handful of sliced chicken livers thrown in, and for $10 you can order the Khao Man Gai “Piset”, which basically means you supersize with more chicken, rice, and livers. But no matter how strongly you feel about choice, you won’t feel cheated after you try Nong’s one-dish wonder, because she works magic with her chicken, which she boils whole with salt, sugar, garlic and ginger until perfectly tender. She then adds more ginger, garlic, shallots, and pungent gingeresque galangal root to the broth and cooks the rice in it. She slices the chicken up with its fatty skin still on, and serves it on a bed of the seasoned rice with a few cucumber slices, a side of winter melon soup and a cup of toffee colored soybean sauce mixed with, yep, more ginger and garlic, and hot chilies for a little kick. For a scant $6, this all comes wrapped in plain white butcher paper secured with a rubber band. Utterly simple, yes. But common, it most certainly is not.
I remember my last visit to New Mexican food cart Nuevo Mexico all too well–the tamale-obsessed motormouth who cut in front of me in line, the truly egregious pair of plaid pants I had to stare at for 14 long minutes in line, the frigid wind and smattering of early autumn rain that tried to get me to give up the cause and go back to work empty-handed. But then there were the delicious smells drifting out of Nuevo Mexico’s little kitchen, the fresh flour marks covering the front of owner and chef Jess Sandoval’s navy blue t-shirt, the eavesdropping to be had as Jesse talked to the patron in front of me about watching his father make these same recipes that he was so carefully replicating now, as he carefully snipped open the puffy just-fried pastry that would become a made-to-order chicken adovada sopapilla. I’d come, I’d seen (way too much of some really ugly plaid pants), and I would conquer, damn it. And the old “good things come to those who wait” adage proved true, as I devoured a plateful of Nuevo Mexico’s Navajo tacos back in the warm, plaid-free safety of my office, digging through the layers of fat pinto beans, ground beef, shredded lettuce, fresh tomato, green chile and melted cheese, and down into the soft layer of sweet frybread that held everything. After that I hardly had room for a bowl of posole–a traditional spicy corn stew made with chunks of pork (or beef, some days) and hominy in a red chile-inflected broth, or the Sweet Lunas–fried puffs of sweet dough tossed with honey and sugar. Nuevo Mexico, which serves green and red chile-laden New Mexican favorites like carne adovada, huevos rancheros, burritos, sopapillas, and tamales, recently relocated to the new Mississippi Marketplace food cart cluster at N. Mississippi and N. Skidmore, and Sandoval is still working out his schedule, generally opening between noon and 6pm Wednesday – Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sunday, or until he’s sold out.
Old school hip hop blasts from the window as I step up to Perierra Creperie, a well-lit and always musically inclined beacon holding center court at the SE 12th & Hawthorne cart cluster. I take in the cheery bright yellow bunches of bananas dangling from the fruit basket, the giant box of Oreos, the shiny meat slicer, the plastic tubs of mini marshmallows and coconut and the drippy dribbly jar of Trader Joe’s peanut butter. The crepe girl is solo at the moment, so she tells me it’ll be a minute until she can take my order, and I watch mesmerized as she pours a pool of crepe batter, then deftly swirls her crepe spreader in neat cocentric circles, the excess batter sloshing off the side, narrowly missing the open Nutella container standing at attention nearby. She then dabs the crepe with egg-sized dollops of cream cheese and spreads them carefully across the surface, lays down layers of turkey and fresh avocado, expertly folds the crepe in thirds using her wide metal spatula, and pops it into a crisp white crepe cone. “Angie, your crepe’s up!” she calls into the waiting crowd, and a visibly grateful Angie hustles forward to claim her steaming prize. I’m up next, so I order the lemon curd, lingonberry, and chévre crepe and a basil coconut milk shake (Perierra makes some phenomenal shakes and smoothies), and then since I should probably get some dinner to go with my dessert, I order the mozzarella, sopressata, roasted red pepper and basil crepe, and the gorgonzola, pear, walnut and honey crepe. And the pouring, swirling, and spreading begins anew.
I am always torn over how to spend my precious lunch hour–do I slurp pho, do I window shop, do I sit somewhere downtown and people watch to get ideas for the novel I’m always threatening to finish? Fortunately I can do all three at Pho Sam, a positively scrumptious Vietnamese food cart on the quiet side of the downtown cluster at SW Alder, along SW 9th Avenue. After ordering the Pho Bo, I plunk down at the small table tucked into the side of the cart and breathe in the otherworldly good smell of the rich anise-scented broth teeming with strips of tender beef flank and rice noodles and herbs, then add in bean sprouts, torn up fresh basil, bright green jalapeño slices, and hoisin, hot chili sauce and a squirt of fresh lime, and go to town with my chop sticks and plastic spoon while window shopping from afar–Pho Sam’s table offers views of both the quirky Magpie windows and dreamy spendy shoe store Johnny Sole, not to mention the always interesting downtown passerby. While I generally can’t help myself from ordering the pho exclusively, occasionally I divert to the grilled pork with vermicelli noodles, the thinly sliced pork surrounded by sparklingly fresh shredded lettuce, carrots, and cilantro and scattered with chopped peanuts. And you won’t find a better value than Pho Sam’s Bahn Mi grilled pork sandwich, a mere $3.50. Thanks to Pho Sam, I can window shop, people-watch, and eat my pho too, all in the span of 60 short minutes.
Imagine devoting your entire professional existence to French Fries? Only in Portland. And that’s exactly what Potato Champion is up to—perfecting the art of the fry, and then serving them out of an utterly charming food cart on SE Hawthorne from 8 pm to 3 am—just the sort of hours fry-rabid drunkards need. These fries are something–golden, crispy, and rendered so tender by a double-frying that they nearly melt in your mouth. The menu is simple enough to read through the thickest of beer goggles—a small cone of fries is $3.50, a large one is $4.50, and you get to choose an accompanying dip from a list that includes everything from Horseradish Ketchup and Tarragon Anchovy Mayo to plain old ketchup and malt vinegar. Or go beyond the cone and order the sinful poutine—a pile of fries topped with chunky Rogue Creamery cheese curds and smothered in gravy. Forget the desperate and embarrassing 2 am cab rides through the Taco Bell drive-through, I’ve found a new destination for my naughty late night cravings.
I’ve never been to the Bible Belt, so most of what I know about swamps I learned from movies, and from what I can gather they are dangerous places infested by alligators and very large snakes. So I am always looking over my head and shoulders nervously when I place my order at Portland’s very own urban Swamp Shack, located in the heart of the downtown business district, even though the only snakes in sight are wearing ties and talking on their Blackberrys about hedge funds. The Swamp Shack cooks up a mean jambalaya, spicy and rice-y and studded with half moons of Andouille sausauge, hunks of chicken, vegetables, and garlic, served nearly spilling over the sides of a flimsy cardboard tray and topped with a hunk of fresh baguette for scooping ($6). There’s a vegan version too, made with vegetable stock, eggplant, and carmelized carrots. If you’ve got fond memories of crawfish hunting in the local crick and wish for an edible flashback and scoff at calories or clogged arteries, try the tender fried crawfish pies with all butter crust and creole cream cheese ($3.50), or the Crawfish Etouffee made with a rich roux and crawfish stock and tails ($7.50). For dessert (yes, they have dessert in the swamp), there’s homemade Creole Cream Cheese ice cream ($2). Sodas and water are a dollar, and for large to-go catering orders you can call 225.281.4675 with at least 48 hours notice, in case you want to give your entire office a taste of the South.
The Big Egg
“I’m not sure about that!” Mette shouted in genuine alarm when she saw my lunchtime prize–The Big Egg’s “The Ultimate,” three layers of crosshatched Applewood smoked bacon fraternizing with gobs of warm creamy Nutella between two inch-thick slices of golden grilled Grand Central brioche. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor the high of cholesterol. Speaking of which, I highly recommend The Big Egg’s monumental Mississippi Monte Cristo–one (big) egg is introduced to grilled Black Forest ham and tangy gorgonzola, then they get drizzled with maple glaze, and party down between two slices of crunchy vanilla cardamom brioche French toast. Eating it might have been life changing and it was definitely outfit-changing, but that’s my fault for breaking my own rule of no wearing white shirts to the food carts. If all this talk of Nutella and gorgonzola-stuffed buttery brioche calorie bombs is making your Pacemaker blanch, try the more staid Portlander–two (big) eggs any style with cheese, dijon mustard, and coarsely chopped chives between, you got it, two slices of grilled Grand Central Bakery brioche. There’s a lot of good tasty (if not necessarily clean) fun to be had with big eggs and two pieces of Grand Central Bakery brioche, as proven by this yolk-yellow little North Portland food cart, a popular addition to the grand new Mississippi Marketplace. If you aren’t a brioche person (seriously?), you can make do with The Big Egg’s egg, potato, meat (optional) portabella mushroom, and fire-roasted poblano salsa-filled breakfast wrap or their granola, fruit and yogurt cup. In true Portland style, The Big Egg uses cage-free vegetarian fed eggs, local and organic produce, and antibiotic and hormone free meat and dairy, and they serve Portland’s own Ristretto Roasters coffee.
The Grilled Cheese Grill
Elementary school was not the best years of my life–I was bookish and sported a headgear, my mom made me wear homemade corduroy pants up through fifth grade, and my parents never bought me me school lunches or Capri Suns or Fruit Roll-Ups because they were “unhealthy.” So it’s odd that I like the Grilled Cheese Grill so much, because between the Capri Suns and the big yellow school bus “dining room” with tattered green leather bench seats and old class pictures blown up and laminated as table coverings, it’s a definite blast into the awkward past. But maybe because I can buy whatever I want for lunch now, I can handle it. The grilled cheese sandwiches run the gamut from your basic model, the Kindergartener (white or wheat, American or Cheddar), to fancier versions like the BABS (bacon, apple, blue cheese, and Swiss on rye), and sweets like The Jaime (mascarpone, Nutella, and grilled banana on grilled cinnamon swirl bread). Then there’s the Cheesus–a fat juicy hamburger cradled between two grilled cheese sandwiches (one with chopped pickles scattered amidst the melted cheese, one with diced onions), with all the traditional burger fixins. Creamy tomato soup is optional, and you can opt for vegan cheese or gluten-free bread as well. And in case I haven’t mentioned it, they have Capri Suns.
The Portland Soup Company
Beautiful lushly green Portland owes much of its aesthetic endowments to the approximately 8,403,094,972,874,892,984,873,922,108 raindrops that fall on our fair city every year, and when the rain is falling and the frigid winds blow, it’s only natural to crave soup. Hot, thick, creamy, tastes-so-good-I-burned-my-tongue-and-I-don’t-care, ultra-comforting SOUP. Now we have the aptly named Portland Soup Company to get us through the long cold winter, with Applewood Smoked Trout Chowder and Red Lentil Dal with Roasted Cauliflower and Chicken with Fire-Roasted Pasillas, and Papa Jer Bear’s Cajun House and Andouille Gumbo. To accompany your soup, TPSC offers a handful of sandwiches like the slow-smoked Carlton Pork Butt sandwich with purple cabbage apple slaw and the Draper Farms chicken breast sandwich with house-smoked gouda, bacon, and brandied pear mayo. A couple of salads round out the menu, like baby arugula with fresh Mission figs and chevre, and to finish, there’s brown sugar lavender tea cake. Kind of makes me eager for the rainy season.
The Sugar Cube
CLOSED FOR WINTER, WILL REOPEN IN SPRING 2010 (SNIFF, SOB)
Once you get past the straightforward names (ie: Coffee and a Cookie, Beer.Cheese.Bacon), Sugar Cube owner and pastry chef extraordinaire Kir Jensen’s menu reads like something you’d find in a high-end restaurant, not surprising considering her dossier includes stints at Genoa, clarklewis, and the Ritz Carlton. The Coffee and a Cookie, for instance, is an inch or so of sinfully creamy coffee panna cotta in a squat Ball mason jar, topped by a soft dollop of whipped cream and whisper-delicate shavings of chocolate, and accompanied by a crisp gingersnap covered in a light crust of sugar that glitters like fresh snow after a big freeze ($6). The Beer.Cheese.Bacon–a small, round, and impossibly moist and rich Guinness and ginger stout cake topped by a scoop Fifty Licks Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, praline bacon crunch, a light drizzle of bitter buckwheat honey, and snowy little shavings of white cheddar, rings in at a scant $7, and is served in a real glass jar on a delicate pink-flower lined china plate. One of Kir’s magic sugarpowers is her ability to make unbelievably moist and flavorful cake, cake so good you cry a little bit when you eat it, so don’t miss her cupcake of the week, or you can special order cupcakes with 72 hours notice and a minimum order of two dozen. In addition to the more elaborate desserts, Kir’s menu features an “Ultimate Brownie” topped with bittersweet chocolate ganache, fleur de sel, and a grassy green olive oil ($3.50), the cupcake of the week ($3-$3.50), and hot drinkable deliciousness like the Hot Chocolate Malted ($5) with Ovaltine chocolate malt, whole milk, Venezuelan Maracaibo Creole milk chocolate, whipped cream and smoked Hawaiian salt, and quintessential autumn favorite Draper Girl’s apple cider, which Kir infuses with vanilla bean, fresh ginger, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg and serves with a Tonalli’s old-fashioned glazed doughnut ($5).
Whiffies Fried Pies
Whiffies Fried Pies has built up quite a fanbase since hanging up their shingle at the SE Hawthorne & SE 12th Avenue late-night food cart cluster. Maybe its the masked and red cape-wearing little pieman-on-a-plate mascot, maybe its the highly competitive fried pie eating contests, maybe it’s the linguistic joy of wrapping your lips around the word Whiffies, maybe it’s just that there might not be a better food than a piping hot, moon-shaped sweet or savory hand pie that’s been fried, wrapped in foil, and placed into your eager possession 10 seconds later. Savory fried pies like BBQ Beef and Salmon with Chipotle Mayonnaise and Chicken Pot Pie, BBQ Tofu pies, vegan-friendly fried pies, and the hot gooey fruit fried pies that will rock your late night world–Apple, Lemon, Cherry, Blueberry, Coconut Cream, Peach, Chocolate.
Whenever I read those cheesy dating articles about where to meet your significant other, I make a mental note to write my own someday, because I have some excellent suggestions. Let me give you an example. Whole Bowl. I think Whole Bowl’s downtown food cart could rival e-Harmony in successful hookup statistics. See, the line at Whole Bowl is 75% comprised of attractive, fit professional looking types who look like they work out, enjoy shopping at Banana Republic, and probably attend City Club meetings, and since this line is halfway down the block at any given moment during the weekday lunch hour, all these attractive fit informed people aren’t going anywhere any time soon, giving them ample time to strike up conversations with each other about health care reform. Speaking of health, there’s a reason these toned types are waiting in line while they could be browsing BR’s new line of skinny denim. Whole Bowl dishes out generous but not overwhelming portions of pretty healthy stuff–brown rice and red and black beans topped with fresh avocado, housemade salsa, black olives, a dollop of sour cream, grated Tillamook cheddar, fragrant cilantro and their magical Tali Sauce, a lemon-garlic concoction which Whole Bowl claims is known as “crack sauce” in some circles. Crack sauce, or Love Potion Number 9? I think I’m definitely on to something here.
Wolf & Bear’s
So the last time I had a really good Iraqi-Jewish breakfast was…well, okay, never. Hence, I was delighted to stumble across Wolf and Bear’s Southeast food cart outpost at SE Morrison & 20th. The lone Wolf and Bear’s has stuck their flag, or rather, their porch swing, into the gravel wasteland that is the vacant lot kitty-corner to Lone Fir Cemetary, and the cute couple who own it (he grew up in Israel, she’s spent time in the Middle East and is a lifelong vegetarian) are turning out deliciously authentic Middle Eastern dishes like the gorge-yourself-worthy sabich (sah-beek)–billed as an “Iraqi Jewish traditional breakfast”–thick pita spread with hummus, stuffed with grilled eggplant, cucumber, pickles, onions, fresh greens, parsley and slices of boiled egg, and topped with housemade tahini and mango pickle. It puts my usual breakfast of scrambled eggs and chocolate chips to shame, frankly. Falafel lovers will gravitate towards the falafel wrap or the “Out to Lunch”–falafel, gorgonzola, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and fresh greens, all bundled into a fat pita spread with housemade labneh, a smooth and creamy strained Middle Eastern cheese made from cultured yogurt. Desserts tend to be quite tasty, the biscotti and chocolate cranberry cake are memorable and only a dollar, and the past few times I’ve visited, I’ve lapped down Wolf & Bear’s homemade soups with gusto. Everything is either vegetarian and most dishes are or can be vegan, which should make your dreds stand up straight for joy, and they serve North Portland micro roaster Extracto’s coffee, with freshly cracked cardamon added upon request, as well as homemade lemonade with fresh mint, and Kombucha. So if you haven’t had a good Iraqi Jewish breakfast in ages, leggo that Eggo and get over to Wolf & Bear’s.