Pizza Contadino

Lizzy Caston

Pizza1

Location: N Lombard and N Richmond – Next to the Fixin’ To bar and restaurant
Hours: Tues – Sat 2pm – 11pm, Sun 1pm – 8pm 

The Story: I love the St. Johns neighborhood. It sometimes feels like a completely different city in Portland – a little separate village, a small town almost. It feels like an island with Lombard and Willamette Blvd along with the majestic St Johns Bridge the only real main roads in and out to connect it with other neighborhoods in Portland. St Johns is still one of the most blue collar feeling neighborhoods, in my opinion, with industrial and dock workers from the nearby Columbia Blvd and Willamette River industrial areas mingling with long term residents, and a newer influx of young families, artists and others. Mixed in between the old man dive bars, and the quaint where your grandma might buy cookies Tulip Bakery, there’s some cool, funky newish businesses emerging, and sometimes they blur together.

Pizza Contadino is one such business and can seem a bit of an enigma at times. Is it a cart or is it a pizza restaurant? Where is it? Is it at the Crystal Gardens food cart pod on Lombard or did it move? No wait, now it’s a pop-up restaurant in the Fixin’ To bar, no wait, it’s a cart again. That’s the beauty of mobile vending, it’s FLEXIBLE and MOBILE, man. Keeps you on your toes and keeps things interesting if you ask me, and it’s nice a local bar that has it’s own kitchen was able to take on and support a cart as well. Bravo for the help your neighbor in need is a good deed indeed motto. Whew, location out of the way, if you can’t find Pizza Contadino, just call them – they’ll give you directions, no problem.

The pizza here is crave worthy. I’m not going to get into the whole thick crust vs. thin vs. NYC style vs. Neopolotin vs. New Haven Style vs whateverstyleyouthinkitis style discussion. Head on over to Serious Eats Slice for the cult of the pizza discussion. I will say this: The pizza at Pizza Contadino is GOOD. Here’s how Pizza Contadino describes their pizza (and business):

… We serve fresh handcrafted pizza with a sourdough crust that is made with a starter from the Alaskan gold rush.  It is baked in a 650 degree oven that creates a crisp exterior with a chewy interior.  Our menu is ever changing with mostly organic produce and ingredients that we source locally.

Some of those toppings include a perfectly cheesy cheese pie and a pepperoni for you pizza purists. Then things get interesting…between the roasted garlic, sausage, onions, you might find fresh Ricotta, Swiss Chard, Roasted Sliced Potatoes, Summer Squash. Meat options are available, but this pizza joint loves it’s veggies equally. Vegetarian pies are available, vegan pies – yeah, they can probably do those too. Just ask at Pizza Contadino and they are happy to accommodate if they can.

Pizza Contadino

photo from pizza contadino’s website

Slices or whole pies are always available. Cash only! And do call ahead, they will have your pizza hot n’ ready for you, and it’s a good way to confirm that Pizza Contadino is indeed right where they say they are and are open when they say they are and can help you fill your hungry pie hole.

Sample Menu:

  • Whole Pies $14 and up for a cheese, add on more depending on ingredients, Ingredients vary depending on what’s in season and chef’s inspirations.
  • Slices: $3 range

Phone: 503 935-4375 
Website: Pizza Contadino

Facebook: Pizza Contadino

Bridgetown Bagel Company

Lizzy Caston

Bridgetown Bagels1

Location: NE 52nd and Sandy – Rose City Food Cart Pod
Hours: Mon-Fri, 7am-1pm; Sat & Sun, 8am – 2pm

The Story: I call it the collective “Portland Bagel Freakout”.  I’m not quite sure why, but out of all the cities I have lived, worked in, and visited (and there have been many), Portland rivals only NYC and Montreal for what can only be described as a love of good bagels that borders on crazy zealously. That is, Google “bagels Portland, Oregon” and you’ll see countless, passionate (and sometimes uncivil) discussions on who has the best bagels in PDX, lamentations that Portland “has no real bagels”, cries for “I wish we had authentic bagels here!”…you get the idea. Mike Russell, the food critic for the Oregonian, sure found out about the Portland Bagel Freakout when he dared write about “Portland’s Best Bagels”. Check out these reader comments from that article for a chuckle for a chuckle. The message is clear: DON’T MESS WITH PORTLAND’S BAGELS. Portlanders will cut a biche over a bad, or even a mediocre bagel. It’s a BAGEL WAR.

So when a great bagel does appear on our fair streets of Bridgetown, people get a whole bunch of excited. Enter Bridgetown Bagel Company. Created by owner/baker Jonathan Park, an alum from the much loved, now sadly gone Kettleman Bagels, Bridgetown does the bagel right.

I won’t make claims this is THE BEST bagel in Portland (I’m not up for that knife fight). For I’ve learned, them there’s fightin’ words among Portland’s bagel cabal (that’s a joke, people). However, if you are looking for a very quality, fresh bagel of the East Coast style made they way they should – yes they are boiled, yes they use malt, yes, they are golden on the outside and dense and chewy within, yes, they aren’t super sized like some Godzilla bastard bagel – then Bridgetown Bagels is for you.

Bridgetown Bagels 3

Along with the usual cream cheese spreads, Bridgetown bagel offers the classic bagel and lox combo (with tomato, sliced red onions, and capers if you wish), breakfast and other bagel sandwiches.

I do want to give one big caveat about Bridgetown Bagels. And it’s no dis on them. Bridgetown, like most food carts is a small (read TINY) operation run by one person. He’s the one up at 2 in the morning making and proofing dough, cooking them just the right way, preparing and serving and cleaning up. And because Portlanders are such Bagel Hoarders, it’s hard to gauge from day to day how many crowds will show up and when and if they will buy the cart out on the spot. If you really really have your heart set on a bagel from Bridgetown, as we recommend here at Food Carts Portland for any cart visit, CALL AHEAD. Although they are consistent with their hours, Bridgetown can’t snap their fingers and make new bagels in 15 minutes if they have a rush and run out, and I bet you they’d rather close down than serve a crappy frozen and defrosted bagel. And so, when Bridgetown runs out, they run out for the day.  They are often sold out by noon, especially on weekends.

Still, as the old saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. So, get out your cell phone, call ahead, get there early and enjoy a Bridgetown Bagel before a bonkers bagel band of Portlanders beats you to it.

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Sample Menu:

  • Bagels: Plain, Sesame, Poppy, Garlic, Onion, Salt, Everything. Each – $1,   ½ Dozen- $5.50    Baker’s Dozen- $10
  • Spreads: Cream Cheese (Plain, Scallion, Smoked Salmon) – $1,  Tofutti, Hummus, $1,  Butter, $0.50
  • Cheeses: Cheddar, Provolone, Swiss, Mozzarella – $1,
  • Veggies: Lettuce, Red Onions, Black Olives, Pickles, Capers- $0.25, Tomatoes – $0.50, Avocados: -$0.75
  • Meats – Ham, Sausage, Bacon, Salami, Pepperoni –  $1 Lox: $6, Whitefish: $4
  • Breakfast Sandwich –  Egg & Cheese Bagel: $3, add meat: $1
  • 3 Little Pigs Sandwich (Ham, Sausage, Bacon, Cheese, Egg) – $5
  • The Bridgetown Sandwich (Ham, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, provolone, black olives, pickles, tomato): $7
  • Pizza Bagel: 1 Topping: $5  add topping – $0.50/each

Website: Bridgetown Bagel

Phone: (503) 268-2522
Facebook: Bridgetown Bagel

Chefinos

Lizzy Caston

Chefinos

Location: NE 26th and Alberta
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11:00 am -7 pm

The Story: On a street with at least four Taquerias, in a neighborhood with just as many taco trucks and carts, we bring you yet another traditional Mexican food street vendor to the Alberta Street mix.  Chefinos is a bright red cart with homey touches such as potted plants and a covered area with benches and a tables for eating out of the rain. Over the years, several food carts have come and gone on this tire shop’s parking lot: I can recall a baked potato cart, a couple of different taco trucks, and I think at one point there was a juice truck. It’s hard to keep track.

No matter the reasons the other carts have come and gone, Chefinos is making a go of it, serving more than just tacos and burritos. Originating from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, owner Maria (last name not given) offers regional Oaxacan fare as well as burritos and tacos. Dust off your Spanish and look for items usually found in Mexican street markets such as  Tamales de mole oaxaqueno an hoja de platano (Tamales with mole sauce Oxacan style wrapped in banana leaves) and when in season, Elote Asado (Corn on the cob with mayonnaise, spices,  shaved Queso Fresca cheese, and lime).

Chefino also has Molotes –  described by this Oaxacan food and culture website as:

 …a very special “holiday street food”, found in Oaxaca during Guelaguetza, Easter, and Christmas times. It is made with a disk of fresh masa then filled with a Chorizo and Potato filling, fried, then topped with Black Bean Puree, Queso Fresco and garnished with sliced radishes.

On one of my visits, I tried the Tlayuda – a 14″ toasted tortilla with refried beans, shredded chicken, lettuce, red chopped radish, Oaxaca cheese (like a string cheese), and avocado. In some distant way you can see this dish might be a traditional precursor to a Taco Hell Tostado, or heck you might even call Tlayuda the original Nachos. Although, obviously resembling nothing like the neon orange cheese and salt-lick tortillas found in convenience stores across the great U.S. of A.

Chefinos `2

Hours here are spotty, and there’s no website, phone or even printed menu to take home. It’s what I call a “worth the hunt” kind of a food cart. One of the reasons we love food carts is the sense of adventure and discovery and the hunt. Sure, there’s carts you can rely on over and over – order online and pick up when ready even. Then there’s carts like this one – traditional to a capital Taco. Yes they use lard, and no they don’t take credit cards – it’s cash only, por favor.

Chefinos – keeping it real. One Tlayuda, Taco and Tamales de mole oaxaqueno an hoja de platano at a time.

Sample Menu:

  • Burritos (choice of meats from asada, chorizo, chicken, beans, among others) – $4.50 – $5.50
  • Tamales – $4.50
  • Tlayuda – $10.00
  • Elote – $2.50
  • Tostada – $3.00

Phone: None

Sea Verdes

Lizzy Caston

Seaverdes1

CLOSED

Location: N Vancouver and Fremont
Hours: Tue, Thu-Fri 11:30 am – 9:00 pm, Wed 11:30 am – 7 pm, Sat 1 pm – 9 pm, Sun 1 pm – 7 pm

The Story: For seafood lovers, there’s a saying, “If it’s from the sea, then it’s for me!”  Mussels, Tilapia, Catfish, Shrimp and Oysters make up the foundation for Sea Verdes’ menu, with a healthy dose of entree type salads, smoothies, and specials such as grilled cheese sandwiches, pastas and other delights.

Sea Verdes reminds me of those little beach side food shacks found in coastal communities such as New England, Florida, or Hawaii. They serve locals as much as visitors, and are usually a come-as-you-are affair for those picking up a nutritious dinner for their families, or hungry beachcombers who need some substance between hitting the waves (or the beach blanket).

Crispy seafood (choice of  comes dredged in cornmeal and unbleached flour and is flash fried – crispy, not at all greasy and the fresh seafood shines through. We tried the Oysters on our first visit: Plump and fresh, they were magically crispy on the outside and tender within – it’s all the richness and mineral brininess oyster fans crave.  For those looking for something not fried, there’s mussels and shrimp in a white wine broth,  an Italianate inspired shrimp pasta, and a Tilapia with vegetables and rice.  They’ve also recently added gumbo (in this case crab, shrimp, beef sausage, chicken and mussels to the menu specials mix, something  that might not be a traditional gumbo recipe, but has what my New Orleans friends call, “Da Flavor!”. Yeah, you rite, Sea Verdes.

Salads can make for a whole meal in generous portions – a textbook classic Caesar, or a Thai Beef blow anything from the local salad bar out of the water (pun intended). Yet for those in a salad bar kind of mood, there’s a mix and match choice of toppers such as Shrimp, salmon.

Seaverdes2

Sea Verdes in N. Portland. Photo from www.seaverdes.blogspot.com

Smoothies round out the offerings. Located on the popular N Williams/Vancouver bike corridor – a smoothie would be a perfect pick-me-up on the way home from when you’ve just spent 1000 calories battling traffic and hills from work. I felt downright healthy AND decadent at the same time after finishing Sea Verdes’ Mixed Berry Smoothie – made with almond milk, dark cherries, bananas and mixed berries.

Owned and operated by lifetime Portlander Elsya Watkins, this talented chef, Portland State Alumni (Go Vikings!), and mother’s positive energy and commitment to nutrition is infectious. In Ms. Watkin’s own words:

I opened Sea Verdes because of North and North-East Portland’s food dessert. The lack of healthy and affordable places to go eat-out is a prevailing inconvenience for Portlanders. I serve fresh seafood, crisp salad greens an I make healthy and tasty protein green smoothies. My food serves vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and offers selections for the paleo diet.

Oh, yes.  A little bit of soul, a bunch of health, and a whole lotta love: Sea Verdes. Another great addition to Portland’s mighty food cart sea.

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Sample Menu:

  • Fried seafood (served with rice). Choice of Oysters, Tilapia, Catfish in small or large platters  – $5.50 – $13.00
  • Talapia (broiled -2 pieces), served with rice and made with basil, tomatoes, garlic and lemon- $9.50
  • Thai Beef Salad with lettuce and kale, tomato, red onion, yellow onion, cucumber, basil  –  $8.50
  • Salad Plain or with Salad  toppers (shrimp, salmon, Tilapia) or  choice of dressing  – $2.50 – $6.50
  • Tropical Sunrise Smoothie – Almond milk, pineapple, banana, oranges, grapefruit juice – $4.75
  • Kya’s House Cherry Lemonade – $2.50

Website: Seaverdes.blogspot.com
Facebook: Sea Verdes
Twitter: @SeaVerdesPDX

Phone: 503-933-5251

Email: seaverdesllc@yahoo.com

Tacos Pa’ella

Lizzy Caston
photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

CLOSED

Location: NE 15th and Alberta, East of 15th
Hours: Daily 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

The Story: “Tortillas Hechas a Mano”. Handmade Tortillas. So simple, but so much better than even the day-old store bought kinds. It’s like the difference between eating week old Wonderbread from the outlet shop, and a freshly made Baguette from a quality artisan baker. NO COMPARISON. “Tortillas Hechas a Mano” is a sign that a taco truck or cart might be a cut above the norm. Quite literally, a sign. Usually hand scribbled and stuck to a taco cart, it’s what taco hounds often look for when assessing the quality and how autentica an establishment might be.

Tacos Pa’ella is an honorable, authentic taco truck with a little sign on the side that says in English and Spanish, “Handmade Tortillas”. But, this basic yet colorful cart also provides a very deep commitment to what I like to call THE ART OF THE TACO. It’s a simple cuisine, but the simplicity is the art: Handmade food, quality, made fresh.

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Specializing in foods from the Jalisco region of Mexico, an area legendary for it’s outstanding chefs, Tacos Pa’ella’s owner takes his craft seriously. How seriously? The cart’s tortillas aren’t just handmade, they are made using a wooden press without lard or oil. This isn’t just traditional, it’s mucho traditional.

I’m a fiend for good chile rellanos – an Anaheim or similar pepper, stuffed with ingredients such as mild white cheese, dipped in a whipped egg batter, pan fried, then sometimes doused with a flash saute tomato sauce. Served with rice, beans, and tortillas on the side, it’s just one of those “food of the gods” foods for me, sadly it’s often very hard to find in Portland. Tacos Pa’ella however, makes a terrific version – can stand up to any fancy Mexican restaurants anywhere.

photo from Cartlandia www.cartandia/tacospaella.com

photo from Cartlandia
www.cartandia/tacospaella.com

Other items at Tacos Pa’ella are similarly deceiving. Sure, the menu might be a mirror of what you can find at most taco trucks and carts, but it’s the quality of ingredients, careful preparation, and overall care that matters. Tacos Pa’ella dishes up all three with an additional serving of friendliness.

 

Sample Menu:

Meat/Veg options: asada, pastor, tripa, carnitas,  chorizo, pollo, or lingua

  • Tacos – $1.25
  • Burritos – $4.25
  • Tortas – Mexican sandwich – $4.99
  • Enchiladas – $6.95
  • Asada Plate – $7.99
  • Chile Rellenos Milanesas – $6.25

Phone: 503 729 9614

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