Best of Vietnam

Food Carts Portland
photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

CLOSED

Location: Cartlandia – SE 82nd and Harney
Hours: Tues-Sun 11:00 am – 8pm

The Story: It’s easy to take some things for granted in Portland. Great Vietnamese food in proliferation is one one them. It’s easy to become jaded, “oh, another Vietnamese cart? Sigh.” But Vietnamese food is not only one of the world’s great street foods – street food IS the way most Vietnamese dine out – Vietnamese food is incredibly healthy, satisfying and very affordable given it’s nutritional content. It’s a cuisine we find ourselves craving again and again.

In Vietnam however,  most street food vendors specialize in and serve only one or two menu items, mostly regional specialties, Vietnamese food carts here can have dictionary sized menus that span specialty items from Hanoi in the North to Saigon in the South.

Best of Vietnam in the popular Cartlandia pod out on SE 82nd, is true to its namesake. The menu indeed reads as the greatest hits in Vietnamese cuisine: Cha Gio (crispy eggrolls), Salad Rolls, Beef or Chicken Pho, Bun (noodle bowls), and Vietnamese coffee.  They do offer some regional specialties though you don’t always see at other Vietnamese carts: Bun Bo Hue (a spicy beef and rice noodle soup), Banh Xeo (Crispy stuffed crepe), and Banh Mi Bo Kho (Vietnamese beef stew served with French bread) are just a few choices. We stuck with basics on our visit though with Best of Vietnam’s plump salad rolls and a mixed noodle bowl with grilled chicken and spring rolls. Everything was made fresh to order and was indeed fresh.

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Sure, there are carts out there that razzle-dazzle with upscale gourmet or provide bigger menus (often at bigger prices). But sometimes you just want back-to-basic best of cuisines. Best of Vietnam is here to deliver.

Sample Menu:

  • Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) – $6.00
  • Salad Rolls – $3
  • Pho Ga (chicken) or Pho Tai (Beef) –  $6.00
  • Bun on rice or rice noodles (grilled shrimp & lemongrass chicken, or, grilled lemongrass chicken and crispy spring rolls) – $7.00
  • Cafe Sua Da (iced coffee with condensed milk) – $3

Phone: 503-489-7553

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The Coop Chicken and Waffles

Food Carts Portland
Photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Photo by Adam Wickham
www.humanradio.org

CLOSED

Location: Cartlandia – 8145 SE 82nd Ave.
Hours: Mon 4pm – 7pm, Tues – Sat 11am – 8pm

The Story: What’s up with chicken and waffles? You got your crispy, juicy fried chicken on top of a stack of  old-school dinner plate sized waffles, smothered in syrup if you wish. Salty, meaty, crunchy and savory combined with soft waffles and a touch of sweet. It’s the kind of food keeping cardiologists in business, but is one of those oh-so-sinful foods people seem to crave time and time again. Welcome to The Coop Chicken and Waffles cart.

The origins of C&W (that’s in the know slang for Chicken & Waffles, yo), are a bit of a true American mystery hybrid dish. Many people think the dish is Southern, but you rarely see it in several Southern states and communities, and it does not appear in Southern cookbooks from the 1800s to 1930s at all. Some claim it goes back to Thomas Jefferson who brought the first “Gaufres” (waffles) iron back from France and then combined waffles with Virginia fried chicken at dinner. Other culinary historians believe it might have come out of Southern slave kitchens but really took off during the “great migration” of African Americans from the South to the industrialized North after the Civil War, where it remained in the African American community and later adopted by working class whites in roadside diners and other down home type establishments. In the 1980s C&W had their mainstream debut in the cult film Tapeheads, where John Cusak’s character creates a music video commercial for the very real L.A. based Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. The Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles video always cracks me up.

Whatever the origins or myths of C&W, The Coop Chicken and Waffles at the popular Cartlandia food cart pod gets it right. We love a cart with a simple, tight menu that specializes in just one or two dishes and perfects them. At The Coop, you get a choice of two cuts – chicken wings and breasts, in combinations of one or two waffles. Clever names accompany the options: “The Uncle B”: two waffles and one breast, or the “The Bird”: one wing and one waffle, and so on. You get your choice of waffle types as well: Buttermilk, Bacon, or Cornbread.

We opted for biggest menu item (no judgement, it was shared between three people),  “The Swaggy” – one breast, two wings, and two waffles, smothered in sweet syrup on a Buttermilk and a Bacon Waffle. Whew-boy, didn’t eat for the rest of the day after that. It was FILLING. But you know, it really was also pretty darn perfect.

Photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Photo by Adam Wickham
www.humanradio.org

People who know me, know I’m a fanatic (ok, snob) about fried chicken. Blame it on my North Carolina “Mee-Maw” (that’s a Southern term for grandma) who made the best fried chicken (non-debatable) South of the Mason-Dixon line. Once you’ve had freshly prepared, honest to god, REAL friend chicken with a no B.S. crackly crust, made with a quality, tender bird, you can’t go back to that fast food heat-lamped nonsense. I’m happy to report The Coop makes their chicken with care: Big cuts of meat (no teeny tiny wings here), rolled in lightly seasoned and spiced flour, then fried to order – the fried chicken comes out perfectly non-greasy, crispy -tender and super juicy on the inside. Ain’t no overcooked dried meat and soggy crust at The Coop! The order may take a bit longer than dining at other carts, but the fresh-fried quality makes it worth the wait. This is good stuff. The waffles are also the way I like them – plate sized, small holed, a thin golden crust and melt-in your mouth interior.

Leonardo di Vinci said it best, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” The Coop might be basic, their dish of Chicken and Waffles true simple down-home food, but man is it sure good.

Sample Menu:

  • Choice of Buttermilk, Cornbread, or Bacon Waffle
  • The Bird – one wing, one waffle – $5
  • The Uncle B – one breast, two waffles – $7
  • The Swaggy – one breast, two wings, two waffles – $12
  • Various soft drinks – prices vary

Phone: 503-866-3513
Website:
The Coop Chicken and Waffles

Indoor Eating When the Weather is Wet – Fall 2013 Update!

Food Carts Portland

Photo – taken by Lizzy Caston, Banksy, New Orleans, 2009

OK kids, looks and feels all gloomy, wet and doomy out there. Sadly, the consistently warm days of summer 2013 are OVER.  While many food cart pods (especially the ones on the Eastside) now have covered seating with heaters and other fine amenities (booze even!) or are attached to bars where you can down a drink and eat with abandon, the downtown carts are often a different story.

And Portland’s Food Carts take a big hit once the weather turns nasty. Some lose over 50% of their business during the winter months. So, if you love the carts and small businesses like we do, do try to support them even when it’s blistery and bad out. And if you do eat your food in an office lobby or other food court area, consider supporting the food vendors located there too on occasion too, or at least buy a beverage or dessert from them. Share the small business love, man.

Here’s a few indoor or covered places to eat downtown that we know about:

image from City of Portland. www.portlandonline.gov

image from City of Portland. www.portlandonline.gov

 

  • (*New for 2013!*) Ecotrust Building (Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center) on NW 10th and Irving. Not sure why this one slipped our food cart brains for um, about 5 years, but whoops there it is. A beautiful space with a couple of tables on the first floor atrium near Patagonia. If the Portland sun does decide to make a rare appearance, there’s also a swank outdoor patio upstairs with a seating and a fireplace.
  • (updated 9/30/13) SW 5th and Oak – the US Bank Tower – sometimes called Big Pink – has indoor public seating on the first and second floor mezzanine area. This area has tables and chairs and is pretty comfortable. Currently the Mezzanine is closed for remodeling, but there are a few places to sit ground floor level near Burnside St. 
  • The Ace Hotel on SW Stark and 10th Ave. has both lounge seating downstairs and what we call “the study hall” upstairs, with a cozy long sofa nook, a wingback reading chair, and little stools around a big table. A great place to work and eat in a quiet place.
  • SW 4th and College, PSU Engineering Building– across the street from the 4th Avenue and Hall cart pod. Inside, in the basement, are plenty of tables and chairs. There’s also several other places just a couple of blocks away on the PSU campus – Smith Center, the main student center on SW Broadway has a ton of tables and other seating on the first and second floor, with a nice view of the Park Blocks.
  • Pioneer Place Mall on SW 6th Ave. – yep, the mall. There’s plenty of bench and table seating spread about, but especially on the basement level. This is another one of those sweet deal real estate deals by the City – although privately owned it has a 30 year tax abatement, so don’t feel guilty using it for your own brown bag or takeway lunch. If you pay Portland taxes, you helped build and keep the mall running. Although it’s nice to support the other vendors there too – consider buying dessert, part of your meal, or a beverage from the food court. Bon Apetit!
  • ODS Health Building on SW 2nd Ave. and Morrison, next to Nordstrom’s Rack has about four small tables and a few chairs in their lobby.
  • City of Portland Building and City Hall on SW 5th. You’ll need to check-in with security, but there’s seating on the main floor of the City Building, and seating in the basement of City Hall. You might even find yourself sharing your curry alongside members of City Council and the Mayor.
  • The Multnomah County Library on SW 10th Ave. (with a caveat). The rules for this one are a little squishy, so proceed at your own risk, respect the librarians, and do be mindful of other patrons. I’ve enjoyed a sandwich and soda in the main reading room with no problems. The rules state, “(NO) Consuming food or drink that creates a nuisance because of odor, garbage or spills. Non-alcoholic beverages in closed containers and small amounts of snack foods are allowed. No food or drink of any kind are allowed inside the John Wilson collections at Central Library.”
  • Federal Courthouse on SW 3rd Ave. and Taylor – there is a public lunchroom on the 10th floor. You do need to get past security. Leave the titanium fork and spoon at home.
  • Director’s Park at SW Park and Yamhill has a large covered area. While the tables and chairs are reserved for patrons of Elephant’s deli, the long bench on the side of the park is open for anyone to use.

Know of anymore indoor seating downtown or close that’s apropos for food cart meals? Leave a comment below, cause we’d love to know! Happy food carting – The Food Carts Portland Team

 

Win Wordstock Tickets & Breakfast: A History!

Food Carts Portland

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ENTER BELOW FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF BREAKFAST A HISTORY ALONG WITH A PAIR OF PASSES TO THE 2013 WORDSTOCK FESTIVAL BOOK FAIR.

Book, Breakfast, History and Food Cart geeks get ready… what a wonderful combination! That’s why in partnership with Wordstock and local author Heather Arndt Anderson, Food Carts Portland is pleased to announce a special giveaway. We’ll be giving away signed copies of Heather Arndt Anderson’s new book, Breakfast: A History along with pairs of Wordstock Festival Book Fair (aka “the Big Event) passes good for entrance on October 5 and 6, 2013.

HOW TO WIN

  1. Just tell us your favorite breakfast dish from a Portland Food Cart in the comments below. Enter as many times as you wish.
  2. You’ll get a bonus entry point to win if you can add a culinary literary reference to it. Try this for an example, “I love a sausage kolache from Potter’s Kolaches and Coffee while reading Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski”.
  3. If you like Breakfast: A History’s Facebook Page we’ll even throw in an 2 (Two!) extra entry points for you for an even better chance to win.

In case your memory needs a jingle, here’s a list of Portland Breakfast Food Carts.

Belgian Food Cart circa 1880-1900. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dogcart3.jpg

Belgian Food Cart circa 1880-1900. Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dogcart3.jpg

So what’s the deal with Food Carts, Breakfast and History? Heather Arndt Anderson explains,

Hey, did you know that food carts boast a centuries-long history? No? Well, if your interest has been piqued (or you’re that special kind of nerd that can’t choose between history and gastronomy) you’re in for a real treat.

Portland, as we all know, has perfected the food cart. But we didn’t invent it. Breakfast: A History has an entire chapter devoted to breakfasts eaten away from home, including the original food carts:

Pre-workday fast-food breakfasts are nothing new; they did not even originate in the 20th century. Victorian journalist Henry Mayhew described in London Labour and the London Poor (1851) the thousands of costermongers (street vendors) who walked into London in the pre-dawn hours and stopped at various coffee sellers’ carts or “early breakfast stalls” along the way to buy their breakfast—“a couple of herrings, or a bit of bacon, or whatnot,” perhaps a sausage or an egg sandwiched in a bread roll called a bap. After swallowing the coffee or tea and returning the mug, a stall owner could then continue on to their own stall or wagon, eating as they went.

I don’t know about you, but a sausage and egg in a bread roll still sounds right, even 150+ years after some wastrel starting hustling for a few shillings.

And it wasn’t just the usual western-style fare being hucked by street vendors. In southern Burma, where fresh fish is plentiful, a catfish chowder called mohinga is considered by many to be the national dish. Based on archaeological evidence, mohinga may have been prepared since as early as the 1st century, and has been hawked by street vendors as an “all-day breakfast” for at least a century.

Heather Arndt Anderson will be signing books and meeting readers at Wordstock on Saturday Oct 5 and Sunday Oct 6 so be sure to swing by her booth to say hello. Heather Arndt Anderson will also be hosting a free lecture at the Jack London Bar on Tues, October 1 at 6:30 pm. The topic? Breakfasts From the Silver Screen to the Small Screen. You can bet Food Carts Portland will be there. We’d love to meet you, so come on by and say hello.

About Wordstock: Wordstock is a literary art and education non-profit that celebrates and supports writing in the classroom and in the community. Our mission is to use the power of writing to effect positive change in people’s lives. Wordstock Festival 2013 takes place on October 3rd-6th… The red chair awaits you. Wordstock is the so-much-to-do-­in-­so-­little-­time, had-­to-­be-­there festival. Come experience sensory overload for storytellers, story lovers—and everyone in between. The Wordstock Festival Book Fair takes place October 5 & 6 at the Oregon Convention Center.

About Heather Arndt Anderson: Heather Arndt Anderson is a Portland, Oregon-based plant ecologist and food writer. For the past ten years, she has been conducting botanical field surveys and wetland delineations, and writing technical reports for federal and state regulatory agencies.

Heather is the author of Breakfast: A History (New York: AltaMira Press, 2013) and wrote the Pacific Northwest chapter in the 4-volume Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2011). Her recipes have been published in the cookbook One Big Table: 600 Recipes from the Nation’s Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Fishermen, Pit-Masters, and Chefs, and she is a contributing writer to the magazines The Farmer General and Remedy Quarterly.

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The Wordstock and Breakfast a History Contest Fine Print: The contest runs through Tues Oct 1, 2013 at 5pm when we’ll pick two winners using our foolproof random winner online robot software. The prize includes one Breakfast: A History book and a pair of Wordstock Book Fair passes on Saturday and Sunday October 5 and 6. See above for contest details.

New Avenues for Youth – Ben & Jerry’s Partnershops

Food Carts Portland
Some the New Avenues For Youth team at their Ben & Jerry's Partnershop ice cream cart.

Some the New Avenues For Youth team at their Ben & Jerry’s Partnershop ice cream cart.

What’s better than ice cream joined with food carts and community giving all-in-one? It’s like a peanut butter and chocolate malt milkshake delivered by gentle flying unicorns in superhero costumes. Not really, but it does always warm our hearts at Food Carts Portland to hear about nonprofits utilizing the power of the carts for a greater cause, especially when it comes to helping homeless and in-need youth.

Enter the New Avenues for Youth / Ben & Jerry’s Partnershops.

New Avenues for Youth is a Portland based nonprofit that works with homeless youth to help  provide them with resources, gain skills, and get the support they need to exit the unstable and often dangerous world of street life. Ben & Jerry’s, the well known ice cream empire, runs the Ben & Jerry’s Partnershops program, ” a form of social enterprise, in which nonprofit organizations leverage the power of business for community benefit”.

In Portland, New Avenues for Youth runs two Ben & Jerry’s Partnershops (one on the PSU Campus, the other on SW Yamhill near 5th). New Avenue also has a food cart and catering program to bring their partnershops to the streets, squares, parks and private events of Portland. How it works is this,

PartnerShops are Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops that are independently owned and operated by community-based nonprofit organizations. Ben & Jerry’s waives the standard franchise fees and provides additional support to help nonprofits operate strong businesses.

PartnerShops offer job and entrepreneurial training to youth and young adults that may face barriers to employment. Ultimately, they help people build better lives. (from the Ben & Jerry’s website)

New Avenue’s for Youth operates the partnershops and works closely with youth in the program to provide extensive job training and other professional and personal support that helps give these hardworking kids employment skills, but also helps boost their self esteem and other positive benefits that can make a difference in their lives. New Avenues for Youth explains,

New Avenues believes that every young person should have food, shelter, and access to education and job training.  We believe we must go beyond meeting basic needs and offer programs that heal young lives and foster growth and independence.
Our mission is to work in partnership with our community to prevent youth homelessness and provide homeless and at-risk young people the resources and skills needed to lead healthy, productive lives.

BJ1

You might have seen one of the New Avenue’s Partnershop carts set up and selling scoops and cones at the U.S. Bankcorp Plaza downtown on SW 5th and Oak St. this past summer. With their distinctive Ben & Jerry’s tie-dye t-shirts and cows with clouds cart,  The mobile partnership was a beacon for anyone wanting a quick frozen treat while walking or waiting for the MAX Train just a few feet away.

The New Avenue’s Ben & Jerry’s cart is off the streets for the fall and winter, but is still available for private catering gigs and other functions. And the Ben & Jerry’s Partnershops at the PSU Urban Plaza and the one on SW Yamhill and 5th are open year round for all your ice cream cravings.

In the next year, New Avenue’s for Youth is considering expanding their mobile operations and/or other food programs. ‘Cause I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream that not only tastes good, we all love ice cream that does good too. It’s like the cherry on top of the double Cherry Garcia ice cream cone.

For more information, to inquire about Ben & Jerry’s New Ave’s ice cream catering, or to  volunteer or donate to New Avenues for Youth, contact Phone:  503-224-4339 or email: info@newavenues.org. Website: www.newavenues.org

 

 

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