Mama Chow’s Kitchen

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Mama Chow's Kitchen

Mama Chow’s Kitchen

Location: SW 2nd and Stark
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-3pm

The Story: Great food comes from mom. That’s my takeaway from Mama Chow’s Kitchen, a new food cart serving up Mama’s wonton soup and more on SW 2nd and Oak.

Mama Chow’s opened earlier this year in a cedar festooned food cart built locally by PDX Cart Builders. Probably one of the more beautiful carts I’ve seen in the many years I’ve been tracking the scene. Mama Chow’s is the work of Jeff Chow with a little help from his mama Lalie. Jeff is a trained chef having worked in restaurants in Oakland, yet became a bit burned out and came to Portland to try something new. It was when he sat down to enjoy has mother’s wontons that he hatched the idea of opening a wonton cart. Portland doesn’t have one, so Jeff is the first. His mother’s wontons are the toast of the neighborhood, so he worked with her to figure out how to translate her signature recipe into a dish he could replicate daily. A pinch of this and dash of that was transformed into an amazing dish and has garnered Mama Chow’s a solid following.

Wonton Soup from Mama Chow's Kitchen

Wonton Soup from Mama Chow’s Kitchen

At Mama Chow’s Kitchen, Jeff offers up wonton soup with house made broth, baby bok choi and your choice of either chicken or pork and shrimp wontons. I found the wontons to be flavorful and paired nicely with the par-cooked bok choi and broth. Jeff offered up some of his personal spicy sauce which amped up the soup superbly. Beyond wontons, Jeff also throws down lollipop chicken, chicken legs prepared like lollipops. Having never had them, I was intrigued to discover a new delight. Jeff pushes the meat down the bone of the leg and then fries and marinates it. The bone acts as a handle. Oh, and with the marinade and sauce and a dash of sesame seeds and chives, I may have found a new favorite go-to cart.

Lollipop Chicken from Mama Chow's Kitchen

Lollipop Chicken from Mama Chow’s Kitchen

Jeff is keeping it simple with only a few items. He doesn’t want you, the eater, to have to wait to enjoy your dish. Located down off SW 2nd and Stark, Mama Chow’s Kitchen is open Monday through Friday, 11-3. He’s even working on some specials, so visit often for a treat. For wontons and lollipop chicken, this is the cart to visit. Drop on by and let him know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Wonton Soup with baby bok choi and choice of chicken wonton or pork and shrimp wonton – $7
  • Wonton Soup with noodles – $7
  • Lollipop chicken with baby bok choi on a bed of rice – $6

Facebook: Mama Chow’s Kitchen
Twitter:
@MamaCsKitchen

Sabrosa Barbosa

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Sabrosa Barbosa

Sabrosa Barbosa

Location: SW 9th and Alder
Hours: Monday-Saturday, lunchtime

The Story: To make a truly excellent green chile dish, roasting the chiles is paramount. At Sabrosa Barbosa, owner Cyl hand-roasts pounds of chiles in a cast iron skillet every night. That attention to detail is what garners this new food cart a gold star.

Sabrosa Barbosa opened late last year with a bright red paintjob and bold signs at the ever popular Alder food cart pod. Cyl, chef and owner is originally from LA where she, like many of us in the street food biz, worked 20 years in a different career. It wasn’t until the last few years that she began dabbling and experimenting in the kitchen when her friends and family recognized she had a hidden talent. No formal training, just late nights and attention to the right ingredients and experimentation has led Cyl to open her cart for us Portlanders to enjoy. Most of her dishes are prepared a full 24hrs in advance so flavors can mature and infuse. A celebration of Mexican cuisine made with love.

Pork Chile Bowl from Sabrosa Barbosa

Pork Chile Bowl from Sabrosa Barbosa

The menu at Sabrosa Barbosa offers up dinner plates, bowls, quesadillas and even nachos. The mole is made with molasses and honey, no refined sugars here. Cyl uses Peruvian beans with their mild sweetness and thin skins – the longer you cook, the more buttery they become. The Pork Green Chile Bowl is a treat for anyone looking for a spicy dish. And not just for heat sake, Cyl utilizes both jalapeño and serrano peppers to yield a fruity, smoky and spicy effect. Served over spanish rice, this bowl may compete with the others available on the lot for flavor and excitement.

Sabrosa Barbosa is the newest player on the lot. While some may see their cuisine as similar to other vendors, that is the magic of street food. Everyone does it different and Cyl is no slouch when it comes to flavor. The food cart is just one step in her journey to bring passion for cooking to the masses. Keep an eye out for this one. Drop on by next time you’re up that way and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Chicken Mole Dinner – Peruvian beans, Spanish Rice and tortillas – $8.75
  • Green Chile Dinner – pork or chicken – $8.75
  • Quesadilla Dinner – tortillas, sliced avocado, tomato and cilantro, spicy house crema, peruvian beans, spanish rice – $7.50
  • Chicken Mole Bowl – served over Peruvian beans and Spanish rice- $5.75
  • Fresh Peruvian Bean Bowl – Peruvian beans topped with fresh onion, tomato, cilantro, diced avocado, fresh feta cheese – $4.50

Facebook: Sabrosa Barbosa
Phone: (503) 278-5606

Hapa Ramen

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Hapa Ramen Portland

Hapa Ramen Portland

Location: SE 50th and Division, A la Carts Food Pavilion
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11am-2:30 and 5-8pm

The Story: A couple of years ago, Japanese Ramen took the nation by storm. I’m not taking the ramen we ate in college, I’m talking rich creamy, fatty pork broth with noodles and thinly sliced green onions. Portland jumped right in, launching numerous restaurants and even attracting a Japanese firm to open a food cart. Now that we’ve all been able to enjoy this velvety dish, we may have our favorites. I would like to add someone new to the list – Hapa Ramen.

Hapa Ramen opened in October and has been working out the kinks of preparing and serving the hot dish from a food cart. The owners, Michael and Sara grew up on ramen in Hawaii, yet couldn’t find similar dishes here in Portland, so decided to make their own. You may know Michael as he has been a fixture at 808 Grinds for a few years before venturing off on this new project. Sarah though is who gets the credit for the recipes according to Michael. They both have visited numerous ramen shops throughout the city and beyond to taste the different styles and interpretations. Sarah trained up with a ramen chef and has been experimenting with different broths and styles to get the offerings just right. In Japan, there are more than 14 different styles and each chef puts their twist on the traditional recipe. Sarah and Michael have done just that at Hapa Ramen.

Shaka Bowl from Hapa Ramen Portland

Shaka Bowl from Hapa Ramen Portland

Hapa offers Shoyu Ramen, a classic; Miso Ramen, a sweet option that can be done vegetarian; and Curry Ramen which is spicy – each with their own unique flavors. It is the Shaka Bowl which caught my eye and Michael recommended. The bowl comes from a traditional Tsukemen Ramen style, yet Michael and Sarah thought that may be too much for customers to say, so they shortened it to Shaka! “Eat this blazing hot,” Michael said. With the pork belly broth served in one bowl and fresh egg noodles, shiitake and egg in another, chopstick the noodles into the flaming broth and slurp. Yep, slurp. The broth is fatty, creamy, almost thick, but not. Made over the course of 8-10 hours to break down the pork, it leaves a fantastically lovely lardy film on your lips. The egg noodles were amazing, a brand used by most if not all the ramen houses out there. Michael and Sarah, while putting their own little love into each dish, don’t stray too far from tradition.

I’m excited to have another ramen cart open in Portland, yet wish it were closer to my house. I’m selfish that way. Hapa Ramen is open daily except for Mondays and serves up lunch and dinner. They take an afternoon break to prep for the dinner hour. As winter arrives, their hours may change, so check their website or Facebook or give them a call to make sure they are open. Hapa Ramen does ramen right. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Shoyu Ramen – classic-  topped with cha shu pork, spinach, egg, fishcake and nori – $8
  • Miso Ramen – sweet – topped with cha shu pork, bamboo shoots, egg; vegetarian option – $8
  • Curry Ramen – spicy – topped with cha shu pork or ginger fried chicken, spinach, shiitake – $8
  • Shaka Bowl – $7.50
  • Keiki Bowk – kid size – $5

Website: HapaPdx.com
Facebook: Hapa Ramen PDX
Twitter: @HapaPdx
Phone: 503.560.0393

The Mighty Bowl

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The Mighty Bowl

The Mighty Bowl

Location: Vancouver, WA – check TheMightyBowl.com for current location
Hours: lunchtime, Mon-Fri

The Story:

Took a field trip north to visit a new food truck roaming the streets of Vancouver. Serving up tasty rice and bean bowls, The Mighty Bowl has captured the eater’s hearts as displayed by the line at 1pm.

The Mighty Bowl is the first food truck to roam the streets of Vancouver, a city that has not followed Portland’s model of food carts and is known for some challenging regulations. Owner Steve Valenta, his wife, Sherilee, and their longtime friend, Kevin DeGraw banded together to design and build one good looking truck and work through the city’s regulations. With the simple idea of healthy rice and bean bowls, they’ve been serving regularly at multiple locations since spring.

Rice bowls for me date back a decade or more. Over the years, I’ve eaten my share of bowls and keep coming back. At The Mighty Bowl, there are different options to add dynamic flavor, but the dish is simply brown rice, black beans, cheddar cheese, olives, salsa, avocado, sour cream, cilantro and sauce. If you do all those single ingredients well with a killer sauce, you create an awesomely healthy dish. The Kiggins bowl comes with spicy chipotle sauce generously distributed throughout so you don’t spill trying to mix it all together. While there was spice to the sauce, the smokiness of the chipotle was the most memorable. Every bite, every spoonful included at least four of the ingredients making the entire meal an enjoyable eating event. All dishes are gluten free and some are nut and egg free in addition.

The Mighty Bowl is one of those food trucks you see on TV with an amazing wrap presenting their logo. Downtown Vancouver isn’t that large, so if you’re driving around, you may happen upon them one day. Or, if you want to seek them out, they post their daily schedule on their website – TheMightyBowl.com. If you live and work in Vancouver, you should venture out and enjoy one of their bowls or wraps. If you’re in Portland, take a field trip north, it isn’t too far away. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

Regular bowl, $6; Large, $6.50 and all bowls can be made into wraps for $7.25

  • Mighty Bowl – brown rice, black beans, avocado, cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, olives, salsa with a tangy house sauce
  • Kiggins Bowl – spicy chipotle sauce
  • Peanut Bowl – peanut sauce

Website: TheMightyBowl.com
Twitter: @Mightybowl
Facebook: The Mighty Bowl

Thrive Pacific NW

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Thrive Pacific NW

Thrive Pacific NW

Location: SE 32nd and Hawthorne and mobile, check their website for current location
Hours: Wed-Sun, 11am-3pm and check website for other hours/location

The Story:

Earlier this year, after returning from a trip to California where I had to seek out food trucks all over the city, I drove down Division and saw a food truck parked in front of APEX bar. We have food trucks here in Portland, but most of the mobile vendors are congregated in lots throughout the city, so seeing a truck on the street is something kinda new. Thrive Pacific NW has been roaming the streets of Portland all summer feeding hungry eaters.

Thrive is the work of Stephanie and Erika who only met a year or so ago but have years of experience in the kitchen and wanted to try something new. With a beautifully outfitted truck, they launched with the goal of hitting events and under served areas where there aren’t any food vendors. You may have seen them at Powell’s Street Fair or Sunday Parkways or even the Zoo Concerts.

The Argentinean from Thrive

The Argentinean from Thrive

The menu is designed around Erika’s travels internationally, but the food is all local. Vegetables sourced from local farms and vendors like Kruger Farms and Draper Valley. They even have their own garden plot which they harvested vegetables from throughout the summer. As the seasons change, so will the menu, focusing on what’s fresh and available. Delicata squash was mentioned and my mouth watered. I am a fan of sauteed fresh veggies whether it be kale or broccoli or snap peas. Done well and they retain the fresh out of the garden flavor with a bit of sear on the edges. The Argentinian bowl I enjoyed had a good assortment of sauteed vegetables, seared and seasoned tempeh and a to die for garlicky chimichurri sauce. All served over brown rice. Every bite, whether it was kale or brocolli or carrot or squash had a burst of flavor from the chimichurri. Such a wonderful dish, it made me rethink dinner plans for the nights to come.

Thrive Pacific NW cruises around town to different venues and events. They are regulars outside APEX Bar on SE 12th and Division on Wednesday nights, but you can find their whole schedule on their website which they update regularly. This is a truck to seek out and try. You’ll be glad you did. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

[Thrive now has a truck permanently at SE 32nd and Hawthorne as of August 2013]

Sample Menu:

Protein can be added to any bowl: organic tempeh, $1; free-range chicken, $2; grass-fed hanger steak, $3

  • Japanese Rice Bowl: brown rice, sauteed veg, sesame seeds, cilantro, tamari-sesame sauce, sea weed – $7
  • Thai Rice Bowl: brown rice, sauteed veg, cilantro, mint, peanuts, Thai coconut sauce – $7
  • Mexican Rice Bowl: brown rice, black beans, sauteed veg, tomatillo salsa, avocado, creamy lime sauce – $7
  • Argentinean Rice Bowl: $7
  • Kashmir Rice Bowl: brown rice, sauteed veg, basil, cashews, Indian curry sauce – $7

Hours: check website
Website: ThrivePacificNW.com
Facebook: Thrive Pacific NW
Twitter: @ThrivePacificNW

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