Noodle House

Lizzy Caston

Noodle House 1

Location: SW Washington and 9th
Hours: Weekdays lunchtime to 6pm, Saturdays lunchtime to 3pm

Description: When sitting down to write about the Noodle House, I tried listing all the different types of Asian noodles and noodle dishes out there.  Then after five minutes I started to feel dizzy and had heart palpitations. Between the thousands of different shapes and sizes of wheat, rice, mung bean, sweet potato, tapioca;  the fresh vs dried varieties; the many many dishes from stir fries to soups, to steamed to fried, then the specifics and differences between difference countries and regional Asian cuisines –  MY BRAIN HURTS. It’s OVERWHELMING. I mean look, look at the different types of Chinese noodles there are alone.  One thing everyone can agree on however is that fresh Asian noodles in the right hands are a beautiful, and tasty, fine craft. They just have a freshness and certain satisfying texture and “chew” to them lacking in the packaged refrigerated kinds.

Noodle House downtown on SW Washington between 9th and 10th takes its noodles seriously. They are hand made, and hand pulled, something Asian noodle connoisseurs consider the gauge between a great and a “just ok” noodle establishment. Think fresh made pastas and raviolis as opposed to packaged or frozen at a fine Italian restaurant and you’ll get the idea.  Noodles at Noodle House are Chinese in style and most of the dishes revolve around their signature wheat Mein noodle – similar to a dense, fresh Udon noodle. Excuse my Yankee ignorance if there’s a Chinese name for this type – I couldn’t find it and the owners simply said, “Chinese Noodle” when I asked.

The menu is made up of stir fried noodles, soups, and a few other items such as Shrimp Fried Rice, Curries, and Pot Stickers. They even have the seemingly incongruous “Fried Egg” (a piece of toast with, you guessed it, fried egg). The Fried Egg gave me a chuckle. For anyone who has traveled the “backpackers routes” through Asia knows this type of dish is pretty “authentic” and found everywhere, eaten by Westerners and Asians alike.

Noodle House 2

But, back to the noodles…Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss a certain cart from the surface – “oh, this is just junky Chinese food cart food”, or “Shrimp Chow Mein how boring, whatever, I can get that at Panda Xpress”. Stop, look a little closer, pay attention to what’s coming out of the cart, ask questions, see what others are getting and who’s getting it – this is the way to scope out a good food cart because decor and menus can often be quite deceiving. Noodle House is one of those carts – it might not seem like an exciting choice on the surface, but the noodles here are quite popular for a reason, they are quite good. Everything is fresh, balanced, and generous in ingredients and portions. The stir fried noodles rule the roost with offerings including chicken, seafood, vegetarian or a hot (spicy) soy specialty dish. Noodle soups are their other specialty – beef, chicken, tofu, or Seafood. It’s the seafood that draws a following, and I now understand why. Chock full of squid, shrimp, scallops, veggies and generous serving of noodles in a hot, clean chicken or veggie based broth and some fried wontons on the side. I’ll be back for this alone. Noodle House is a nice addition to the diverse cuisines and quality of the SW Alder and 9th cart pod.

Sample Menu:

  • Chicken, Seafood, Tofu stir fried noodles – $6.50 – $7
  • Hot Soy Bean Noodles – $6.50
  • Beef Noodle Soup – $7.50
  • Chicken, Tofu, or Seafood Noodle Soup – $6.50 – $7
  • Chicken or Shrimp Fried Rice – $6 – $6.50

Phone: 503-998-1019

Chen’s Express

Lizzy Caston

Location: NE Sandy Blvd and 52nd. Rose City Food Park 
Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-8pm

The Story: A Chinese food cart. Ah, I could wax poetic about my love of “New York Take Out” Chinese Food. Aka “Old School” or “Chinatown” Chinese.  It’s pure comfort food and as American as well, Kung Pao Chicken. Which is to say Chinese-American food is pretty darn American. You know the kind of food I’m talking about, it’s available all over our great country, but especially featured on many an episode of Seinfield, Friends, Sex & the City, and pretty much any show that take place in the Big Apple. When in NYC (and other big East Coast cities), you’ll see menu flyers piled up in apartment lobbies, and hoards of bicycle delivery folk speeding through traffic to get bags of Potstickers, Hot & Sour Soup, and other well known “Chinese American Classics” to their customers. Who hasn’t had a craving at one time or another for this type of saucy, salty, stir-fried, deep fried, steamed cuisine? I know I have.

Chen’s Express reminds me so much of those little storefronts found in New York – in cart form. It’s simple, it’s straight to the point, it’s freshly prepared fast, and it offers all your favorite Chinatown Chinese Food classics at affordable prices: Don’t expect anything CRAZY here, just decent generous portions of fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, chow mein, and a few Szechuan dishes, such as spicy tofu. They even have crab puffs and spring rolls alongside egg drop and hot and sour soup. At entrees that also include a side of your choosing for $6, you really can’t go wrong. No MSG, and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available.

Chen's Express

Chen’s Express

Sample Menu:

  • Entrees plus one side – $6.00 or Two Entrees and a side – $8.00. Choices include, but are not limited to Sauteed string beans, lemon tofu, lemon chicken, Kung Pao tofu, Kung Pao chicken, Mongolian Beef, Tofu and vegetables, General Tsao’s tofu, General Tsao’s chicken,
  • Sides – $1.00 – $6.00 depending on dish and size: Crispy spring rolls, crab puffs, steamed buns, fried rice, chow mein
  • Soups – Small $1.00, Large $3.00 – Hot and Sour Soup, Eggdrop Soup

Phone: (503) 334-7040
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChensExpress

Stumptown Dumplings

Lizzy Caston

Location: NE 15th and Alberta (Alberta15 Pod)
Hours:
Tues – Thurs 11:30 am – 8 pm, Fri-Sun 11:30 am – 10:00pm

The Story: Dumplings make for some great street eats. Why not? Filling, fast, cheap and nutritious they are versatile with veggies or meat (or both!), and give you satisfying protein and carbs in one complete package  easy to eat on the go. Different dipping sauces from spicy to sweet, appeal to all kinds of tastes and as well.

Jay and Nimesh, the owners of Stumptown Dumplings.

At Stumptown Dumplings, the enthusiastic owners Nimesh Dayal and Jay Revo keep the menu tight and right by focusing on just three different, but very flavorful, Asian style stuffed steamed pot sticker type dumplings, and two kinds of steamed, stuffed dough Bao. And this cart doesn’t skimp either – no frozen or pasty supermarket dumpling wrappers here. Stumptown Dumplings are made from scratch, are tender, a bit chewy and nicely substantial, while the bao are light with just enough stuffing to make 2 a nice lunch or hearty snack. Dayal and Revo really seem to put all their heart and soul into everything from quality food, to freshness of ingredients, to customer service, and marketing.

 

 

I took my neighbor with me to sample some of “Stumpling’s” dumplings (Stumptown Dumplings’ nickname). Just back from two years living in China, my dining companion was having trouble adjusting to Portland and wistfully sighed to me, “I miss all the amazing street food in China, especially all the dumplings. Man, you could get such good food there.” So it was with a smile and a sigh of relief when my neighbor bit into his first Stumptown Dumpling:  “These are terrific!”. Tender, fresh, and hot, we usually just nibble and sample a little from each cart we eat at since we usually hit 3-4 carts at once. Not so with Stumplings. “I’ll just have a bite or two” turned into, “let’s go back and get another order!” Some carts are novelties, and some you only want to eat at once in a blue moon. But we could both see ourselves ordering food from this cart on a regular basis. And with prices this great, Stumptown Dumplings hits all the right notes for food cart dining.

The Alberta15 “Mini” Cart Pod had a few false starts there for a while with a series of carts that quickly closed or moved to other locales, but this little pod near the busy NE 15th intersection has seemed to really started to take off this summer with 4 terrific carts set up now, and a comes-n-goes Hawaiian Shave Ice cart to the mix. Stumptown Dumplings is a great addition to the Alberta ‘hood, and an outstanding addition to Portland’s already outstanding food cart scene. We’ll be back for lunch, and dinner, and well, maybe a snack or two as well…

Sample Menu:

  • Steamed Dumplings – Cheeky Chicken, Pompous Pork, or Sassy Spinach -  6 for $4.75, 9 for $5.50, 12 for $6.00
  • Steamed Bao – Curry Veggie or Roasted Pork – $1.50 each
  • Steamed Rice – $1.50
  • Thai Iced Tea $2.50 or Vietnamese Coffee – $2.75
  • Choice of dipping sauces – Asian Chipotle, Creamy Peanut, Ponzu Soy, Spicy Hoisin, Thai Mustard

Hours: Tues – Thurs 11:30 am – 8 pm, Fri-Sun 11:30 am – 10:00pm
Phone:
Unknown
Website:
www.stumplings.com
Twitter:
@Stumplings
Facebook:
www.facebook.com/stumplings

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Beijing House

aaron_jd
Beijing House

Beijing House

Location: SW 9th and Alder
Hours: Daily and weekends, 11am-4pm

The Story:

Chinese food is such an ideal meal. There are numerous vegetarian, seafood, meat, and poultry options, each packing pleasing flavors at an affordable price. While we may have recently lost one great Chinese food cart in downtown Portland, another has opened a few blocks away – Beijing House.

Run and her husband opened Beijing House at the beginning of February. Fueled by their love for cooking, this friendly duo strives for consistent, top-notch service. Almost any choice can be made as mild or as spicy as the customer prefers. At Beijing House, you can also request brown rice for no extra charge. All menu items are $8 or less.

Seeking a palate-awakening experience on an overcast day, my eyes darted to the Kung Pao Chicken. Pieces of diced chicken are blended with numerous spices, peanuts, and dried red chiles. I requested the dish extra spicy with two scoops of brown rice. The couple sprang into action, cooking my meal to order. As I received my meal, the spicy essence of chiles aroused my senses, exactly what I wanted. The moist chicken had noticeable heat, yet I could still appreciate the other wonderful flavors. The texture contrasts from the peanuts enhanced the experience.

 

Kung Pao Chicken from Beijing House

Kung Pao Chicken from Beijing House

With nearly 30 menu items, including main dishes and appetizers, there should be something for everyone to enjoy. Check out Beijing House near SW 9th and Alder, and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Pad Thai – $6.50 (seafood and chicken combination)
  • Kung Pao Chicken – $6.50
  • Sweet Sour Chicken – $6.50
  • Orange Chicken – $6.50
  • Eggplant and Spicy Garlic Sauce – $6.50
  • Seafood Fried Rice – $6.50
  • Vegetable Lo Mein – $6.50
  • Sesame Beef – $6.50
  • Crispy Fish – $7.50
  • Beverages – $1

Hours: Daily and weekends, 11am-4pm
Phone: 503 788 9888

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The Baowry

dieselboi

The Baowry

The Baowry

Location: N Charleston and Ivanhoe, St. Johns
Hours: M-F, 11:30-8; S/S, 1-8pm

The Story:

I first discovered The Baowry when they were setting up the cart for their first opening downtown on SW 4th ave. That location at the time was to be the next big cart pod, but it fizzled. The Baowry saw the writing on the wall and moved to north Portland, trying out Crystal Gardens, but settling on a spot all their own in the heart of downtown St. Johns where they are now as of the beginning of the year.

Small bites and snacks to me are one of the reasons I am drawn to street food. While lunch and dinner at the carts has evolved to full meals with everything the FDA wants you to have, you can still put together a great little nosh with a single item from three different carts and it will still be affordable. The Baowry for me offers this type of scenario with their Baos – steamed buns with your choice of filling. When they first opened, the baos were what brought me to the cart. Now that they are established, the menu has expanded to include Banh Mi sandwiches and tacos, all with that Asian twist they started with.

The Baowry Bahn Mi

The Baowry Banh Mi

The Banh Mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich is one of those cultural icons that you either do right or don’t do at all. There are forums and discussions about the best banh mi in the city with such passion about the bread and ingredients, it proves its a sandwich this city has embraced. For me, the bread is key. Vietnamese style baguettes, traditionally used for the banh mi sandwich, are light and almost fluffy with a crisp and crunchy crust that you can still easily bite through. The Baowry Banh Mi uses such a bun spread with a garlic sauce and topped with linguica, shrimp, crispy sweet carrots, sprouts, cilantro and a hint of lime. A large sandwich served with a house salad and ginger scallion rice is more than enough for one and maybe enough for two to share. The sliced linguicia sausage had that great Portuguese spice to it I had hoped for when I saw it on the menu.  Mixing that with the garlic sauce and the acidity of the lime and cilantro created a blend of robust flavors. An excellent sandwich with leftovers.

Since The Baowry has been open in St. Johns and at their new location, I keep seeing new and exciting menu items pop up on their Twitter feed like confit chicken wings or braised beef short-rib banh mi. Take a trip up north and give The Baowry a try and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Baowry Banh Mi: toasted baguette spread with house made garlic sauce topped with linguica, shrimp, carrots, sprouts, cilantro and a hint of line – $8
  • Grilled Bulgogi Beef: thinly sliced Carlton Farms beef marinated in a sweet pear soy sauce, served with kimchee, pickled vegetables, lettuce, rice and peanut butter miso – $8
  • Asian Taco Plate: corn tortilla with cabbage, chili-lime-garlic sauce and cilantro – 3 tacos per plate; char sui roast pork or bulgogi beef – $7
  • Baos – steamed buns: fluffy steamed Chinese buns with various house-made pickles – 2 buns per plate; char sui roast pork or bulgogi beef – $7

Hours: Monday-Friday, 11:30-8; Saturday/Sunday, 1-8pm
Phone: 503 679 1591
Twitter: @BaowryStJohns

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