The Coop Chicken and Waffles

Lizzy Caston
Photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Photo by Adam Wickham
www.humanradio.org

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

Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen

dieselboi
Miss Kate's Southern Kitchen

Miss Kate's Southern Kitchen

Location: N Mississippi and Skidmore, Mississippi Marketplace
Hours: Weds/Thurs: 10am-5pm; Fri/Sat, 10am-8 pm; Sunday, 10am-6pm

The Story:

Miss Kate, Charles’ grandmother, was from Vicksburg, Mississippi and Charles, the owner of the newest cart in Mississippi Marketplace is bringing the tastes of Mississippi to the street.

When Kate passed, Charles’ took control of the hundreds of recipes that Miss Kate had collected over the years from her time with the ladies at bridge and garden clubs. They would sit around and simply write down their favorites on the bridge pads, so some of the recipes don’t have titles. Charles takes the recipe and puts the ingredients together without truly knowing what the outcome will be. These are true southern dishes made by a descendant of the founders of Vicksburg. Charles loves to cook and it was at the cajoling for friends that he opened the cart. He also loves to tell stories – did you know the first bottle of Coke was made in Vicksburg by the Biedenharn Candy Company in 1894?

At Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen, you can discover some amazing southern dishes like coleslaw, mac and cheese, succotash, chicken salad, meatloaf, turkey, pork roast, biscuits and gravy and their awesome pimento cheese. They also have southern fried chicken with biscuits which is what I enjoyed that opening week. I didn’t grow up with crispy homemade fried chicken, so as an adult, I’ve been seeking it out whenever I can. With just salt, pepper and flour, Charles creates an amazing crust that keeps the meat juicy and savory. The biscuits that come with the meal are something special. Sweet cream butter was a dominant taste in the biscuit, but the secret is actually a brown sugar/butter glaze that creates the sweetness I so loved. I’m excited to have Mississippi food now on Mississippi boulevard in my neighborhood.

Fried Chicken from Miss Kate's

Fried Chicken from Miss Kate's

Charles and his cart Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen are open Tuesday through Saturday for the morning hours through the afternoon. You can enjoy some biscuits and gravy or grab a full meal. Charles has an extensive menu, so you can try all that he has to offer. I’m looking forward to some southern succotash. Drop on by this brand new cart and welcome them to the neighborhood and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

Biloxi Biscits (Savory Biscuit)

  • Biscuit and Bacon Gravy – $3
  • Biscuits with Pimiento Cheese – $2.50
  • Biscuit with Maple Syrup and Butter – $1.50
  • Breakfast Biscuit with ham, bacon, or sausage – $3
  • Biscuit Sandwich with choice of meat and egg and cheese with port beer cheese sauce – $4
  • Vicksburg Beignet – 2 for $1.50, 6 for $4; Baker’s Dozen – $7.50

Sandwiches:

  • Papaw’s Turkey Sandwich – turkey grilled in gravy, whole cranberry jam, onion cream cheese, greens, tomato, on grilled Italian white bread – $7.50
  • Aunt Pat’s Ham Sandwich – country baked ham, pimento cheese, dill mayo, greens, tomato on grilled swirled white and rye – $7.50
  • Mamaw’s Chicken Salad – rosemary chicken, cranberries, pecans, greens, tomato, Creole mayo, on grilled Italian white – $7.50

Other:

  • Vicksburg Southern Fried Chicken – crispy fried chicken with a little kick – 2 pieces and served with cornbread or biscuit – $6
  • Creole Beans and Rice with Cornbread – $5

Hours: Weds/Thurs: 10am-5pm; Fri/Sat, 10am-8 pm; Sunday, 10am-6pm
Phone: 503 724 7878
Facebook: Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen

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Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack

dieselboi
Cackalack's Hot Chicken Shack

Cackalack's Hot Chicken Shack

Location: SE 43rd and Belmont – Good Food Here
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 12-9pm; Fri/Sat, 12-10; Sun, 12-6pm

The Story:

When you say the name, Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack, it just rolls off your tongue as if you’ve said those words every day for the last few years. I’m pretty sure that is the first sign of a successful food cart.

It was a quiet day at the lot when we visited Cackalack’s which allowed me to have a great conversation with the owners, Jeff and Stephanie who moved to Portland from Ashville, NC in order to open their cart. It just took one visit in spring of 2010 to convince them that Portland was where they wanted to live. (Jeff even got one of those iconic state of Oregon with the green heart in the center tattoos on that visit.) The two aren’t newbies to food, having worked in restaurants and been around food for years. Their goal though was to bring well made crispy fried chicken to the masses for a reasonable price. Portland only has a few places doing real southern fried chicken and as restaurants, they charge a pretty penny for the experience. Jeff stated his recipe was inspired by a Memphis Nashville restaurant, Prince’s, which is known by many as a prime fried chicken haunt.

Hot fried chicken from Cackalack's

Hot fried chicken from Cackalack's

At the shack, you can put together a meal with numerous options for chicken including cuts, spiciness and sides. Start out with portions – breast, leg quarter or wings and then the heat – naked, mild, hot or XxX hot. Lastly, you can choose from either potato salad or cole slaw for your side. Each dish has the chicken served atop a slice of Texas toast with a sliced dill pickle. The leg quarter seemed the appropriate size to check out what they were cooking up and I wanted it spicy, but edible, so chose hot instead of XxX hot. Like I said, I wanted to enjoy it. The presentation was spot on with a large piece of chicken, battered and deep fried to create a thick spicy crust surrounding some excellent juicy meat – all atop a slice of white bread. I picked up the pickle first which was skewered atop the chicken and took a bite, immediately tasting the spice from the chicken – cayenne and habanero. My lips burned, but I kept going and took that first bite. Wow! So that is what southern hot chicken tastes like? The crust was crunchy, it burned my tongue, but in a good way; the chicken juicy and flavorful. For $6, it will sure to become a return trip when I get hungry. The chicken does take a few minutes to make and they do warn you about that when ordering, so be prepared to hang out and chat or relax in the covered seating area.

Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack opened in April as one of the first carts at the new Green Castle Food Pod. Head on down and welcome Stephanie and Jeff to Portland and try some of their hot chicken. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

[update: Cackalack’s moved to SE 43rd and Belmont in October 2011]

Sample Menu:

All chicken served atop a slice of Texas toast with a pickle slice

  • Chicken portions: Breast – $7; Leg quarter – $6; Wings – $5
  • Heat: naked, mild, hot, XxX hot
  • Sides – potato salad or coleslaw
  • Chicken and Dumplings – cup, $3.50; bowl, $5
  • The Blazer – boneless fried breast on a bun pickles, smokey slaw and garlic herb aioli – $6.50

Hours: Tues-Thurs, 12-8pm, Fri/Sat, 12-9pm
Phone: 503 388 1772
Website: Cackalackshotchickenshack.com
Twitter: @Cackalacks Facebook: Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack

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