EthelKays Grilled Cheese & Lemonade

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EthyKays Grilled Cheese and Lemonade

EthelKays Grilled Cheese and Lemonade

Location: N Williams Ave between Failing and Shaver
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 9am-5pm

The Story: A simple grilled cheese sandwich is a treat for anyone, young or old. Melty is the word I’m thinking of. EthelKays Grilled Cheese and Lemonade is the newest food cart in town serving up delightful little morsels of cheese and bread.

Julie McBee opened the EthelKays food cart in 2013 in the Cully district in NE Portland after many years working in the service industry and restaurants. She always knew she wanted her own business and used the different positions to educate herself in cooking and managing a business. Before the cart was launched, Julie and her former partner had a stand at the Woodstock Farmers Market selling lemonade and grilled cheese – that business is still there named Urban Cheese. Julie moved on, opening the cart and then after a year in NE, moved to N Williams avenue, posting up next to Lodekka and the Hopworks Bike Bar. A prime location for any vendor.

The Tuscan from EthylKays

The Tuscan from EthelKays

EthelKay’s Grilled Cheese and Lemonade focuses on just that – cheese and lemons. Yet, with an extra bit of love. On the menu, you’ll find hot gooey grilled cheese sandwiches made with everything from cheddar to bacon to avocado to fruit and veggie chips. Think of it and she probably has it. Being a fan of tomatoes, basil and balsamic, I chose the Tuscan with buffalo Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, balsamic and olive oil grilled between two slices of a bolo roll. Toasted just right, the Mozzarella doesn’t get really melty, but the flavors all infuse creating what I refer to as a reverse Margherita pizza. Every chomp –  balsamic and oil blended with tomato juices dripped down my chin. I didn’t mind a bit. A great choice of bread made it even better than expected.

Julie has a great little cart with an amazing menu. Her lemonade is made fresh with wedges of lemon to make it extra tangy. I can’t wait till summer when I can sit on the curb, enjoy one and people watch. Drop on by next time you’re in the neighborhood and let Julie know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Ruthie – como bread, cheddar, sharp cheddar and havartti – $5
  • Pappy – como bread, chaddar, sharp cheddar, havartti, bacon and tomato – $7
  • French Connection – bolo roll, brie, pear, arugula, balsamic, olive oil – $6.50
  • Tuscan – $6
  • Monte Cristo – como bread, swiss, gruyere, black forest ham, dijon, blackberry jam, dipped in egg, grilled and dusted with powdered sugar – $7.50
  • Soups – $3
  • Spicy Peanut Noodles – noodles, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, peapods, peanuts, asian pepper sauce – $4
  • Lemonade – $3
  • Raspberry Lemonade – $3.50

Website: EthelKaysGrilledCheese.com
Facebook: EthelKays Grilled Cheese
Twitter: @EthelKaysCheese

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

Vivi’s Yummy Rolls

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IMG_8055Location: NE 52nd and Sandy, Rose City Food Park
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-8pm; Sun, 11am-4pm

The Story:

Orange is one of those colors that catch your eye. When was the last time you didn’t turn your head at the sight of an orange car? At Vivi’s Yummy Rolls, a Vietnamese vendor, a friend luckily suggested the orange paint job and it really draws one to the cart.

Vivi’s is the work of Christina and Vinh, who are originally from Vietnam but have lived here in Portland for many years. Having worked in the restaurant industry for many years, Christina had a love for food and wanted to give it a try. Since opening a restaurant is usually cost prohibitive, the cart was born. Both Christina and Vinh are the cooks behind the scenes. When I asked who the head chef was, they pointed at each other and laughed. Christina has a goal to not only present Vietnamese cuisine like banh mi or noodle soup or salad rolls, but also to highlight cuisines and street food from different regions of Vietnam. Most recently, they had Bun Bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup from Vinh’s home town.

Roasted Pork Banh Mi

Roasted Pork Banh Mi

In Vietnam, they have a tradition to make your own rolls right at the table. A hot grill for marinated meats and all the fixin’s so you do it yourself. Christina wanted to make it simpler for her eaters, so they have the Nem (Pork) and lemon grass beef rolls made fresh in the cart. An item you may not find at other vendors in town. The grilled pork with noodles, lettuce and fresh herbs comes warm with a light peanut sauce. Each bite brought through the salty pork with the cool wet of the lettuce and bitter of the greens. Mouthwatering. The grilled pork banh mi was exactly what I expected. Crunchy flaky bun with pork, sliced carrots, jalapeno peppers and cilantro. So good, I’ll remember this sandwich in my dreams.

While I was eating, Christina joined me and brought out some of the fresh herbs and greens they use. So kind,  generous and friendly. I’m really looking forward to watching their Facebook page to keep up to date on regional specials. If you’re looking for something new and fresh, drop on by Vivi’s and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Nem Roll  - $4
  • Lemon Grass beef rolls – $4
  • Salad Rols – $4
  • Chicken Baguette – $4.50
  • Grilled Pork Baguette – $4.50
  • Vegetarian Baguette – $4.50
  • Grilled Pork with Rice – $6.50
  • Sauteed Shrimp with Rice – $7
  • Chicken Noodle Soup – $6
  • Tofu Vegetable Noodle Sopu – $6

Phone: 503 810 7051
Facebook: Vivi’s Yummy Rolls

Bread and Broth

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Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm

The Story: Soups and sandwiches are the mainstay of an American lunch. Think grilled cheese with tomato soup. We have some soup vendors and others with sandwiches and now Bread and Broth bring them together.

Kenny worked in a cafe in San Diego for a few years and then at a cart here in town until venturing out on his own. Those experiences taught him the keys to simple, yet tasty dishes. Take the roast beef sandwich with horseradish mayo, greens and tomato. The roll from Vietnamese baker An Xuyen along with a salty and sweet-hot horseradish sauce take a simple sandwich and create a memorable experience. He also does it with chimichurri aioli. Soups include a roasted tomato basil scratch made along with seasonal options like pozole verde with chicken or curry lentil with coconut. If’ you can’t choose, Kenny will ply you with samples. He’s even working on his own Tonkotsu style Ramen featuring the 12 hour creamy broth. Ramen weekends he says.

Roast Beef with Horseradish

Roast Beef with Horseradish

Very impressed with everything I tasted and ate at Bread and Broth. While new vendors arrive on the scene weekly, there are some that stand out because they have focused on the basics. Kenny has his basics down and you should check it out. Let him know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

Sandwiches – $6; Soups – $3 or $5; 1/2 Sandwich with soup – $6

  • Turkey w/swiss, avocado, red onion, greens, mayo
  • Roast Beef
  • Turkey w/pesto, jack cheese, tomato, onions, greens, mayo
  • Roasted Veggie w/eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, hummus, spinach
  • Tofu w/veganaise, avocado, tomato, red onion, greens
  • Pozole Verde with Chicken soup
  • Cream of Roasted Tomato soup
  • Curry Lentil with Coconut soup

Phone: 619 208 4968
Facebook: Bread and Broth

Southern Belles

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Southern Belles

Southern Belles

Location: 8218 North Lombard Street at The Fixin’ To
Hours: Wed-Fri, 12-9pm; Sat, 3pm-1am

The Story:

St. Johns has had a tumultuous relationship with food carts over the last few years. An attempt at a pod failed a couple of years ago and many of those vendors moved on. A strident few stuck around and two have even become a restaurants. Now, a new model – pair the carts with a bar. The Fixin’ To at the entrance of downtown St. Johns now hosts two vendors – Southern Belles and Pizza Contadino.

Southern Belles is the newest cart in North Portland, having opened in late 2012. With a focus on comfort food, they are quickly becoming famous for their Brunswick stew and Cheeseburg Chowda. Known for Soups, Salads ‘n Such, the southern-style inspired cart is the work Nancy Petersen and Darlotte Justice, a couple of North Carolinians. But they have traveled and lived elsewhere, so their menu may not be completely southern every day.

The day I visited, I picked up a half an egg salad sandwich and beef barley soup – a hearty lunch for a cold day. It reminded me of a plate I would have a grandma’s house in Minnesota. I just needed a cup of hot cocoa to round out the memory. The egg salad on white fit well with the hot beef soup full of vegetables and barley. A great pairing for a hungry boy.

Southern Belles is now open Tuesday-Saturday and you can bring your food into The Fixin’ To and enjoy a beer or cocktail while you eat. Head on up to St. Johns for a visit, enjoy some of what Darlotte and Nancy have to offer and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Soups-  Beef Barley, Chicken Noodle, While Chili – 8oz, $3; 16oz, $5
  • Sandwiches – Egg Salad, Turkey Cranberry – 1/2 sand with soup – $5; full sandwich – $5
  • Hot Baked Potato with fixin’s – $4

Phone: 971 253 0939
Facebook: Southern Belles

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