Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

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Chinese food cart

Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

Location:8926 N Lombard St
Hours: Tues-Fri, 11-2 and 5-9; Sat/Sun, 12-9pm

The Story: A few months back, I visited a Szechuan restaurant in LA and was shocked at the spice factor in every dish. Yet, it didn’t burn for hours, it simply drifted away after awhile. Ever since that fateful meal, I’ve been craving noshable spicy Chinese and found it at a new food cart named Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen.

Chinese food cart

Szechuan Tofu from Uncle Tsang’s

Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen is at the 23rd and Alberta Food Cart Lot having taken over the cart that use to house Fijian Indian Curry. They’ve been open now for a couple of months, so have worked out any kinks. At first glance, the menu serves up what one expects from most Chinese restaurants except it offers more variety for vegetarian and gluten free options. They have beef and broccoli, eggplant chicken, ma po tofu, and potstickers. Yet, what caught my eye was chicken gizzards. Where in Portland do you get chicken gizzards? Along with Szechuan Tofu, I had a meal picked out. The gizzards, deep fried, yet with a light coating and then tossed with more than enough spicy peppers were divine. When delivered, I teared up, knowing the spice could wreck me, but I dove in and surprisingly enough, it didn’t melt my face off. It was that quick burn and then it tapered off. Each little morsel, a present from the Chinese gods of deep frying. The tofu dish with sliced celery, chopped peppers, succulent mushrooms and plenty of red chili flake was a treat. Not so spicy I needed milk afterward, but complex flavors that kept me eating.

Uncle Tsang’s is one of those gems you stumble upon and immediately want to return to. Finding a dish so unique like gizzards is the reason I keep going back to the food carts – they keep surprising me. Head on over to Alberta and give it a try. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

[Moved to St Johns in 2017]

Sample Menu:

  • Broccoli in garlic sauce – $6
  • Gizzards – $5
  • Curry Chicken – $9
  • Szechuan Tofu – $9.50
  • Lemon Chicken – $8
  • General Chicken – $8
Chinese food cart

Gizzards from Uncle Tsang’s

Facebook: Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

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Bridgetown Bagel Company

Food Carts Portland

Bridgetown Bagels1

Location: NE 52nd and Sandy – Rose City Food Cart Pod
Hours: Mon-Fri, 7am-1pm; Sat & Sun, 8am – 2pm

The Story: I call it the collective “Portland Bagel Freakout”.  I’m not quite sure why, but out of all the cities I have lived, worked in, and visited (and there have been many), Portland rivals only NYC and Montreal for what can only be described as a love of good bagels that borders on crazy zealously. That is, Google “bagels Portland, Oregon” and you’ll see countless, passionate (and sometimes uncivil) discussions on who has the best bagels in PDX, lamentations that Portland “has no real bagels”, cries for “I wish we had authentic bagels here!”…you get the idea. Mike Russell, the food critic for the Oregonian, sure found out about the Portland Bagel Freakout when he dared write about “Portland’s Best Bagels”. Check out these reader comments from that article for a chuckle for a chuckle. The message is clear: DON’T MESS WITH PORTLAND’S BAGELS. Portlanders will cut a biche over a bad, or even a mediocre bagel. It’s a BAGEL WAR.

So when a great bagel does appear on our fair streets of Bridgetown, people get a whole bunch of excited. Enter Bridgetown Bagel Company. Created by owner/baker Jonathan Park, an alum from the much loved, now sadly gone Kettleman Bagels, Bridgetown does the bagel right.

I won’t make claims this is THE BEST bagel in Portland (I’m not up for that knife fight). For I’ve learned, them there’s fightin’ words among Portland’s bagel cabal (that’s a joke, people). However, if you are looking for a very quality, fresh bagel of the East Coast style made they way they should – yes they are boiled, yes they use malt, yes, they are golden on the outside and dense and chewy within, yes, they aren’t super sized like some Godzilla bastard bagel – then Bridgetown Bagels is for you.

Bridgetown Bagels 3

Along with the usual cream cheese spreads, Bridgetown bagel offers the classic bagel and lox combo (with tomato, sliced red onions, and capers if you wish), breakfast and other bagel sandwiches.

I do want to give one big caveat about Bridgetown Bagels. And it’s no dis on them. Bridgetown, like most food carts is a small (read TINY) operation run by one person. He’s the one up at 2 in the morning making and proofing dough, cooking them just the right way, preparing and serving and cleaning up. And because Portlanders are such Bagel Hoarders, it’s hard to gauge from day to day how many crowds will show up and when and if they will buy the cart out on the spot. If you really really have your heart set on a bagel from Bridgetown, as we recommend here at Food Carts Portland for any cart visit, CALL AHEAD. Although they are consistent with their hours, Bridgetown can’t snap their fingers and make new bagels in 15 minutes if they have a rush and run out, and I bet you they’d rather close down than serve a crappy frozen and defrosted bagel. And so, when Bridgetown runs out, they run out for the day.  They are often sold out by noon, especially on weekends.

Still, as the old saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. So, get out your cell phone, call ahead, get there early and enjoy a Bridgetown Bagel before a bonkers bagel band of Portlanders beats you to it.

bridgetown2

Sample Menu:

  • Bagels: Plain, Sesame, Poppy, Garlic, Onion, Salt, Everything. Each – $1,   ½ Dozen- $5.50    Baker’s Dozen- $10
  • Spreads: Cream Cheese (Plain, Scallion, Smoked Salmon) – $1,  Tofutti, Hummus, $1,  Butter, $0.50
  • Cheeses: Cheddar, Provolone, Swiss, Mozzarella – $1,
  • Veggies: Lettuce, Red Onions, Black Olives, Pickles, Capers- $0.25, Tomatoes – $0.50, Avocados: -$0.75
  • Meats – Ham, Sausage, Bacon, Salami, Pepperoni –  $1 Lox: $6, Whitefish: $4
  • Breakfast Sandwich –  Egg & Cheese Bagel: $3, add meat: $1
  • 3 Little Pigs Sandwich (Ham, Sausage, Bacon, Cheese, Egg) – $5
  • The Bridgetown Sandwich (Ham, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, provolone, black olives, pickles, tomato): $7
  • Pizza Bagel: 1 Topping: $5  add topping – $0.50/each

Website: Bridgetown Bagel

Phone: (503) 268-2522
Facebook: Bridgetown Bagel

The Whole Bowl – NE Sandy

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Nourishment

Nourishment

Location: NE Sandy Blvd between 46th and 47th and the Hollywood Farmers Market
Hours: Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m

The Story: The Whole Bowl, one of Portland’s oldest street vendors has expanded to NE Sandy with their 4th location. Taking over the Nourishment cart, The Whole Bowl brings their signature beans and rice bowl to the street.

More details about The Whole Bowl at TheWholeBowl.com

Noodle House

Food Carts Portland

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

Chez Dodo

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Chez Dodo

Location: SW 5th and Stark
Hours: M-F, 11am-11pm; Sat, 11-9pm

The Story: A taste of Mauritian Paradise. That is all I needed to know before visiting Chez Dodo, a new vendor in the ever changing lot at the corner of N Fremont and Vancouver. Chez Dodo moved to SW 5th and Stark January 2014.

Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles off the south east coast of Africa. When the Portuguese arrived in the 1500’s, the island was uninhabited except for the famed Dodo bird. After a few centuries of different colonial rule, the culture of the island in the 21st century is a mix of several ethnicities – mostly of Indian, African, Chinese and European descent. At Chez Dodo, the cuisine reflects the inspiration of French, African, Indian, Creole and Chinese cuisine.

Upon arrival, Chef Shayamal leaned out the window to greet me and immediately listed off the day’s specials and instructed me to the vast menu and how to order. You start with a base of either flat bread, noodles or rice, add a curry sauce and then top with accompaniments like bean curry and potatoes, chicken or lamb. I chose pan fried curry noodles with the Island Fever spicy curry sauce and lamb. During the prep of the meal, Shayamal leaned out with a huge skillet of noodles and a fork to ask if the spice was sufficient. What brilliant service. A huge plate of noodles with vegetables and lamb was handed over. More than I could eat in a sitting, but so flavorful, spicy and complex, I couldn’t put the fork down. If you’re going, go with a friend as Shayamal is a giver of food and will load you up.

Curry Noodles from Chez Dodo

You may recognize the name Chez Dodo as his vegan pre-made products have been in local stores now for over a year. Chef Shayamal offers numerous options for vegan, gluten free, and vegetarian diets. He stated, “If it weren’t for the vegans buying my product, I wouldn’t be open.” Thanks vegans! Chez Dodo is open from lunch through late night and on Saturday, so there is no reason you can’t visit. The lot now has five different mobile vendors and the are continues to change for the better with a New Seasons store opening this year. Drop on by for a taste of Mauritius and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

Bases:

  • Dholl Puri Flat Bread; Pan Fried Curried Noodles; Brown Rice Pulao or Rice Noodles

Curry Sauces:

  • Healthy Vegan: mild curry sauce cooked with a blend of exotic spices and herbs
  • Tropical Happiness: creamy tomato based curry sauce cooked with spices, coconut and cashews
  • Island Fever: spicy curry sauce with 3 different peppers, onions, ginger, garlic, tamarind, lemon and vinegar

Accompaniments:

  • Assorted bean curry and potatoes – $4.99
  • Wild combo of mushrooms with lentil fritter – $5.99
  • Chicken cooked in red wine sauce – $5.99
  • Lamb Curry pressure cooked and sauteed – $7.99

Phone: (503) 284-4575
Facebook: Chez Dodo
Twitter: @ChezDodoPDX

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