Pizza Contadino

Lizzy Caston

Pizza1

Location: N Lombard and N Richmond – Next to the Fixin’ To bar and restaurant
Hours: Tues – Sat 2pm – 11pm, Sun 1pm – 8pm 

The Story: I love the St. Johns neighborhood. It sometimes feels like a completely different city in Portland – a little separate village, a small town almost. It feels like an island with Lombard and Willamette Blvd along with the majestic St Johns Bridge the only real main roads in and out to connect it with other neighborhoods in Portland. St Johns is still one of the most blue collar feeling neighborhoods, in my opinion, with industrial and dock workers from the nearby Columbia Blvd and Willamette River industrial areas mingling with long term residents, and a newer influx of young families, artists and others. Mixed in between the old man dive bars, and the quaint where your grandma might buy cookies Tulip Bakery, there’s some cool, funky newish businesses emerging, and sometimes they blur together.

Pizza Contadino is one such business and can seem a bit of an enigma at times. Is it a cart or is it a pizza restaurant? Where is it? Is it at the Crystal Gardens food cart pod on Lombard or did it move? No wait, now it’s a pop-up restaurant in the Fixin’ To bar, no wait, it’s a cart again. That’s the beauty of mobile vending, it’s FLEXIBLE and MOBILE, man. Keeps you on your toes and keeps things interesting if you ask me, and it’s nice a local bar that has it’s own kitchen was able to take on and support a cart as well. Bravo for the help your neighbor in need is a good deed indeed motto. Whew, location out of the way, if you can’t find Pizza Contadino, just call them – they’ll give you directions, no problem.

The pizza here is crave worthy. I’m not going to get into the whole thick crust vs. thin vs. NYC style vs. Neopolotin vs. New Haven Style vs whateverstyleyouthinkitis style discussion. Head on over to Serious Eats Slice for the cult of the pizza discussion. I will say this: The pizza at Pizza Contadino is GOOD. Here’s how Pizza Contadino describes their pizza (and business):

… We serve fresh handcrafted pizza with a sourdough crust that is made with a starter from the Alaskan gold rush.  It is baked in a 650 degree oven that creates a crisp exterior with a chewy interior.  Our menu is ever changing with mostly organic produce and ingredients that we source locally.

Some of those toppings include a perfectly cheesy cheese pie and a pepperoni for you pizza purists. Then things get interesting…between the roasted garlic, sausage, onions, you might find fresh Ricotta, Swiss Chard, Roasted Sliced Potatoes, Summer Squash. Meat options are available, but this pizza joint loves it’s veggies equally. Vegetarian pies are available, vegan pies – yeah, they can probably do those too. Just ask at Pizza Contadino and they are happy to accommodate if they can.

Pizza Contadino

photo from pizza contadino’s website

Slices or whole pies are always available. Cash only! And do call ahead, they will have your pizza hot n’ ready for you, and it’s a good way to confirm that Pizza Contadino is indeed right where they say they are and are open when they say they are and can help you fill your hungry pie hole.

Sample Menu:

  • Whole Pies $14 and up for a cheese, add on more depending on ingredients, Ingredients vary depending on what’s in season and chef’s inspirations.
  • Slices: $3 range

Phone: 503 935-4375 
Website: Pizza Contadino

Facebook: Pizza Contadino

Bridgetown Bagel Company

Lizzy Caston

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.

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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

Chefinos

Lizzy Caston

Chefinos

Location: NE 26th and Alberta
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11:00 am -7 pm

The Story: On a street with at least four Taquerias, in a neighborhood with just as many taco trucks and carts, we bring you yet another traditional Mexican food street vendor to the Alberta Street mix.  Chefinos is a bright red cart with homey touches such as potted plants and a covered area with benches and a tables for eating out of the rain. Over the years, several food carts have come and gone on this tire shop’s parking lot: I can recall a baked potato cart, a couple of different taco trucks, and I think at one point there was a juice truck. It’s hard to keep track.

No matter the reasons the other carts have come and gone, Chefinos is making a go of it, serving more than just tacos and burritos. Originating from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, owner Maria (last name not given) offers regional Oaxacan fare as well as burritos and tacos. Dust off your Spanish and look for items usually found in Mexican street markets such as  Tamales de mole oaxaqueno an hoja de platano (Tamales with mole sauce Oxacan style wrapped in banana leaves) and when in season, Elote Asado (Corn on the cob with mayonnaise, spices,  shaved Queso Fresca cheese, and lime).

Chefino also has Molotes –  described by this Oaxacan food and culture website as:

 …a very special “holiday street food”, found in Oaxaca during Guelaguetza, Easter, and Christmas times. It is made with a disk of fresh masa then filled with a Chorizo and Potato filling, fried, then topped with Black Bean Puree, Queso Fresco and garnished with sliced radishes.

On one of my visits, I tried the Tlayuda – a 14″ toasted tortilla with refried beans, shredded chicken, lettuce, red chopped radish, Oaxaca cheese (like a string cheese), and avocado. In some distant way you can see this dish might be a traditional precursor to a Taco Hell Tostado, or heck you might even call Tlayuda the original Nachos. Although, obviously resembling nothing like the neon orange cheese and salt-lick tortillas found in convenience stores across the great U.S. of A.

Chefinos `2

Hours here are spotty, and there’s no website, phone or even printed menu to take home. It’s what I call a “worth the hunt” kind of a food cart. One of the reasons we love food carts is the sense of adventure and discovery and the hunt. Sure, there’s carts you can rely on over and over – order online and pick up when ready even. Then there’s carts like this one – traditional to a capital Taco. Yes they use lard, and no they don’t take credit cards – it’s cash only, por favor.

Chefinos – keeping it real. One Tlayuda, Taco and Tamales de mole oaxaqueno an hoja de platano at a time.

Sample Menu:

  • Burritos (choice of meats from asada, chorizo, chicken, beans, among others) – $4.50 – $5.50
  • Tamales – $4.50
  • Tlayuda – $10.00
  • Elote – $2.50
  • Tostada – $3.00

Phone: None

Best of Vietnam

Lizzy Caston
photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Location: Cartlandia – SE 82nd and Harney
Hours: Tues-Sun 11:00 am – 8pm

The Story: It’s easy to take some things for granted in Portland. Great Vietnamese food in proliferation is one one them. It’s easy to become jaded, “oh, another Vietnamese cart? Sigh.” But Vietnamese food is not only one of the world’s great street foods – street food IS the way most Vietnamese dine out – Vietnamese food is incredibly healthy, satisfying and very affordable given it’s nutritional content. It’s a cuisine we find ourselves craving again and again.

In Vietnam however,  most street food vendors specialize in and serve only one or two menu items, mostly regional specialties, Vietnamese food carts here can have dictionary sized menus that span specialty items from Hanoi in the North to Saigon in the South.

Best of Vietnam in the popular Cartlandia pod out on SE 82nd, is true to its namesake. The menu indeed reads as the greatest hits in Vietnamese cuisine: Cha Gio (crispy eggrolls), Salad Rolls, Beef or Chicken Pho, Bun (noodle bowls), and Vietnamese coffee.  They do offer some regional specialties though you don’t always see at other Vietnamese carts: Bun Bo Hue (a spicy beef and rice noodle soup), Banh Xeo (Crispy stuffed crepe), and Banh Mi Bo Kho (Vietnamese beef stew served with French bread) are just a few choices. We stuck with basics on our visit though with Best of Vietnam’s plump salad rolls and a mixed noodle bowl with grilled chicken and spring rolls. Everything was made fresh to order and was indeed fresh.

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

photo by Adam Wickham www.humanradio.org

Sure, there are carts out there that razzle-dazzle with upscale gourmet or provide bigger menus (often at bigger prices). But sometimes you just want back-to-basic best of cuisines. Best of Vietnam is here to deliver.

Sample Menu:

  • Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) – $6.00
  • Salad Rolls – $3
  • Pho Ga (chicken) or Pho Tai (Beef) –  $6.00
  • Bun on rice or rice noodles (grilled shrimp & lemongrass chicken, or, grilled lemongrass chicken and crispy spring rolls) – $7.00
  • Cafe Sua Da (iced coffee with condensed milk) – $3

Phone: 503-489-7553

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

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