RUA

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RUA

RUA

Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11:30-6pm; Sun, 11:30-4pm

The Story: Jason Myers is back with some mouthwatering Vietnamese cuisine at his new food cart Rùa.

Jason Myers first arrived in the food cart scene a couple of years ago with his Sideshow cart serving up beignets, Belgian fries and poutine, sandwiches and his famous fancy burger. Yet, it wasn’t enough for him and one night, the idea of doing Vietnamese inspired cuisine came to him in a dream. He took a couple of weeks last fall and visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to explore and take culinary classes. Upon his return, he closed Sideshow, bought a new cart and in March, launched Rùa. Rùa means turtle.

Saigon Fried Chicken Banh Mi from Rua

Saigon Fried Chicken Banh Mi from Rua

At Rùa, you find Vietnamese and South East Asian inspired food with Jason’s approach.  I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying both the pork meatball and the Saigon Fried Chicken banh mi sandwiches. With a crisp and crunchy baguette from Pearl Bakery, they layer pickled carrots, jicama, cucumber, cilantro and sriracha mayo along with good sized chunks of the Saigon fried chicken which comes out crisp with a sweet and spicy tang. The detail for the sandwich was astounding – the carrots are hand shaved and each leaf of cilantro picked off the stem. The veggies along with the chicken melded together brilliantly with every bite. Oh, and that baguette? A work of art. You can also get the Saigon Fried Chicken as it’s own meal.

Rùa is one of the newest vendors on the block and brings us yet another new taste to the ever evolving street food landscape that is the Alder pod. I’m glad to see Jason’s new concept is gaining followers. Keep an eye out for specials as they tweak the menu and try new things. Drop on by, they’re open every day and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Banh Mi sandwiches – Pork Belly, $8; Saigon Fried Chicken, $7; Pork Meatball, $7; Tofu, $6
  • Saigon Fried Chicken – a la carte, $6; with spicy arugula and cucumber salad, $8
  • Green Papaya Salad – $6

Website: RuaPDX.com
Twitter: @RuaPDX
Facebook
Rua PDX

Thick Deep Dish Pizza

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Thick Deep Dish Pizza

Thick Deep Dish Pizza

Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: 8am-6pm, Monday-Friday

The Story: I’m a child of pizza. I can’t tell you how pizza was so integral in the enjoyment of my childhood and teenage years. Portland had the thin crust pizza covered, but when I visited Chicago, I was introduced to the deep dish style. Thick, a new food cart on SW 9th and Washington, brings Chicago style pizza to the streets of our fine town.

Thick opened a few months ago and was selling out daily immediately. First time I visited, just after 1pm – totally sold out of slices and making a couple of suit-clad businessmen their own personal pie. Michael Cline is the man behind the pizza. A Chicagoan by birth, Michael saw Portland was lacking in his favorite cuisine, so decided to open the cart. He crafts everything from scratch including the house made Italian sausage, and pies are fresh made daily.

Italian Sausage Deep Dish from Thick

Italian Sausage Deep Dish from Thick

A Chicago deep dish pie is exactly that – deep dish with thick crust. A standard pie takes almost an hour to bake, so Michael makes a specific number of pies each day and when the slices sell out, that’s it. You can pre-order a pie though, so don’t fret.  I picked up a slice of handmade Italian sausage – Michael heated it up and handed me a small box which weighed a couple of pounds. While stalwarts may pick it up, I used a fork and knife to enjoy every last bite. Buttery crust acted well as the base layer topped first with Mozzarella then the sausage, and crushed tomatoes. The sausage was spot on and cheese in every bite made for a great lunch.

Thick Deep Dish Pizza is also open for breakfast, so if you’re coming into town early, feel free to stop by for local ham, melted onions, and Comte cheese encased in a classic buttery pastry crust. Sounds good to me. If you do want your own pie, be sure to call ahead and give Michael some time. All good things take time and patience. Drop on by for a thick slice of ‘za and let Michael know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Homemade Italian Sausage-  $5/slice
  • Spinach – $4/slice
  • Whole pies available

Phone: 630-697-6581
Facebook: Thick Pizza

Steak Your Claim

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Steak Your Claim

Steak Your Claim

Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-7pm

The Story: A specific type of food can define a city or a region. When we think of sourdough, my minds eye pictures the fog of San Francisco. Breakfast tacos? Austin. Cheesesteak? Philadelphia. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get those wonderful dishes elsewhere and that is the glory of Portland’s food carts. Steak Your Claim is the most recent vendor to bring their city’s prized cuisine to Portland.

Matt and Sam, the founders and chefs behind this new cart have a combined 31 years in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Matt from Philadelphia has a passion for the cheesesteak, whereas Sam is from all over, but spent more than a few years in New York and fell in love with the pastrami. Put two friends in a cart with those two specialties and magic happens.

Pastrami on Rye

Pastrami on Rye

I saw the bright orange cart arrive at the end of August and open Labor day weekend. That Labor Day, when many vendors were closed, Steak Your Claim took advantage of the day to introduce themselves to fellow sandwich fans. I wasn’t looking for a cheesesteak that day, so when I saw they had cart made thick cut pastrami, I pounced. I picked up the The Purist, pastrami stacked high with mustard on rye. A simple sandwich, no bells and whistles, which allows one to enjoy the flavorful and well made pastrami. There is other pastrami in the city, but I gotta say, Sam and Matt’s ranks pretty high. On my second visit, I had to go with the cheesesteak. While I picked up the Broad Street Bully, a well built rib-eye steak, cheese and onion sandwich, maybe you would be interested in the Mexican Standoff with pepper jack and guacamole or the Fat Greek with olive spread and assorted vegetables. These guys have an imagination and it is showcased in their menu. The Bully, with cheese whiz, on a chewy bun from Pearl Bakery beat out some of the sandwiches I enjoyed back east. Well done guys.

Broad Street Bully from Steak Your Claim

Broad Street Bully from Steak Your Claim

Steak Your Claim is open daily and on Saturdays for lunch and dinner. Beyond sandwiches, they offer an assortment of fries, curly or straight with cheese or other toppings. Stop on by for a sandwich, welcome Matt and Sam to the neighborhood and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Broad Street Bully Cheesesteak – rib eye, onions, cheese whiz or sharp provolone – $9.50
  • Mexican Standoff – seasoned rib eye, pepper-jack cheese, guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, tomato with corn chips – $9.50
  • The Fat Greek – rib eye, olive spread, feta, provolone, red onion, lettuce, tomato, tzatziki – $9.50
  • The Purist – pastrami stacked high with mustard on rye – $8.50
  • Reuben – pastrami, local sauerkraut, provolone with Thousand Island on Rye – $8.50
  • Orient Express – Asian marinated pastrami with carrot, bean sprouts and daikon salad, pickled shiitakes, soy chili on paesano bread – $8.50
  • Fries – $2.50-4 depending on toppings and style.

Website: Steakyourclaim.com
Facebook: Steak Your Claim
Twitter: @M1Schiffman

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

Portland Masala

Lizzy Caston
Portland Masala

Portland Masala

Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: Weekdays, lunch.

The Story: “Classic Recipes of India”. So says the sign on this demur little white cart that packs a whole bunch of flavor. First off there’s the aroma of exotic, complex spices wafting down the sidewalk. An immediate sniff lets the diner know this is no standard fast, cheap, greasy Indian food cart. This is a cart that cares about quality. That’s perhaps the main reason the menu is smaller here than the dictionary sized menus found at many other Indian carts in Portland.

There’s a confidence and regal quality to Portland Masala that says, “we don’t want to have the most, we just want to have the best”. Good Indian food isn’t a slick of oil over frozen veggies that have been cooked to an inch of their life. It isn’t a whallop of fire-spice heat that burns out all other flavors. Portland Masala is GOOD. It’s lighter, fresher, with complex and balanced layers of spicing. Each dish comes with white or brown rice, and a nice disk of homemade roti flatbread to round out your meal. Vegetarian foods are available and clearly labeled on the menu, but do ask about vegan foods as we aren’t sure if they use ghee (butter) or other dairy.

Ground Lamb from Portland Masala

Ground Lamb from Portland Masala

So what’s the story? In a twist, Portland Masala wasn’t a cart that later on branched out into foods sold in specialty markets. No, here we have the reverse. Portland Masala is a specialty food company that creates and sells fresh packaged foods at grocery stores around the Northwest such as Food Front and New Seasons Markets. Their grocery line includes a red lentil curry soup (Masoor Dal), garbanzo bean curry (Chole), and peas and carrots in sauce (Mattar Gajar Sabji). A few months ago Portland Masala decided to branch out to a cart and sell not only their packaged container foods, but additional hot fresh meals including specials such as ground lamb curry, chicken tikki masala, and peas and carrots with tofu in a sabji sauce, and more.

Kinderjit “Kinder” Gill hails  is the genius cook and cart owner behind Portland Masala and hails from the celebrated food mecca of Punjabi Province in India. She explains her clear passion for her craft this way:

It took my husband and I many years to source the right whole ingredients, fresh spices and refine our recipes to what they are today. Each specially selected herb and spice is hand-ground and mixed to our high standards. Each of these steps combines to create the homemade flavor that makes Portland Masala dishes stand above the rest.

I have to say, I’m a total and complete Indian food snob. It’s one of my favorite cuisines and I travelled to India specifically to eat and learn about the cuisine. I’m picky because I’ve been spoiled with the good stuff. Indian food is also incredibly easy to mess up. It takes a deft and skilled hand to blend spices and seasonings just so to elevate a dish into something special, memorable, and balanced with aromatics, sweet, salty, hot, sour flavors using fresh, high quality ingredients. I’m please to say Portland Masala is as good as it gets in the old country and certainly as good, if not better, than most Indian food you’ll find in the Portland area. Congratulations Ms. Gill and Masala Portland, and a very warm welcome to the food cart community!

Sample Menu:

  • Ground lamb curry with rice and roti – $7
  • Butter chicken with rice and roti – $7
  • Peas, carrots and tofu with rice and roti – $7
  • Fresh pack containers of red lentil curry soup, peas and carrots, or chickpea curry – $5

Phone: 971 242-9797 

WebsitePortlandMasalaFoods (prepared food information only, not cart information)

Twitter: @PortlandMasala
Facebook: PortlandMasalaFoods 

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