Garden Monsters

Lizzy Caston
Garden Monsters

Garden Monsters

Location: NE 15th and Alberta, West side
Hours: Tues-Sat 11am -8pm, Sun 11:30am – 7pm, Closed Mondays

The Story: Maybe it’s this spring weather tease, but I’ve found myself craving fresh, full meal salads lately. Not some lettuce thrown on a plate with some ranch dressing many restaurants pass off as “salads”. No, we’re talking the kind of salads that will fill you up for the afternoon, but unlike say, eating a Double Royale with Cheese burger, don’t make you feel too heavy afterwards.

The concept of Garden Monsters is simple, fun, and makes for an interesting menu. You can pick from one of their signature salads such as the Paul Bunyon with grilled chicken or steak, lettuces, a ton of veggies, garlic croutons and choice of dressing. Or, the Loc Ness Monster - Grilled Salmon or Grilled Shrimp,  Lettuces, Water Chestnuts, Dried Cranberries, Red Onion, Grape Tomatoes, Lemon Wedge,  Garlic Black Pepper Almonds. WOWZA!

There’s also their “Build Your Own Monster”:  pick a base salad, add on toppings, and one of their many housemade dressings. Salads can be made vegetarian, vegan, almost all are Gluten Free.  You can choose a bowl salad, or if you’d like turn it into a giant wrap sandwich. Offerings are wide and varied and made to order. Genius! Garden Monsters tells their story so well in their own words on their website, I’ll just let them do the talking:

My name is Kyle Hulings, Founder of Garden Monsters. For years I have been turning salad into a meal, loading my bowl with a vast array of meats, veggies, cheeses and dressings.  All to often I felt that the only way to really get my money’s worth was to make it at home, as time and time again I found myself overpaying for a tiny, bland, three-day-old and all-around weak salad.

I am also often faced with the challenge of coordinating meals and eating out with several of my close friends and family members, as many if not most have dietary needs. Some are sensitive to gluten, others dairy, countless varieties of low carb and low calorie diets, vegetarians, vegans, Celiacs and the list goes on. I dreamt of a place where anyone could eat at, without sacrificing taste, and with the body’s needs kept in mind. These experiences helped me develop Garden Monsters’ core values.

We wish to inspire healthier eating in the fast service food industry, to prove that taste doesn’t have to come deep fried, to grow and strengthen ties with the local community, and to epitomize the eco-friendly revolution. You wont find a deep fryer, microwave or freezer in our carts. We use organic and 100% natural ingredients from local resources whenever possible. All of our to go containers are completely recyclable and we compost nearly all of our waste setting a new standard for quick service food destinations. Guilt free never tasted so good.

Right on, Garden Monsters! Crunch-Crunch. Munch-Munch!

(Note, Garden Monsters will be moving to NE 15th Alberta in the Alberta Food Coop’s parking lot on April 9th)

Sample Menu:
  • The Colossal Cobb - Roasted Turkey, Roasted Ham, Bacon Chunks, Romaine & Iceberg Lettuce, Bleu Crumbles, Cage-Free Hard Boiled Eggs, Black Olives, Grape Tomatoes, Garlic Croutons and your choice of dressing. We recommend our Signature Avocado Ranch – $8. No Meat- $5.50
  • The Sumo – Grilled Chicken, Romaine Lettuce & Green Cabbage, Mandarin Wedges, Shaved Carrots, our Signature Garlic Black Pepper Almonds, Asian Noodles, Sliced Water Chestnuts, Green Onion, and your choice of dressing. We recommend our Signature Sesame Ginger – $7.25 . No Meat- $5.25
  • Build Your Own Monster (prices vary): Bowl or all-flour white or spinach “wrap” – Choice of Lettuces and greens, 4 free toppings from a variety of: veggies, fruits, “crunches” (croutons, Asian Noodles, Sunflower seeds, and more), cheeses, meats, and other additions such as black beans, water chestnuts. chopped egg, avocado, roasted baby red potatoes, and more. Vegan toppings: vegan chicken, vegan steak, vegan cheeses, tofu.
  • Homemade Dressings:  Blue Cheese, Buttermilk Ranch, Avocado Ranch, Creamy Italian, Light Italian (v,df), Sante Fe Ranch, 10,000 Island, Sesame Ginger (v,df), Honey Mustard, Caesar,  Creamy Balsamic, Balsamic Vinaigrette (v,df), Oil and Vinegar (v,df), Sweet’n’Spicy Sesame Ginger Balsamic (v,df). – v= vegan, df = dairy free.

Website: www.gardenmonsters.net

The Cultured Caveman

Lizzy Caston

Location: NE 15th and Alberta (Alberta15 “mini pod”)
Hours:
Mon – Sun, 11am-8pm

The Story: Meet my new friend, The Cultured Caveman.  I almost wrote this write-up in the voice of my new cavemen friend: “Me caveman, me eat like my ancient ancestors from the Stone Age. Me eat meat, but only organic, grass fed meat. Me like vegetables and fruits. Me eat Paleo Diet rich in fiber, antioxidants, protein. Me healthy”.  But, I figured you all would smack me upside the head if I did a whole write up like that, so I’ll cut it out and get to the heart of this cart instead.

The Cultured Caveman focuses on foods found in the popular Paleo Diet. In case you aren’t up on the info, Wikipedia describes the Paleolithic Diet as:

The paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet), also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years duration that ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture. In common usage, such terms as the “Paleolithic diet” also refer to the actual ancestral human diet.

Centered on commonly available modern foods, the “contemporary” Paleolithic diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

The health benefits of the Paleo Diet are debated amongst nutritionists and health nuts alike, but those who love eating this way really love it, and a whole cuisine has developed around “Caveman Cuisine”. Yes, it’s more than just a handful of wild berries, and some road kill cooked over a fire, as this spiffy cart on Alberta St. can attest.

Food at the Cultured Caveman is indeed elevated: Grass Fed All Meat Chili; Paleo Chicken “Tenders” breaded in coconut flour; hearty salads; and perfectly crisp French Fries fried in beef tallow are just some of the treats found here.

All Meat Chili

All Meat Chili

I dined on a very thick, very satisfying cup of beef chili (no beans in this chili for the Paleos!), as well as a kale salad bursting with ginger and carrots. It was a hearty meal that left me feeling full but not heavy. I’ll be back.

The food here is made with care and the owners Heather and Joe are working hard to make this a truly professional cart with excellent quality and customer service to match. Sometimes it feels like there are a billion food carts nowadays, and sometimes it’s hard to stand out from the pack. The Cultured Caveman has a niche in the Paleo Diet crowd, for sure. Although it is a beef focused cart (all fried foods are fried in beef tallow), they do have vegan offerings. Some are even gluten free and/or raw for those on those diets as well.  But, the quality of their food shows this is a cuisine for more than just Cavemen and Cavewomen. This is food for folks who simply like good eats.

 Sample Menu:

  • All Meat Grass Fed Chili – $5
  • Paleo Chicken Tenders – local chicken breast, breaded with coconut flour and fried in 100% grass fed beef tallow – 2 for $4
  • Ginger Carrot Kale Salad – $3
  • Rainbow Fries – shoestring russet, purple and sweet potatoes fried in 100% grass fed beef tallow – $4
Kale Salad

Kale Salad

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-8pm
Phone:
Unknown
Website:
CulturedCavemanPDX.com
Facebook:
CulturedCavemanPDX
Twitter:
@cavemancart

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Katsu Zoku

Lizzy Caston

Location: 15th and Alberta (Alberta15 Pod)
Hours:
Tues – Sun 11:30am – 9pm

The Story: Sure, most Americans know all about Sushi, Teriyaki and Tempura, and maybe even that other slurpy, satisfying Japanese food staple, Ramen. But Japanese food, including Japanese street food, contains such a bigger repertoire. And it’s nice to see carts like Katsu Zoku bringing even more Japanese food diversity to our fair city.

Katsu Zoku specializes in, yep, Katsu – thin pounded meats (usually pork, but often chicken, hamburger steak, or even tofu and other veggies) breaded in Panko bread crumbs, and fried. It is often served with Japanese style curry (which is quite different – sweeter and more of a dark, thick gravy – than say and Indian or Thai curry), or Katsu is often put on top of rice and covered with the soft egg and soy/dashi broth sauce known as “Oyako”.  Recent additions at Katsu Zoku also include Katsu’s Cousin: Korroke – seasoned meat or vegetable fritters.

Both foods have a fun history and it’s always fascinating to me to see how cultures can adopt and adapt food from other places into their own cuisines, sometimes going back centuries, sometimes just decades. In Japan, Katsu cuisine isn’t really Asian at all but “Asian-Fusion” introduced into Japan by Portuguese traders in the 1890s. It became what is now known as a form of cuisine in Japan called “Yoshoku”, translated to mean “Western Food”. Side story, a very traditional Japanese restaurant I used to work at served the staff Korroke and curry with hot-dogs and every one loved it – that to me is just hilarious, but I’ll admit “traditional” or not, the stuff was tasty.

Korroke was introduced to Japan even later in the early 1900s, and is an adaptation of the French “Croquettes”. Ah, I could go on and on, but you can just get more of a history lesson over at Wikipedia, as you wish.

It’s nice though when a cart specializes in just one or two dishes, like they do here at Katsu Zoku, and that’s pretty much the custom in other parts of the world too, especially Japan. This gives the vendors a chance to really focus on and hone their food to perfection rather than being schizophrenically all over the menu map, trying to be all things to all people and ending up paling down all of them. In deft hands under the guidance of people who care, specialized carts like this one become a sense of pride and accomplishment, attracting loyal fans near and far. Some might even say carts like this one can become an art form.

Sure, most cooks can pound, bread, fry a piece of meat and throw it on a plate. But I’m pleased to report Katsu Zoku takes this sense of focused food pride and Japanese food cart history seriously – small menu, food made to order, clean oil, fresh ingredients, and a light touch with the frying makes for a crackling breaded crust, moist and tender ingredients on the inside, and miraculously not at all greasy.  Even this cart’s very Western Katsu Sandwich with Special Sauce beats the pants off most fried chicken sandwiches you might wait in line an hour for at some hit restaurants around town. Can’t wait to see what Katsu Zoku does with Tempura, promised as “coming soon” on their menu!

People talk a lot about the appeal of food carts as being “fast and cheap”. And sure, that’s certainly part of the appeal to many cart diners. Another attraction, for this author anyway, is visiting carts that can make some of the best food you’ve ever tasted out of a kitchen the size of a postage stamp – and honor history and really give it their all. Katsu Zoku does exactly just that. Nicely done Master Katsu  Zoku-san, nicely done indeed.

Sample Menu:

  • Katsu Curry  – Breaded pork cutlet over Japanese curry served with rice and fukujinsuke (Japanese Pickles) – $6
  • Chicken Katsu Curry – Japanese style curry with breaded chicken on top, served with side of rice and fukujinsuke (Japanese Pickles) – $6
  • Vegetarian Curry – Curry with potatoes, seasonal vegetables, rice and fukujinsuke- $5. Add Tofu – $6
  • Chicken Katsu Sandwich – On sesame seed bun with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and special sauce.
  • Tonkatsu – $5
  • Katsu Don – Rice bowl topped with pork or chicken katsu, egg and onions simmered in Japanese dashi konbu stock finished with 7-spice (tongarashi) – $7
  • Bacon & Beef Korroke –  (fried croquettes) with fresh Serrano chilis -1 for $2, or 3 for $5
  • Vegetarian Sweet Potato Korroke – with Diced Carrots and Onions – 1 for $2 or  3 for $5
  • Suimono –  vinegared cucumber salad – $2

Hours: Tues-Sun 11:30 am – 9pm
Phone: Unknown
Facebook: www.facebook.com
Twitter: @KatsuZokuPDX

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Stumptown Dumplings

Lizzy Caston

Location: NE 15th and Alberta (Alberta15 Pod)
Hours:
Tues – Thurs 11:30 am – 8 pm, Fri-Sun 11:30 am – 10:00pm

The Story: Dumplings make for some great street eats. Why not? Filling, fast, cheap and nutritious they are versatile with veggies or meat (or both!), and give you satisfying protein and carbs in one complete package  easy to eat on the go. Different dipping sauces from spicy to sweet, appeal to all kinds of tastes and as well.

Jay and Nimesh, the owners of Stumptown Dumplings.

At Stumptown Dumplings, the enthusiastic owners Nimesh Dayal and Jay Revo keep the menu tight and right by focusing on just three different, but very flavorful, Asian style stuffed steamed pot sticker type dumplings, and two kinds of steamed, stuffed dough Bao. And this cart doesn’t skimp either – no frozen or pasty supermarket dumpling wrappers here. Stumptown Dumplings are made from scratch, are tender, a bit chewy and nicely substantial, while the bao are light with just enough stuffing to make 2 a nice lunch or hearty snack. Dayal and Revo really seem to put all their heart and soul into everything from quality food, to freshness of ingredients, to customer service, and marketing.

 

 

I took my neighbor with me to sample some of “Stumpling’s” dumplings (Stumptown Dumplings’ nickname). Just back from two years living in China, my dining companion was having trouble adjusting to Portland and wistfully sighed to me, “I miss all the amazing street food in China, especially all the dumplings. Man, you could get such good food there.” So it was with a smile and a sigh of relief when my neighbor bit into his first Stumptown Dumpling:  “These are terrific!”. Tender, fresh, and hot, we usually just nibble and sample a little from each cart we eat at since we usually hit 3-4 carts at once. Not so with Stumplings. “I’ll just have a bite or two” turned into, “let’s go back and get another order!” Some carts are novelties, and some you only want to eat at once in a blue moon. But we could both see ourselves ordering food from this cart on a regular basis. And with prices this great, Stumptown Dumplings hits all the right notes for food cart dining.

The Alberta15 “Mini” Cart Pod had a few false starts there for a while with a series of carts that quickly closed or moved to other locales, but this little pod near the busy NE 15th intersection has seemed to really started to take off this summer with 4 terrific carts set up now, and a comes-n-goes Hawaiian Shave Ice cart to the mix. Stumptown Dumplings is a great addition to the Alberta ‘hood, and an outstanding addition to Portland’s already outstanding food cart scene. We’ll be back for lunch, and dinner, and well, maybe a snack or two as well…

Sample Menu:

  • Steamed Dumplings – Cheeky Chicken, Pompous Pork, or Sassy Spinach -  6 for $4.75, 9 for $5.50, 12 for $6.00
  • Steamed Bao – Curry Veggie or Roasted Pork – $1.50 each
  • Steamed Rice – $1.50
  • Thai Iced Tea $2.50 or Vietnamese Coffee – $2.75
  • Choice of dipping sauces – Asian Chipotle, Creamy Peanut, Ponzu Soy, Spicy Hoisin, Thai Mustard

Hours: Tues – Thurs 11:30 am – 8 pm, Fri-Sun 11:30 am – 10:00pm
Phone:
Unknown
Website:
www.stumplings.com
Twitter:
@Stumplings
Facebook:
www.facebook.com/stumplings

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