Zeek’s Cheese Grill

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Zeek's Cheese Grill

Zeek’s Cheese Grill

Location: SE 82nd and Harney at Cartlandia
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11:30-7; Fri/Sat, 11:30-9

The Story: Who doesn’t like grilled cheese? There are some extremely successful food trucks and food carts around the nation who have succeeded with putting cheese between two slices of bread, grilling it to perfection and selling it to the masses. Zeek’s Cheese Grill at Cartlandia is the latest to offer up that childhood delight.

Zeek’s Cheese Grill offers up an array of appetizing delights. Not just grilled cheese sandwiches, although that is what I enjoyed. The menu offers soups, sides like roasted jalapeño fondue, a few types of Mac and Cheese and some fresh cart made salads. Just the other day they posted photos of pickles made fresh that morning. Sandwiches range from the classic with American cheese all the way to the Ciao with fresh mozzarella, basil, semi dried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic reduction and black pepper. The Canard caught my attention with duck confit, brie and bacon caramelized onion jam. Whew! Writing that made my tummy rumble. Crisp buttered bread sandwiched in the unctuous and delightfully salty duck confit. The caramelized onion jam with a hint of bacon added sweetness to balance it all out. Dip an edge in the tomato soup and dive in. An excellent sandwich.

Zeek's Cheese Grill

Canard from Zeek’s Cheese Grill

Zeek’s is open daily for lunch and dinner with extended hours on the weekend. Beyond the cheese grill, they have daily specials, numerous flavors of lemonade and assorted teas. At Cartlandia, there is covered seating along with The Blue Room bar so you can relax and enjoy your meal. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Soups – Tomato Basil Cream, Tomato Gorgonzola, Spicy Tomato – $3 cup or $5 bowl
  • Roasted Jalapeno Fondue – $5.80
  • Four Cheese Mac & Cheese – $7
  • Caramelized onion, Gorgonzola and bacon Mac & Cheese – $8
  • Julienne Kale and Romaine Salad – $6
  • The Classic Grilled Cheese – $4
  • Oregon Grilled Sandwich – Brie, Oregon pears, gorgonzola, caramelized onion bacon – $7.80
  • Canard – $9.80
  • Ciao – $7.80

Facebook: Zeek’s Cheese Grill
Twitter: @ZeeksCheeseGrill

Maine Street Lobster Company

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Maine Street Lobster Company Portland

Maine Street Lobster Company Portland

Location: SE 82nd and Harney, Cartlandia
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11:30-7:30; Sun, 12-5

The Story: The Pacific Northwest has some amazing seafood – salmon, fresh lake trout, dungeness crab, oysters, geoduck – you name it, we got it and we love it. What we don’t have is lobster, one of the most famous seafood dishes in the nation. When people spy it on a menu, they pounce. Others ship it in from afar for special dinners. Now, from the glory of a food cart, you can get Maine lobster prepared a few different ways. I give you Maine Street Lobster Company.

Maine Street Lobster Company is located at Cartlandia in SE Portland along with a number of other vendors and a beer garden. Owners Cathy and David came to Portland this summer from Georgia which explains the po’ boys on the menu. They knew they wanted to open a food cart in Portland, so packed up their gear and headed west. It was along the route they brainstormed and came up with the lobster concept and menu. Trained chefs who know their way around a kitchen, they wanted to do something no one else was doing. Seafood isn’t that well represented throughout the city, especially the storied lobster, so here we are. Maine Street Lobster Company was born and brings in lobster overnight on a regular basis. David joked, “UPS is pretty awesome for that.”

Lobster Roll from Maine Street Lobster

Lobster Roll from Maine Street Lobster

At the cart, you can enjoy lobster bisque or clam chowder to warm you up or go right for the lobster in the form of hot or chilled roll or po’ boy style. I chose traditional – Maine Lobster Roll – hot and buttery with lobster sauteed in butter, lemon and herbs atop a buttery toasted New England style split top bun. Buttah! Such a beautiful presentation and lousy with flavor. Lobster is one of those seafoods you feel guilty enjoying. The bacon of the seas. I wanted to save part of the sandwich to share, but couldn’t put it down. It is best enjoyed hot.

Maine Street Lobster joins a small group of vendors in town serving an item no one else has. If you’re a lobster fan, you need to visit Cathy and David and drench yourself in butter. Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Maine Street Lobster Roll – $14
  • Down East Lobster Roll – lobster chilled in light mayo and herb dressing served on New England split top bun – $14
  • Lobster Slider – hot or chilled – $5
  • Po’ Boy – with our without lobster – $10-14
  • New England Clam Chowder – $5-7
  • Lobster Bisque – $6-8

Website: MaineStreetLobsterCompany.com
Facebook: Maine Street Lobster Company
Twitter: @MaineStLobster

Sandwich Depot Deli

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Sandwich Depot Deli

Sandwich Depot Deli

Location: SE 82nd and Harney, Cartlandia
Hours: Wed-Sun, 11am-6pm

The Story: There are very few local delis from the 70’s who are still in business one way or another. When I discover one that strikes a gut memory from childhood, I grin, stop and eat. Sandwich Depot Deli has been around since 1978 and still makes a great sandwich.

I visited this truck out at Cartlandia on SE 82nd by the Springwater Corridor. While the east wind kicked up, the truck was situated just right to block enough so I didn’t freeze. Brett, owner and longtime sandwich maker started off on NE Glisan in the late 70’s and fed more than a few people who probably remember the great little deli. Fast forward to the 21st century and Brett has set up shop in a food truck – this era’s deli, but with wheels. Having had such a tenure with meat, cheese and bread, I deferred to him for my lunch. He recommended the Black Russian – dark rye bread from Portland French Bakery, mayo, cream cheese, swiss, lettuce, tomato, turkey and roast beef with Russian dressing. This is the sandwich I would throw together whenever I had direct access to a deli case. Large, thick with flavor and satisfying.

The Black Russian from Sandwich Depot Deli

The Black Russian from Sandwich Depot Deli

Sandwich Depot Deli is open Wednesday-Sunday from 11-6pm. They offer a variety of custom sandwiches and subs or you can build your own. If you’re out that way and craving a sammy, drop on by and let Brett know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Build your own sandwich with your choice of meat, cheese and condiments – $6
  • Build your own sub – $6.50
  • California Special – choice of bread, mayo, cream cheese, swiss, lettuce, tomato, turkey, avocado, bacon, thousand island – $6.50
  • Black Russian – $6.50
  • Green House – choice of bread, mayo, cream cheese, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, avocado – $6.50
  • Crazy Joe Sub – may, provolone, lettuce, tomato, salami, onions

Website: SandwichDepotDeli.com
Twitter: @SandwichDepot

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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