I’m taking a quick vacation across the border to Portland, Oregon. Why Portland, you may ask. Well, I’ve never been there and after watching a NY Times video on the city’s food cart scene, I had to check it out for myself.
After my short flight to Portland, I took the fantastic, almost free light rail train to get to my hotel – the Hotel Deluxe. It’s a wonderful boutique hotel that plays homage to old Hollywood. I’m on the Hitchcock floor – thankfully they do not give us Psycho shower curtains and there are no creepy birds.
Last night I tried my first food cart – the Indian Chaat House. It was one of the few things open nearby and for $5 I got 3 different kinds of spicy vegetarian curry, basmati rice and naan. Chai was also included but since I’m not a huge chai fan, I passed.
For lunch today, I checked out the food carts at SW Alder between 9th and 11th Ave. I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for and in case seating was hard to come by, I figured something portable was the way to go. I ended up getting a pesto chicken salad baguette with red onions at Addy’s Sandwich Bar. The baguette was huge and too much for me. I appreciated the nommy chicken but not sure I like pesto and red onions for a chicken salad. However, it was prepared fresh and was a whole lot of food.
After making a pathetic dent into my sandwich, I foraged for a decent cup of coffee. The coffee cart nearby seemed to be closed, so I wandered to a place called Public Domain on SW Broadway for a latte. I ordered a vanilla latte and I appreciated the cool coffee machinery they had (ooohh…shiny…) and that they serve espresso with a glass of sparkling water alongside, just like in Italy ..ahhh…Italy… Okay back to the latte. The vanilla latte was smooth and mellow. I guess I was expecting it would have the usual bitter taste that I’m used to but it didn’t. It was a welcome surprise and it also wasn’t ridiculously sweet. I think I’ll go back to try another espresso drink tomorrow…
Later in the afternoon, I went to Cacao, located in the Heathman Hotel. Apparently there is another one but I am directionally challenged without Google maps, so I went to this one instead. Not only can you get a lot of different chocolates from small producers in the US and some from Europe, you can also get drinking chocolate. I opted for a shot of the dark drinking chocolate. Trust me – one shot is enough and should be sipped slowly. It reminded me a lot of the lovely samples of drinking chocolate I’ve tried at Dulcinea in Vancouver. It was wonderful and the staff there are lovely.
To finish off the day, I wandered back to the food carts in the hopes that they would still be open. Few, if any, were open in the evening and confirmed my suspicion that they are generally for the lunch time crowd. I decided to go back for Indian food at the Indian Chaat House, but it was closed. However, the Bombay Chaat House next door was still open. Yes there are two Indian food carts right next to each other. Don’t ask me why, but there have been local news stories written about it and I guess there are those customers who choose to be loyal to one or the other. Well, since I’m loyal to neither and I needed to eat, I figured I might as well try the other one that was open and it would let me compare the two. I ordered the $5 daily vegetarian special: basmati rice, naan, chai (again I didn’t want it), chana masala, some sort of korma, saag and a lentil curry. I loved dipping the naan into the korma sauce (creamy goodness…) and I enjoyed the chana masala. However, I wasn’t so keen on the saag or lentil curry. I preferred the yellow lentil thing I ate last night and I would add in the chana masala and korma from tonight. I would combine the two Chaat house specials into one festival of nommy goodness just for me! In my parallel universe where bunnies frolic and I have pet otters who live in ocean near my cottage but come up to greet me and get pets, these two carts would have a giant buffet and let me eat the best of both…there will also be a chocolate waterfall and a slow moving hot fudge stream…and marshmallow clouds…..
Portland food carts – a whole lot of bang for the buck. Just remember to bring cash and wear drawstring pants!