In the Oregonian’s recent anti-foodie invective, Lee Williams highlighted Taco Time as a place where patriotic, American-cheese-loving Portlanders eat Mexican food. Todd Pedersen, owner of two local Taco Time stores, though, laid down the gauntlet:
“A lot of foodies don’t want to go to chains even though they might actually have some good food, just because of the thought….They might go to (fast-food restaurants); they just don’t admit it!”
[Pedersen] challenges his menu against the few and favored Mexican carts, trucks and taquerias of the foodies: “Come on,” he says. “Let’s blind taste-test them.”
He doesn’t just claim that Taco Time can compete against some random mom and pop Mexican joint, taqueria, or taco truck. He says it can compete against the very best. Okay, as El Mariachi would say: “Let’s play.”
Man cannot live on burgers alone. You need a french fry — or perhaps some pork rinds — now and then, too. Following are my favorite sides that you can order with your burger in Portland.
While it is rapidly becoming fashionable to question whether food carts (especially in Portland) have jumped the shark — ie, shed their hip, underground status and gone mainstream –, it’s hard to deny the energy, passion, and optimism of the food cart vendors and their hardcore patrons. Willamette Week’s Eat Mobile 2010 festival, packing 30 carts, a beer garden, and a stage into a two block stretch of Belmont under the Morrison Bridge concentrated that energy into one place on one night creating an effective counter-argument to the cynics who believe trends are only good insofar as they don’t become trendy or that something is only worth patronizing as long as it doesn’t become popular.
Willamette Week’s annual Cheap Eats issue came out yesterday. Despite a couple restaurants that I’d really like to see dropped from the list (cough…cough….Laughing Planet), it’s a very good list overall. If you want to browse the choices quickly before digging into the reviews, I’ve distilled them at Portlandfood.org.
Included in the issue was a fun listing of bites, snacks, and entire meals $7 or under. Following are 10 additions to the list — some of my favorites — from a whole new set of shops, some of which weren’t covered in the issue at all.
Food carts, of course, are the awesome right now, and nowhere moreso than Portland where we have a higher number per capita than any other city in the country. Fine with me. When I travel I eat on the street more than in restaurants.
However, a cart with a wood-burning or gas oven running at 800 degrees slinging out freshly made pizzas with ingredients like fresh mozz and doughs allowed to ferment for 24 hours? Now that’s the real awesome. And Portland has three of them: Pizza Depokos, Pyro Pizza, and Wy’East Pizza. While I had tried two — Pyro and Wy’East — with the opening of the third, Depokos, a crawl was in order to judge their relative merits. The obvious partner in pizza-gorging to invite was Adam Lindsley.
Yogyakarta street art
The weather got progressively cooler as I moved south from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and finally to Yogyakarta, the medium-sized city of artists and students near many of Java’s most famous archeological sites. Each night along the main drag, the three-wheeled bicycle taxis of Indonesia lumbered in figure-eights while their drivers yelled out to potential customers by the name of their transport: “Becak, becak, becak.” Young kids and their friends on scooters zipped between the pedal-powered people movers, as if to thumb their nose at the 3rd world. Warungs — street stalls, most with open-sided canopies and blankets to sit on — would slowly emerge and illuminate, signs advertising nasi goreng, rendang, gulai nangka, and, of course, the favorite, ayam goreng. A mile of bubbling cauldrons and fragrant spices, each vendor imploring you to give them a try, insisting their makanan (food) is the best. Finally, Portland has a restaurant, Taste of Jakarta, that perfectly captures the flavors and style of these warungs.
3 Hermanos (moved and renamed La Chiquita)
Last December, Robb Walsh, a Beard-award winning food writer from the Houston Press, contacted me about a project he was working on. You’ll notice one of his books has regularly been featured on my site in the left column. I own several of his books and respect his work a lot, so I was honored to have him contact me — to even know who I am.
The project? Taco trucks outside the southwest, how they provide “formerly virgin taco territories” the opportunity for some truly authentic comida — an article for Gourmet Magazine. Would I like to help? Hell, yeah.
Clockwise: garlic spears, strawberries and tomatoes, spring veggies, cherries
The Beaverton Farmers Market is clearly one of the largest in the area, on most days the largest. Only during a festival does the Portland Farmers Market challenge Beaverton’s on size. And it’s still a very good market. While the percentage of produce vendors may be lower than some markets, there are no craft booths like in Vancouver, Gresham or Eugene. It’s truly a farmer’s market.
I rushed out on Saturday about a month ago before heading to judge a BBQ competition in Aloha. I was hoping to taste bagels from a fellow PortlandFood.org member, “Krunchky”, but he was at a wedding. It was drizzly which made for fewer market-goers, easier photos, and an opportunity to talk with a few of the vendors.
Boones Ferry Berries
Was driving through Westmoreland after an unsuccessful attempt to visit Curds & Whey one afternoon just over a month ago and I happened upon the Moreland Farmers Market. I’d never been, so I stopped. It’s at the corner of 14th & Bybee, just west of Milwaukie, a short walk from Adobe Rose, Oaks Bottom, Caprial’s, and so on. It’s a small market, but diverse enough to make a quality neighborhood farmers market, especially for only being in its second year.
Mexico Lindo’s Posole
Cinco de Mayo is one of Portland’s better festivals. It has a character. It’s not just another county fair on the waterfront. In 2005 I lamented the event’s cultural decline compared with the wonderful 2004 Cinco de Mayo, my first. There were fewer real artists. There were more commercial promotions selling credit cards and the like. And basically, this year’s is the same. There were only four to six real artists selling Mexican crafts. The majority consisted of the crappier Saturday Market vendors — bad jewelry, cheap imports, and caricature artists.
That said, it’s still worth visiting. The latin musical entertainment is worth the admission price, especially the folklorico and mariachi. And then there’s the food…