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#21 jmatt

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 10:52 PM

Good Food Here has a new car from the Green Castle pod, Cackalacks, as well Fifty Licks as a somewhat recent addition.

I really wish I had read this post from the Green Castle thread before I tried the fried chicken at Cackalacks:


- Cackalack's Hot Chicken Shack: ate here yesterday since it just opened. Fried chicken of your desired hotness & pickles on Texas toast. Choice of a little cup of slaw or potato salad. The chicken was like something that would come out of my own kitchen if I were horrifically drunk and tried to fry it in a pan. Maybe worse. Half burnt, armor-like coating about half an inch thick. Spent the rest of the day regretting "supporting local business" if you get my drift.


AMEN. The chicken had a overcooked coating over 0.25 to 0.5 inch thick with a bizarre off taste (I suspect pickle juice), the chicken underneath was low grade (Foster Farms-esque), the slaw was tasteless - no seasoning or even pepper or salt, and my iced tea was almost all ice. At least it was only $7.50...

Once I threw it away almost uneaten (my poultry-loving but poultry-allergic dog was heartbroken he didn't get it), I had a double burger from Lardo which was excellent! It was hard to believe how well the brioche bun held up to the juices and cheese and unlike other times I've had pork belly on a burger, you could easily bite through it.

I tried the ice cream at Fifty Licks - what a RIP OFF! The Tahitan Vanilla Bean lacked vanilla flavor despite lots of specks of vanilla bean, had an odd chewy texture, and it was FULL of ice crystals. WHY is this crap $6 and available at New Seasons when Cool Moon is in this town??? I also tried the maple bacon flavor (all overwhelming maple, no bacon despite gets a disgustingly slimy cold chunk in the sample) and the caramelized apple (think very fake caramel apple with an overwhelming green apple flavor). $6 if you want the waffle cone - I've never paid more than $5 for ice cream on a waffle cone that is miles better at Cool Moon. After three bites, I dumped the ice cream out and just ate the waffle cone.


I ate at Cackalack and didn't enjoy it too much either, but---considering the spectrum, Foster Farms isn't really all that bad---seriously, what the fuck do you expect for $7.50? Should the carts be serving organically pedigreed chicken for that price?

#22 SarahWS

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:04 PM

To clarify, it tasted the same to me as the one time I bought a package of foster farms chicken - spongy due to the preservatives and chemicals they inject and not fresh tasting. Since the coating was inedible due to being too thick and burnt, I strip it off and tried to eat the plain meat. Unfortunately it simply tasted awful.

Draper Farms is in the same price bracket and doesn't taste like that. Frankly, I would have rather paid 8 to 10 bucks and gotten good fried chicken because that's what I was craving. Any recommendations?

#23 ExtraMSG

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:53 PM

I haven't tried Cackalacks, yet, but my wife likes their chicken tenders a lot. They may do better with tenders than with actual fried chicken, though.

Tried Lardo for the first time the other day. I had porchetta and my wife had the pork meatball banh mi. We shared some of their dirty fries with fried herbs, parmesan, and bits of fried pork belly.

It was a bit of a salt overload even for me. I wish I had something like a slaw to go with it all instead. The porchetta was too fatty for my wife. One half was pretty nice, I thought, but one half was pretty fatty and gristly.

I started out liking the porchetta better, but ended up enjoying the banh mi more, though I didn't feel like it was an improvement over what I would have gotten from the regular banh mi joints. In fact, I felt like it was a slight step down in flavor.

The fries were good at first, but the whole meal was just so much fat and salt, that we got burned out about halfway through and didn't finish them. I had to go get a second soda.

I think this experience explains, to some degree, my general burnout on carts. Prices are in the same range as Bunk, MCB, Eastmoreland Market, Laurelhurst Cafe, Sandwichworks, et al. I'd gone there twice before at seemingly normal times and they were closed. The food is pretty good, but I feel like I'd do better at any of the places mentioned above, plus get to sit indoors and be able to count on consistent hours and consistent availability of product. I just don't care enough about being part of a hip scene to go to food carts if I can't get cheaper food or better food.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#24 Flynn

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 07:32 AM

I end up at Good Food Here a couple of times a month, especially when it's nice out. Between Lardo, Rollin' Etta, and Aybla, it's pretty easy to get a quick lunch that's more interesting than most take out.

That's when I think the carts are at their best: items that are either uncommon (Nong's, Tabor, Garden State), or really good versions of items no matter what the location is (Aybla, Rollin' Etta).

#25 ExtraMSG

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 11:08 AM

I'm interested to try Yum Zap, the Thai cart. I still haven't. Their menu is very Northern and there are a couple items that not even Pok Pok or Chiang Mai have on their menus.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#26 austinhaas

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 11:54 AM

I like Yum Zap. I've probably eaten there at least 5 times and I've enjoyed everything I've had. Nothing has been outstanding, but it has been a nice option for take out.

It probably would've been a regular thing for us, but it has been closed at least 3 out of the 4 times we've tried to go. I think it may have been closed for several months at a time before the summer. I keep expecting it to disappear from that pod, but then I'll drive by and see it open (for what it'll seem like the first time in weeks).

I think this cart pod has the worst record for carts being open. Namu, Lardo, Eurotrash, and Aybla are consistent, but most of the others are a crapshoot.

I absolutely respect that the owners can do whatever they want, but I think it has an averse affect on the whole pod when half the carts are closed at regular mealtime hours. We pretty much avoid that pod (unless I know I want Lardo) because we've been disappointed too many times.

#27 Catastrophysicist

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 12:43 PM

I definitely agree with Nick about Lardo. Going with both a sandwich and a side from them is salt over-kill. Last time I ordered the pork-strami and the fries from them and I had trouble making it thru the rest of the day. I would say that pairing a sandwich with something from Kitchen Dances is the way to go. Also, I'd like to add that that their mortadella sandwich is off the chain, imo. I rarely deviate when I order from them these days.

#28 Nacho_B

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 12:46 PM

Hola,

I agree with you guys that the hours at this location are annoyingly inconsistent, and Lardo's especially. Their current website indicates Tue-Sat 12-8, but for awhile there they were closing between 2:30pm and 5:30pm (I found that out one summer day about 2:40pm). That was a bit maddening.

My biggest complaint about Lardo (and this may just my own issue here) is the way they call your order. They shout your name when it's ready, loud enough that you'd hear it on the other side of the pod. Having my name shouted at me makes me a bit jumpy...it puts a brother on edge. I don't like that. Nowadays I just hang out on the north side of the cart (and tell him I'm going to hang out *just* outside the cart) to avoid that. Other names though, they just get shouted right on out. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like to be around a lot of yelling. Prefiero un lugar muy tranquilo.

However, inconsistent hours that periodically change and some name shouting aside, I keep coming back for the grilled mortadella and provolone sandwich. That is one damn fine sandwich, and I haven't had anything else quite like it anywhere. The mortadella and cheese are of high quality, the pickled peppers (Mama Lil's I think) are the perfect accompaniment, the bread is excellent, and their proprietary mustard/aioli/sauce really brings it all together. It's a real standout for me, a great balance of tastes and textures. I'm a big fan of that grilled mortadella, enough so that I keep going back (and will keep going back) for it.

#29 SarahWS

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 07:03 PM

Have folks tried the Broccoli Rabe sandwich at Lardo? It's one of my favorite things in PDX to eat. I really like the mortadella as well, but it can be a bit overwhelming if you haven't done 8 hours of physical activity prior. What amazes me about the broccoli rabe is that it is unfailingly tender without being overcooked and flavorful without being bitter although the mozzarella and sweet roasted pepper help balance it as well.

At least Sugar Cube keeps their twitter feed up to date - I know she is open if she has posts on her feed that day.

#30 Nacho_B

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 07:54 PM

Have folks tried the Broccoli Rabe sandwich at Lardo? It's one of my favorite things in PDX to eat. I really like the mortadella as well, but it can be a bit overwhelming if you haven't done 8 hours of physical activity prior. What amazes me about the broccoli rabe is that it is unfailingly tender without being overcooked and flavorful without being bitter although the mozzarella and sweet roasted pepper help balance it as well.


Hola,

I haven't had that broccoli rabe sandwich, but that sounds good. I'll put it on the list.

That's too bad you were treated unkind by the food at both Clackalak's *and* 50 licks during the same visit. I guess some days you just can't get a break, ¿verdad?. I find solace in the concept of the "theater of the absurd" when those days come my way.


Saludos

#31 SarahWS

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 08:23 PM

Yeah, that was not one of my luckiest days. I'd rather just throw it out then eat something I'm not enjoying. At least I didn't get sick like waxfang!

#32 Jill-O

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 09:49 AM

Good Food Here is in the rotation for me and GF because we can order from different carts (she can go crazy with the fat and salt at Lardo and I can get a salad at Aybla's - that's how it usually shakes out) when we are in the mood for completely different things, and it's a relatively quick $10 or less meal. The recent addition of beer has also made a difference (for her) in this choice - and I think they do really well, in part because of Lardo. ;o) The vet she uses for her dog is practically next door to the pod, and that sometimes factors into it as well...as does the fact that we can almost always find parking either in the lot or down the closest side street. And I have to admit that the grilled chicken over salad that Aybla's does is delicious and a great deal for the $$.

That said, it's not usually a first choice for us, as we agree that if we are going to spend at least $10 apiece, we'd prefer to sit down inside somewhere and have a restroom to use if needed.

I think that the creeping prices with the carts, combined with the fact that there are very few carts that produce food superior to B&M places, will lead to a huge drop-off in business once the hip-ness of "street food" wears off. I get it that good ingredients cost money and things cost what they do, but if it only takes another buck or two to go to a B&M, and the food is as good or better, why go to a cart?
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#33 ExtraMSG

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 10:15 AM

I think that the creeping prices with the carts, combined with the fact that there are very few carts that produce food superior to B&M places, will lead to a huge drop-off in business once the hip-ness of "street food" wears off. I get it that good ingredients cost money and things cost what they do, but if it only takes another buck or two to go to a B&M, and the food is as good or better, why go to a cart?


That's the issue I see going forward. When you eat on the street in a developing country, you might be spending 1/2, 1/3, or as much as 1/10 what you would pay for pretty similar food at a b&m spot. In Portland, at least at the eastside pods, you're usually spending 10% less maybe. And you're spending a lot more than you would at fast food, which means that the traditional role of street food, as a cheap and quick alternative, isn't really the case in the eastside pods. Downtown there is a lot more competition on price, I think. And most of the taco trucks still serve that traditional role. But in both cases, they're there to feed people on the go, generally workers for lunch. Very different customer base. (And one that is probably more sustainable.)

The other problem, of course, is that sometime in the next 5 or 10 years, the property value or development value of the pod locations will go up and be worth more than the rent of the carts. The savvy cart owners will, imo, use the current windfall (as much as there is one) and notoriety to move on to something that will be better in the long term.

Good Food Here is probably the best cart pod for a full meal -- not just a snack -- on the eastside and yet it rarely tempts me. I still go to taco trucks, the downtown carts, and cartopia more often because each serves their purpose better: the first two are convenient and cheap to where they are and the latter is open late for an easy snack. I live closer to the pod at Foster and 52nd and the pod at 50th and Division and have only gone to each once during this last summer because there just wasn't much to recommend them.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#34 Jill-O

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 10:24 AM

Good Food Here is probably the best cart pod for a full meal -- not just a snack -- on the eastside and yet it rarely tempts me. I still go to taco trucks, the downtown carts, and cartopia more often because each serves their purpose better: the first two are convenient and cheap to where they are and the latter is open late for an easy snack. I live closer to the pod at Foster and 52nd and the pod at 50th and Division and have only gone to each once during this last summer because there just wasn't much to recommend them.


That is true for us as well...

I miss the Cuban cart pyrofemme's husband ran on Division...that was some really good food. And yeah, if I worked downtown, I would frequent the carts there more often. I'd love to see a pod spring up near where I work now, there's nothing close-by...but there's not really a lot for a pod, either. I eat better and save $$ by bringing my lunch, though, so no biggie.
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#35 Nacho_B

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 08:49 PM

I think this experience explains, to some degree, my general burnout on carts. Prices are in the same range as Bunk, MCB, Eastmoreland Market, Laurelhurst Cafe, Sandwichworks, et al. I'd gone there twice before at seemingly normal times and they were closed. The food is pretty good, but I feel like I'd do better at any of the places mentioned above, plus get to sit indoors and be able to count on consistent hours and consistent availability of product. I just don't care enough about being part of a hip scene to go to food carts if I can't get cheaper food or better food.


That's the issue I see going forward. When you eat on the street in a developing country, you might be spending 1/2, 1/3, or as much as 1/10 what you would pay for pretty similar food at a b&m spot. In Portland, at least at the eastside pods, you're usually spending 10% less maybe. And you're spending a lot more than you would at fast food, which means that the traditional role of street food, as a cheap and quick alternative, isn't really the case in the eastside pods. Downtown there is a lot more competition on price, I think. And most of the taco trucks still serve that traditional role. But in both cases, they're there to feed people on the go, generally workers for lunch. Very different customer base. (And one that is probably more sustainable.)

The other problem, of course, is that sometime in the next 5 or 10 years, the property value or development value of the pod locations will go up and be worth more than the rent of the carts. The savvy cart owners will, imo, use the current windfall (as much as there is one) and notoriety to move on to something that will be better in the long term.


Hola ExtraMSG,

You bring up some interesting points about cart-going in general. If this ends up spinning off thread from the Good Food Here pod, then I trust you'll move this to where it belongs.

I agree completely about the inconsistency of cart hours/days of operation, and also agree that there are some top-tier sandwich shops in town that provide stiff competition and quite compelling alternatives to the carts (in addition to any number of equally excellent "non-sandwich" restaurants). Price (maybe value is a better word) is certainly also an important part of the equation.

The question, then, comes down to "why do people go to carts?". I gave that some thought. Carts are (to me at least) generally pretty quick, generally pretty easy, and generally less expensive than an actual restaurant. Some of them (which are the ones I favor) also do something unique, and they do it very well. Most of my restaurant eating is takeout (except for Asian places), and I typically eat alone. I usually just get a sandwich, torta, or some other single item/salad (hell, I even like burritos), and it's often to go. In light of that, carts are well suited for me. I often ride my bike to those locations, and I like that I can keep an eye on my bike while I'm eating or waiting for my order. I had a bicycle stolen from me once, and I have not (and will not) get over it. I could give a damn about whether a scene is hip or not. I would almost argue that the lines to get into breakfast restaurants or the most popular dinner spots represent a "hipper" scene than carts.

Oh, I also enjoy the opportunity to interact directly with the people (often the owners of the business) that prepare my order. I (mostly) eat alone, you know, so it's nice to chat with someone along the way, right? That's just me though, and you folks here must surely have realized by now that I'm not into the fine dinning aspect of eating out.

I guess the main motivation for many cart customers is price, convenience, and "ambiance" (the cart/pod experience, being outside when the weather is nice, the uniqueness of the experience and/or the crowds). With the folks on this forum, I'd assume that the quality and individuality of the food plays into it pretty heavily, but I've also seen plenty of posts referencing a particular cart's proximity to work (or vet, apparently!). Visiting out-of-town tourists may get a kick out of the "hipness" of the local food cart scene if they don't have food carts where they live. All of that is just an assumption on my part though. Why do folks go to food carts?

I think Portland will always have food carts, and there will always be a role for food carts. I agree that the pod madness (which actually seems to have simmered down some this year compared to last) is likely unsustainable. The closures, cart sales, and movement from pod to pod (Clackalack's started at SE 52nd+Foster, moved to ~NE 20th+Sandy, and then back to SE at 43rd+Belmont in less than a year, por ejemplo) all seem to point towards market saturation and unsustainabilty. However, with all of the failed, sold, migratory carts...what about Pok Pok? That started as a cart, and is moving towards an empire. Los Gorditos started as a cart and now has a restaurant (although, sadly, I must say the food quality at their cart has declined without the family there doing the cooking). Wasn't there some buzz awhile back about Nong's looking to get into a restaurant? Violetta started (and still maintains) a cart. I'm sure there are other examples of successful carts that transitioned into restaurants, whether or not they still maintain their carts. Maybe that only lends support to your idea of "getting out while the getting is good" in light of impending property values and shifting attitudes towards carts. I wonder if the future of carts (other than the downtown ones based in parking lots) is true mobility. A vehicle that changes locations every day (or at least goes home at night).

I'm not ready to completely write off carts (even the East side ones) though...but I'm not in the restaurant business! My last food service job was in 1993, and it didn't pay well or entail much in the way of responsibility (although I did enjoy it and the people I worked with). Time will tell, to be sure.

In your particular case, though, I have one cart to recommend (in spite of your cart fatigue). "Noodle House" in the SW 9th/10th downtown megapod. Try out their "spicy seafood noodle" dish. The sauce isn't quite as spicy as I'd like it, but that one gets everything else right. It's an immaculately clean cart, run by very nice (and extremely efficient) folks, with handmade fresh noodles and perfectly cooked squid with a couple of shrimp and the perfect amount of vegetables. The noodles take the center stage, but they're well supported by the rest. If you don't like it, I'll buy it for you. That might restore your faith in carts (although doubtfully completely). If nothing else, you at least get a lunch out of it.

¿Que piensas?

Saludos,
Nacho

#36 jmatt

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 10:43 PM

Nacho_B,

Excellent post.

My main beef with carts is that when I've tried to go to some, they've been closed---still can't believe how many keep weird hours in the Prost pod when they could be selling loads of food to the people drinking.

Other beef is that the food, well, just isn't all that good. I've had good stuff sure, but usually I like to sit a while, read, and drink when eating out---which usually leads to a B&M place---so the choice is pretty much made. The downtown carts servicing office workers I can totally understand and makes sense, but with the eastside pods, I think a big shakeout'll be coming, not to wish doom upon the owners.

Also, at times, other than this blog, it's hard to find good info about the carts. I don't have a lot of time or money to try 'em all, and the foodcartsportland site reads like a PR piece---I understand his business (from what I understand---could be totally wrong here) model and what they're trying to do---can't exactly sell ad space to carts you've negatively reviewed--but every piece there is glowing, and I've had some really shitty food from carts they've touted.

And totally agree with MSG's take on it---street food in lots of places is supposed to be cheap & easy---the Mexican carts & trucks do that but the rest...

#37 Catastrophysicist

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 02:10 PM

@Nacho B: Everything needed to make the griddled mortadella can be bought at Pastaworks on Hawthorne if you ever wanted to try and make one at home. mortadella, provalone piccante, mama lil's, a nice ciabatta roll or otherwise, and then however you want to dress it. It's a super-easy sandwich with a big pay-off, for sure. (This isn't to say that buying one from Lardo isn't great, also.)

#38 nervousxtian

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 03:07 PM

@Nacho B: Everything needed to make the griddled mortadella can be bought at Pastaworks on Hawthorne if you ever wanted to try and make one at home. mortadella, provalone piccante, mama lil's, a nice ciabatta roll or otherwise, and then however you want to dress it. It's a super-easy sandwich with a big pay-off, for sure. (This isn't to say that buying one from Lardo isn't great, also.)


And, for the most part would probably cost you as much to make as just getting it done at Lardo. Maybe slightly cheaper, but that's making sure to buy everything in the right qty.

#39 Catastrophysicist

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 03:12 PM

I'd wager it's more like 3:1

#40 TastyTidbits1

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 06:35 PM

I'd wager it's more like 3:1

If you're making one - very doubtful. For a crowd - definitely.