My wife and I decided to take a last-minute weekend trip to Portland, Oregon after hearing so much about the amazing food scene, nature walks, and something called "changing of the seasons", which we don't really get here in LA. Apparently, leaves change color, fall on the ground, and then drops of water fall from the sky - incredible!
Anyway, our first stop right off the plane were some food carts up the street from our hotel. The food carts are an awesome way for the locals to grab a tasty, and pretty cheap bite, on the go. In some areas, like SE Division, they even build out the entire parking lot and make it a community eating place with picnic tables, beer stands, and a variety of great foods, from hot dogs, burgers and gyros to ramen, sushi, and burritos. I feel like a concept like this would do really well in places like Downtown LA, Silverlake or Highland Park to replace those gross mall food courts.
We got to try three places for lunch: Aybla Grill, Bing Mi, and Nong's Khao Man Gai.
Aybla Grill | SW 10th Ave & SW Alder St. | ayblagrill.com
Lamb gyros seem to be really popular in Portland, and this place was no exception. Their most popular item is the Super Lamb Gyro, which is a huge gyro wrap with all the fixins, including, tzatziki, onion, parsley and tomato. Since we were trying a few places, we went for a regular Gyro and added feta cheese.
As you can see, this thing was just a delicious mess. Instead of shaved lamb off the spit, they serve the lamb in big tender chunks. The tzatziki and feta cheese are absolutely vital to this sandwich. It was really good, especially after our flight, but I've got to say that I expected some more pop. Still, very good.
DishRanker Lamb Gyro Score: +2
Bing Mi | SW 9th & SW Alder | bingmiportland.com
Next up was a Jian Bing at Bing Mi. I have never tasted, heard or seen such a thing, and those are always the best things to try. A Jian Bing is a massive crepe with a freshly cracked egg, with black been paste (hoisen), chili sauce, pickled vegetables, green onion, cilantro, and a crispy fried cracker all rolled up together. You can also add sausage, and make it extra spicy.
I can easily say that this was one of my favorite things I ate all weekend. The combination of textures, with the fluffy crepe and egg to the crispy cracker, and flavors of chili sauce, plum sauce, hoisen and onion was mind blowing. Every time you take a bite, you taste and feel different things, and you'll just want to keep going back for more. Good work.
If I had one of these places in LA, I'd go every morning for breakfast. Anyone know of a Jian Bing place in LA???
DishRanker JIan Bing Score: +3
Nong's Khao Man Gai | SW 10th & SW Alder St. | khaomangai.com
Last was the place that you see on every Portland food cart list, so we had to try it out. I've had chicken and rice before, and it is a great simple dish to have on a cold day. After ordering, the girl just grabbed a package of paper, put it in the box, and handed it over. Not a good start.
Look, I get it. The flavors in chicken and rice are not supposed to blow you away, but honestly, I don't see why this is on every food cart list. First, the chicken is pre-cooked and packed in paper. If I'm ordering from a cart, I'd like it to be made to order and hot. Second, the chicken didn't have the distinct flavors of a Hainanese Chicken and Rice dish. I liked the fact that this was served with some hot soup, but it was not all that exciting. Of all the choices at these food carts, I see no reason to come here unless you really feel like having just that - chicken and rice.
DishRanker Chicken Rice Score: 0