Okay, so I did a local post last time, now back to my most recent trip to Oregon. There’s been a lot of talk recently about Portland being the best food city in America. I don’t know about that because my own travels have been fairly limited, but it’s pretty damned good. It’s definitely the epicenter of street food in this half of the country. Still, even with several trips to Stumptown over the last few years and 200 or so vendors to choose from, I’d never had any street eats there. I decided to remedy that on my most recent excursion, so after hitting Starbucks so Miss Golden Rule could get coffee and breakfast (oh the humanity), we took a detour to downtown PDX on our way to the Coast. I had done my homework and narrowed it down to a couple of eateries I wanted to try in different areas of town, so I just went with the one that sounded the most enticing to me at that particular moment: The Frying Scotsman.
The Frying Scotsman is part of a cluster of food carts (called “pods” for some reason I haven’t seen explained; there are several scattered around the city) on Alder Street between SW 9th and 10th Avenue. It’s a very cramped block with a lot of options. You want Thai? Vietnamese? Chinese? Middle Eastern? Mexican? Creole? Mediterranean? How about just a high-end grilled cheese sandwich? All of that and more is available. The Scotsman is well known for his British style fish and chips, but that isn’t why I was there. You see, this cart is also known for their version of haggis, a special which eventually found its way onto the regular menu. Now before you clamp your hand over your mouth in horror, there are some differences between this version and the traditional. First of all, no lungs. We seem to take a dim view of lungs in cuisine in this country. Second, it’s not just a big lump of boiled offal; true to the cart’s theme, this haggis is deep fried. I ordered one, with a deep fried Mars bar on the side.
Now just because I like talking about my food last, let’s talk about my traveling companions. The little one had decided to gamble on skipping Starbucks and seeing what was available at the pod. She was overwhelmed by the sheer variety of options (not to mention so many she had never encountered before), and I steered her toward Island Grill Hawaiian Barbecue based on my knowledge of her tastes.
She trusted my suggestion of the Kalua Pork Plate Lunch. She was happy enough with it, but she hasn’t brought it up again and again in the time since the way she will when something really grabs her. I thought the pork was a little bland, the rice okay but plain (I’ve gotten spoiled by the furikake garnish provided by Island Kine Grinds). None of us liked the mac salad. Overall it was good but not great, which is in keeping with reviews on the aggregate sites.
Directly next door to Island Grill is a veggie-focused cart called The Whole Bowl, which MGR couldn’t resist the urge to sample in spite of just having eaten breakfast. Luckily, they have two sizes available (with a whole fifty cent difference in price). Still, the prices are reasonable and they’re kind of a big deal. You don’t see a chain of food carts very often, and Whole Bowl has half a dozen in various places around town. They sell one item, a mix of…well, I’ll just let them tell you: “The Whole Bowl is a comforting and healthy medley of brown rice, red and black beans, fresh avocado, salsa, black olives, sour cream, Tillamook cheddar, cilantro, Tali Sauce and trace amounts of attitude”. Cute, eh? But what is Tali Sauce, you might ask (or might not, doesn’t matter)? I defer to the experts once again: “Tali Sauce is The Whole Bowl’s secret weapon. Referred to by many as highly addictive, this lemony-garlicky blend has been tantalizing tastebuds in the Pearl, Downtown and at the new Hawthorne location, for more than twelve years. Sauce devotees have been known to experience a prolonged sense of well-being and tremendous relaxation upon consumption”.
Sounds like a hot load of horseshit, no? Well MGR loved it. Even your not-so-humble narrator was taken with it, to the point that it’s the first vegetarian dish that I’ve found myself randomly craving for quite some time. They also have a vegan version, if you’re into that. Of course, if you ARE into that, this would be a good time to stop reading.
And now we have come full circle and struck organ meat. I apologize for the crappy picture, it makes my haggis look like a small snack. Trust me, those chips are the size of steak fries, and the main course was as big as a good-sized sausage. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
The only thing I know for certain is that there’s no sheep lungs involved, but beyond that I can’t be certain because the menu gives no specifics. I can only guess that the traditional heart, liver, onion, oatmeal, suet, and spices are involved. What I can tell you is that this is a heavy, meaty, gamy foodstuff, funky in the way that only organ meat is. I’m glad I tried it, but I wouldn’t order it again. It’s just too much. I loved it at first, and my love dissipated as I continued eating it. It’s just too damned rich. If you have a friend you can split one with or you’re just really into this kind of stuff, then by all means order it. Me, I tend to travel with more conservative palates. I should say that the chips were excellent, and that the batter might be the best I’ve ever come across. If I cross paths with the Scotsman again, I’m definitely ordering fish. If I can choose between the cod, haddock, and halibut, that is.
The other change I would make is ordering the deep-fried Mars bar AFTER I finished my meal. By the time we collected everyone else’s eats and I finished my own my dessert was no longer piping hot or melty, which is what you’re going for here. It was still yummy, though I was wondering what the hell became of the almonds. Turns out that the UK Mars differs a bit from the one I grew up eating here in the U.S., so I guess it really is true that you learn something new every day.
In summation, I heartily recommend The Frying Scotsman and The Whole Bowl, and would suggest Island Grill for those who can’t find anything more tempting at the Alder pod.