The best bird at Run Chicken Run is painted, not plated. Does any Portland food cart have better art than the man-sized rooster scurrying across this trailer's wall? A vibration of bright colors in sharp lines, the mural is a siren's song calling us easily amused dupes to the window as effectively as a bad pun. That the cart houses impressively above-average Thai food is a pleasant surprise.
Happily, the plates are as bright as the artwork, packed with fresh flavors. Run Chicken Run doesn't skimp on ingredients like big, thick slices of orange bell pepper mixed in with the rice noodles in the pad kee mao ($6.50), or several hearty stalks of basil in the spicy basil rice plate ($6.50). A cucumber-sized slice of galangal root—Thai ginger—in the creamy tom kha soup ($5) might be most impressive of all. It's a quality seasoning, and Run Chicken Run is clearly using a lot of it to give the lemongrass-and-coconut broth soaking about a cup of mushrooms its earthy flavor. (If you find a piece of the root in your bowl, don't bite it.)
As implied by the name, chicken is the only meat on the menu. Tofu is the other protein option, but the pieces in our salad rolls ($3.50) were a little soft and gummy for my taste. Stick with the house speciality unless you're a vegetarian. On a related note, if you're looking for some kick, you can feel comfortable asking for "Thai hot," as ordering your meal "very spicy" doesn't draw much fire.
The chicken itself is in uniformly small, juicy chunks. It's tasty, but tends to blend in with the rice and noodles, as bold herbs and crisp vegetables actually run the show even as a rooster gets the glory.
- Order this: Pad kee mao with chicken ($6.50), a large platter of stir-fried rice noodles with great seasoning.
- Iâll pass: Salad rolls with tofu ($3.50) are packed with carrots and have a wonderful creamy peanut sauce, but the tofu chunks are too gummy.
EAT: Run Chicken Run is at the A La Carts food pavilion, Southeast 50th Avenue south of Division Street. 839-6095. alacartspdx.com. $.