Clam chowder generates strong opinions. Adding tomatoes to clam chowder in place of cream (making it "Manhattan-style") was at one point so contentious that, in 1939, the Maine state Legislature introduced a bill to ban the practice. 

Portland chowder purists will be pleased with Chowdah. Chris Langley, owner and chef at the Sellwood food cart, spent 26 years living just north of Boston. In the heart of New England, where local parlance drops R's altogether (hence the name), clam chowder is made with a rich, creamy base. "I absolutely refuse to make Manhattan clam chowder," Langley says. “Especially after the Giants beat my Patriots again.” 

Langley's chowder, which took home a top prize in Lompoc's annual Chowder Challenge in 2006, is creamy without being stew-thick, and pleasingly salty. It boasts all the standard ingredients—onions, potatoes, celery and tender clams—as well as the all-too-Portland addition of bacon, which adds a subtle smokiness. 

Keeping with the Northeastern theme, Langley also grills up Philly cheesesteaks topped with traditional American cheese. While it might have been a good sandwich, all I could taste was the tongue-coating slime of processed cheese. If you need a sandwich to complement your soup, opt for the "Killah Grilled Cheese," which comes on bread from Marsee Baking and can be customized with a variety of cheeses and toppings. 

Langley offers a soup du jour as well, such as a tasty roasted red pepper bisque. But the reason to go is the wicked good clam chowder.

  1. Order this: New England clam chowder ($3 cup, $5 bowl, $10 quart).
  2. I’ll pass: Philly cheesesteak sandwich ($7). 

EAT: Chowdah, 7875 SE 13th Ave., 867-2475, Facebook. 11 am-8 pm Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 am-9 pm Thursday-Saturday. $.