Bite Club has finally found the physical expression of our split personality-in the form of two food carts located at Southwest Park Avenue and Yamhill Street.
Dread-headed urban hippies and urbane city workers queue up outside Todd Shangold's vegan/vegetarian lunch cart, Earthbound (971-221-4598), for hearty grilled Thai tofu sandwiches packed with peanut-sauced carrot-and-cabbage slaw, crumbly vegan chocolate-chip cookies and, coming up this fall, spicy, fragrant soups. "We're trying to make food for everybody," Shangold says, and by the taste of it, he's succeeding. The cook makes seriously great fake meat, from moist vegan meatballs slathered in herby marinara sauce to texturally accurate barbecue created from his own housemade boiled pulled seitan (yes, that usually gluey veggie-wheat meat). We swear Shangold's a magician-like the frickin' Criss Angel of faux proteins.
Shangold, 26, a Connecticut native, credits his kitchen chops to his mom-and his love of experimentation. He attended the Western Culinary Institute in 2003 but traded the school's kitchens for lessons in its business program. "They couldn't teach me what I wanted to learn," he says. "I wasn't gonna spend $30,000 to learn how to cook beef and pork."
Less than three feet away from Shangold's meat-free zone, the Bite experienced the other end of the culinary spectrum, courtesy of Good Olde Tyme Food-a grease-spattered throwback to the Rose Festival Fun Center. Gluttons hog the vowel-happy cart's three sidewalk tables, gorging on burn-your-tongue-hot curly fries, jalapeño poppers and fish 'n' chips.
Basically, if ever there was a food you'd crave when you're drunk, Olde Tyme proprietress Cheryl Gaze is probably already dunking it in her deep fat fryer all afternoon long. This ain't ironic bar grub, either. Gaze, a single mom with six kids to look out for, started serving up her wares last year at regional fairs near her home in Castle Rock, Wash. The would-be carnie set up shop next to Earthbound just last week. The Bite Club's fave Olde Tyme treat? Snoballs, a crumbly shaved-ice hybrid of dubious Southern origin. Gaze douses her $2 ices with cherry, watermelon and other sickly sweet syrups. No, it's not gourmet. Yes, it's like a saccharine sponge bath in a cup. And that's why we like it.
Sadly, our Snoball fetish may be short-lived. Olde Tyme's ice machine has been blowing the fuses at, not Earthbound, but yet another neighboring food cart. Gaze says she's promised to keep her Snoballs off the market until she secures her own power line, which may cost around $1,400. Therefore, for the sake of the Bite's icy summertime sugar fix, go nab an order-or two or 42-of artery-cloggin' chicken strips.
The contrast between seitan and Snoballs, cabbage slaw and curly fries is what is blowing Bite Club's mental fuses. Here's hoping for a long march for Portland's gastronomical odd couple.