Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with Taylor Ham on a hard roll from New Jersey, which joined the union on December 18, 1787.
The state: New Jersey, the Garden State, more recently famous for its Snookis. New Jersey is most oft depicted as the home to gabagool and guidos, but NJ natives lobbied hard for the inclusion of Taylor Ham instead. Weâre thankful they did.
The food: The âPork Roll,â a breakfast sandwich made with Taylor Ham. Taylor ham is a processed pork product called a ârollâ because a federal law passed the year Upton Sinclairâs The Jungle was published stopped Taylor from selling it as âham.â That pork roll is pan-fried, put onto a hard roll with egg and cheese, then garnished with ketchup and mustard.
Other dishes considered and rejected: Gabagool sandwich, spaghetti and meatballs, a slightly lesser version of New York pizza, âripperâ style hot dogs, Jersey breakfast dogs, Italian hot dogs, bubblegum-flavored salt water taffy.
Get it from: Tasty N Sons, John Gorhamâs bruncherie that was named 2011 Restaurant of the Year in WWâs Restaurant Guide, which, sadly, is now Portlandâs only annual guide to the 100 best restaurants in town. On a recent Saturday morning, the dining room on North Williams was packed wall-to-wall with foodies, couples and young families ordering polenta for breakfast. Tasty puts its fresh-from-Jersey pork product onto a poppy seed-crusted hard roll with a slice of bright orange cheese and a fried egg, then plates it on a wooden cutting board with a saucer of crispy hash browns and tiny bowls of ketchup and mustard, neither of which is needed. Itâs a vaguely decadent breakfast sandwich that didnât leave me sluggish. More than anything, it left me thinking about how, when it comes to pork sausageâjust like neighborhoods in northern New Jerseyâthereâs a very fine line between the upscale and terribly cheap.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.