Viking Soul Food Sets Sail in a New Brick-and-Mortar Location

Let’s all raise a horn of mead in celebration.

Viking chic is everywhere these days, from Marvel’s Thor to CBS’s Ghosts to the resplendent beards and manes of many Major League Baseball players. Vikings: so hot right now! As always, we’re ahead of the curve in the Rose City. Portland’s own Viking Soul Food, now a long-standing member of The Bite on Belmont food pod, opened in 2010. In late 2022, owners Megan Walhood and Jeremy Daniels expanded, opening the first brick-and-mortar location of Viking in Southeast Portland.

The new location is in a former taqueria on a bustling stretch of Southeast Woodstock Boulevard between Double Mountain Brewery and a New Seasons. This outpost has many things the food cart does not: indoor seats, a liquor license, and ready-made items, including a beet-based hot sauce named after Thor’s mythically unpronounceable hammer.

The space is not big; it’s more longship than great hall. Inside are about eight seats, most of which surround the open kitchen. An additional two picnic tables provide some breathing room outside, but it’s a tight squeeze. Upon entry, the ambience is more hygge than hip. Mushroom stew bubbled away on the stove top. A stack of books with titles such as Fire + Ice and Entertaining the Finnish Way sat by a bottle of mead and two shot glasses carved from the horns of…something. That mead, by the way, is made nearby by Wyrd Leatherworks and Meadery. It’s described on the menu as a “great intro” to mead, a designation Viking Soul Food’s pickled herring rather pointedly does not receive.

All of this isn’t to say the soul food aspect is absent. Rather, it’s the restaurant’s secret superpower, boosting otherwise austere dishes. The Troll Snack ($15) comes on dark rye crackers, topped with a Jarlsberg-and-garlic spread. It’s a mouth-puckerer, the ideal after-school snack for an elementary school kid who already gets a 5 o’clock shadow. I loved the pickled egg, which I heretofore knew only as a gag on The Simpsons. Viking Soul Food’s version is brined with beets, giving the finished product a lovely lavender hue. It looks like it should be on the box of a Paas Easter egg dyeing kit, but it tastes great, with a fudgy yolk that’s covered with black pepper mayo, an orange dollop of salmon caviar, and a shower of fresh dill.

Many items on Viking Soul Food’s menu come surrounded by a lefse, a delicate wrap made with potatoes, butter and flour. Traditionally, lefse are heated on a griddle before they are served fresh with butter and sugar. In the olden days, lefse would be dried to last throughout the winter or a long sea voyage. Today, you can just order at the counter, no oceangoing or rowing needed. If the culinary history (or gluten) is too much for you, all of the larger entrees also arrive as salad plates.

The versatility of the lefse works wonders, adding lightness to the savory wraps and giving heft to the kid-friendly, sweeter iterations. The lefse is more like a crepe than a flour tortilla in texture, so it never overwhelms and merely complements the accompanying ingredients. In something as traditional as the smoked steelhead ($13), it recedes in the background, supporting the crunch of the greens and the tartness of the pickled shallots and dill crème fraîche. Ditto for the tender pork-and-beef Norwegian meatballs ($13), served with gjetost (a caramelized goat cheese with a hint of sweetness) and pickled purple cabbage, as well as the wine-braised pork sausage of the pølse ($12), with Jarlsberg, mustard and lingonberries.

Those iconic lingonberries also appear inside the sweet lefse ($8), filled with a tart jam and cream cheese or a lemon custard. These are intensely homey and comforting, ideal for littler Vikings. Both fillings are in the excellent thumbprint cookies ($4), too, served with an ample squirt jam or custard in the center. When available, the special winter wrap ($8), with roasted apples, honey, walnuts and chèvre is likely the most pleasing dessert for an adult palate.

What Viking Soul Food lacks in seating it makes up for in heart. Years after their “you got chocolate in my peanut butter” inception putting meatballs inside a lefse, Walhood and Daniels are now loving ambassadors of Scandinavian street food. Giving it their own spin, they turned Viking Soul Food into a Portland institution along the way. Let’s all raise a horn of mead in celebration.

EAT: Viking Soul Food, 4422 SE Woodstock Blvd., 971-430-0171, 11 am-7 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-8 pm Friday-Saturday.

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.