Presto! Change-o! Sea Breeze Farm’s Northwest Portland “Magic Meat Truck” has transmogrified.
Formerly a once- or twice-a-week street corner pop-up, the mobile butchery has now taken up full-time residence in a former bagel shop across Northwest Thurman Street from the now-shuttered Food Front grocery store. The bigger news is that proprietors Rose Allred and George Page have added an on-site restaurant called Coq au Vin to their portfolio along with a host of provisions to accompany your butchery and restaurant buys.
For those still unfamiliar with the Magic Meat Truck story, Allred and Page are a most remarkable pair. From their suitably named Neverstill Farm in Birkenfeld, Ore.—in the middle of the state’s upper west Columbia County hump—they have been producing a wide range of fresh meat, charcuterie and more for sale at farmers markets and elsewhere in Seattle and Portland. The truck serves as both a practical, well-appointed point of sale and a rolling conversation starter, far more familiar to French countryside towns than American cities, even a “weird” one like Portland.
Not only have the couple managed this enterprise, mostly by themselves, but they have been raising a young family: four children under the age of 7. As if to emphasize the point, Allred gave birth to their fourth child shortly after getting the Thurman space up and running in July. She was back at work within a day or two, an unsurprising fact if you know her.
The new setup is unlike anything else in town. The truck dispenses its wares either from a designated loading zone on the street or from a bay inside the space. Displays of seasonal produce, provisions, baguettes, wine and flowers reside nearby. Elsewhere on the premises is a small kitchen, where Page holds court during meal hours. The dining room, such as it is, features a few scattered tables and chairs, plus miscellaneous tchotchkes. At first, there were no employees, just Allred and Page and possibly one of the kids wandering through, with or without a toy in hand. A few staffers came on board at the end of August.
Chaotic informality aside, the spur-of-the-moment meal I had in early August was as enjoyable as can be. It was after 8 pm, so I had the space to myself, save for a few passersby either ogling the truck’s meat case or stopping short to ask Allred a question and then purchasing a few items. At a more recent dinner, the food was just as good, but the chaos seems to have subsided as systems have been dialed in. The summer street scene on Northwest Thurman has long been vibrant—there’s no shortage of neighbors out for a walk and a meal—so Coq au Vin’s location is a solid choice, and its offerings complement menus at nearby standout restaurants like St. Jack and Phuket Cafe.
As impressive as the Allred-Page rolling revue has been to date, this new venture shifts things into another gear. Page’s stove-side stylings at Coq au Vin deserve much of the credit. His tomato salad ($17) is enriched with heavy cream, red onion and plenty of black pepper; the tomato soup ($16) is a coarse-chopped purée savory with summer herbs; and the beef pasta ($25) features a hearty portion of Page’s own fresh, wide-cut egg noodles and braised short rib flavored with a touch of orange zest, topped with grated Parmesan and fresh basil. It was a perfect shimmer of summer. Reservations and walk-ins are welcome.
The more permanent location of the Sea Breeze Farm Magic Meat Truck and the opening of Coq au Vin are a boon to the food-loving neighborhood and worthy of a visit from elsewhere in town. It will be interesting to see the tricks Allred and Page have up their sleeves once we slip beyond the sunny season.
EAT: Coq au Vin and the Magic Meat Truck, 2376 NW Thurman St., seabreeze.farm/cav. Truck 11 am-7 pm, restaurant 3-9 pm daily.