As far as convenience-store cuisine is concerned, nothing beats fried chicken and jojos. The chicken-jojo gold standard is the broasted combo at Reel M Inn, but you've got to wait up to an hour for it—making the heat-lamp convenience store staple worth looking into. This list is by no means exhaustive: Hot-plate jojos are ill-recorded everywhere, and we look forward to hearing about favorites we missed.
Alberta Market [BEST OVERALL! BEST JOJOS!]
909 NE Alberta St., 503-282-2169. Sunday-Thursday 8 am-11 pm, Friday-Saturday 8 am-12 am.
$5 for wings and jojos, plus a side of ranch
Among Portland quirks, knowing that Alberta Market sells damn good fried chicken and jojos is somewhere between knowing which DMV to use and that there's a Voodoo Doughnut with "barely any line" on the east side. This is the only stop on the list that sold wings as the primary protein, but once you've had a bite of their meaty, juicy flesh you won't want to waste your time with anything else. The jojos skew on the narrow side, with a rich potato flavor up front and a salty finish that was almost spicy on a few bites. James, the man behind the counter on two visits, claims he tries to have them ready by 10:45 am every day, but we weren't able to cop any until around 11:30 on two separate visits. Get there before late afternoon, because they usually sell out, and for good reason.
Cullen's Corner [BEST VALUE!]
4938 N Albina St., 503-287-0542. Monday-Saturday 8 am-10 pm, Sunday 9 am-10 pm.
$3.99 for a breast and jojos, plus a $.50 fee for using a credit card
The jojos at Cullen's were a tad bland, but their firm texture was complemented nicely by being served piping hot on our visit at 10:15 in the morning. What's truly outstanding at Cullen's is the size of the chicken breast available. You'll marvel at the sweet, delicious steroids. It's also a hell of a value proposition.
Fred Meyer [BEST CHICKEN!]
3805 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-872-3300, fredmeyer.com. Open daily 7 am-11 pm.
$3.99 for a breast and two sides
A fresh chicken breast from your neighborhood Fred Meyer will make you ponder the time you've spent waiting at Screen Door—while salty juices drizzle down your chin. The jojos were hit or miss, with a tendency to be rubbery and lifeless from sitting under a heat lamp all day. But the fried chicken is great at all hours. Maybe Fred Meyer should consider a fried chicken and jojo food cart parked in front of the Country Cat?
Mad Greek Deli
1740 E Burnside St., 503-232-0274, madgreekdeli.com. Monday-Thursday 10 am-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 10 am-10 pm, Sunday 9:30 am-7 pm.
$7 for a breast and small Greek Fries
Mad Greek isn't a convenience store, but fries are available instantly for take-out. And though the spuds they sell alongside their chicken are referred to as Greek Fries, we'll call a spade a spade. The jojos were of the longer, hand-cut, skin-on variety, yielding a fresh and very potato-y flavor more akin to boardwalk fries than the frozen, pre-made variety we suspect most smaller operations are using. Not to mention Mad Greek's signature garlicky, creamy "Omega Sauce" feels almost like cheating, We whiffed on copping a chicken breast three different times, though: The construction workers nearby have put a daily strain on Mad Greek's hot case offerings. Still, the chicken tenders were juicy, amply seasoned and fresh. Call ahead and see what's left in the hot box.
1835 NE 33rd Ave., 503-284-9901, qfc.com. Daily 5 am-midnight.
$4.39 for a breast and half-pound of jojos
The jojos at Freddy's insomniac cousin were exactly the same, but the batch we snagged at 3 pm on a Thursday was noticeably fresher. Unfortunately, the chicken lacked juice. It's likely a crapshoot choosing between one or the other, but logic dictates that a much busier Fred Meyer would churn through the goods faster, leading to more consistent jojo freshness.
5020 NE 82nd Ave., 503-253-2760. Monday-Friday 7 am-midnight, Saturday-Sunday 8 am-midnight.
$4.78 for a small pile of jojos and a breast
It took a fair amount of haranguing to convince the little old lady behind the counter to fire up the fryer and cook us a pair of breasts at 11:30 am on a Wednesday. The chicken was crispy and well worth the wait, but jojos were average at best: The enjoyable seasoning was tanked by undercooking.
5002 SE Woodward St., 503-235-8642. Monday-Friday 7 am-10 pm, Saturday-Sunday 8 am-10 pm.
$4 for two chicken strips and what was left of their jojos
Scarcity was a notable trend at smaller markets in nice neighborhoods, which is the reason 50th Market gets low marks. It took three visits to score a pair of chicken strips and a small serving of jojo remnants—all of which were rubbery, bland and sad. The one thing that salvaged the experience at 50th Market was a pretty tasty samosa ($3.50), which was rich with seasoning and a gooey mess of potato mush.
Hollywood Food Mart
1510 NE 42nd Ave., 503-287-0550, Monday-Thursday , 6 am-midnight, Friday 6 am-2 am, Saturday 7 am-2 am, Sunday 7 am-midnight.
$4.15 for two tenders and jojos
The market of this busy 76 station near the Hollywood MAX stop bustles with folks picking up smokes and loose cans of Bud Ice, which means the hot case sees a lot of action. Two visits were fruitless, and on the third we got chicken strips reminiscent of a bad middle-school lunch, plus a handful of soggy, undercooked jojos with a burnt finish.
2800 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-236-7070, safeway.com. Open daily 5 am-1 am.
Having enjoyed Safeway's bargain-priced breakfast burrito—$2.99 with a pair of jojos—we thought an early batch of jojos would yield favorable results. It did not. The jojos we scored at 9:45 am were soggy, flavorless and downright unpleasant to chew, while the chicken breast was rubbery, dry and vaguely reminiscent of charred Tofurkey. It's like the worst of both worlds!