Tommy Klus wasn't prepared for the puke emojis.
When Eater PDX posted a link to a story on its Facebook page in late May, announcing that the owner of Southeast Portland cocktail bar Scotch Lodge was preparing to reopen its kitchen for a new takeout service called Oui Chippy, it included a photo of a french fry sandwich it planned to serve. The virtual dog pile began almost immediately.
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"It certainly wasn't meant to be a controversial sandwich by any means," Klus says. "But there's some people who just think it looks gross and sounds gross."
On its face, the chip butty ($6) is an abomination. The U.K. fish-and-chip shop staple consists of two slabs of white bread slathered with butter—aka the "butty"—and jammed with what looks like enough sliced spuds to fill an entire fryer basket. It's the kind of double-starch stack you would have devoured as a kid while hopped up on Jolt soda and AirHeads. But local sandwich trolls have dubbed the spongy heap of carbs undignified for post-adolescent consumption. As one commenter suggested, it's a meal fit only for a sauced mob of "soccer hooligans."
Klus first encountered the butty in 2011, during an internship at a Scottish distillery. At first, he was curious. Then he got excited.
"I love potatoes and fries in general. Put them between two pieces of bread and it sounds bad, but it's actually really good," says Klus. "It's definitely comfort food. And it's cheap."
With its bulging brown jumble of fries creating an edible Tetris wall, the chip butty will never win any beauty contests. But the flavors—buttery and salty, with just a hint of sweetness provided by the humble Russet—are addictive and almost soothingly nostalgic for anyone who grew up cramming potato chips into peanut butter sandwiches. Chef de cuisine Tim Artale also infuses the British creation with Asian flavors by using a spread with Vietnamese apple vinegar, as well as an accompanying Worcestershire sauce for dipping that swaps out the traditional anchovies for fish sauce.
For those who just can't get over the idea, though, there are plenty of other options on Oui Chippy's menu, which is likely to remain as Scotch Lodge's focus through summer. Weeks of research and multiple approaches went into developing a ling cod that is thick and flaky on the inside while remaining crispy and sweet on the exterior, because once it's placed in a to-go box, every second is spent "fighting steam," Klus says.
And while you can't pursue the library of whiskeys right now, there are low-ABV cocktails available in vacuum-sealed bags, like the Frozen Sherry Painkiller, which is similar to a Hawaiian sunset, tinged in pineapple and coconut with a dash of nutmeg to ward off the chill, but swapping rum for Amontillado sherry to make it legal to sell to-go.
"We just wanted something fun and playful," says Klus. "These have been depressing and scary times. Things have continued to evolve in ways I don't think any of us could have imagined. That was the spirit behind [Oui Chippy]. Trying to get the team back and do something fun and playful that people can get excited about."
But about that butty:
"We don't try to even mess around with baking that in-house," says chef de cuisine Tim Artale. "We leave that to the pros." In this case, he means a Vietnamese bakery in the Foster-Powell neighborhood called An Xuyên. The chip butty is traditionally bound by a white bread, but Oui Chippy decided to give its interpretation a twist by using spongy yet sturdy milk loaves.
Artale starts with unsalted butter and then seasons it with sea salt, lemon juice for a little kick of acidity, Vietnamese apple vinegar, and white vinegar powder. "Ideally," he says, "it would kind of be a slightly South Asian riff on a salt-and-vinegar potato chip."
The gold standard potato for the french fry is the Russet, thanks to its perfect combination of starch and moisture. Artale cuts his spuds to 3/8 of an inch before rinsing the external starch off and letting them "hang tight" in cold water for about 12 hours. The fries get double-dipped in the fryer, first in low-temperature oil—around 250 degrees—for an initial blanching, and then again, to order, at 360 degrees for a nice crunch.
ORDER: Oui Chippy at Scotch Lodge, 215 SE 9th Ave., Suite 102, 503-208-2039, ouichippy.com. 4-8 pm Wednesday-Saturday. Takeout: See website.