Times Visited: 3
When I was a silly, young vegetarian, I declared french fries my favorite food. From the mall food court, to unmentionable chains, and even diners, it was true! I later learned that french fries shouldn’t be a food group, but the adoration is still there.
Portland has a lot of contenders for best french fry purveyor – from the classic fries at Dots with their spicy tofu sauce, seasoned fries at Bonfire, garlic at Goodfoot, super crispy at Hungry Tiger Too, rustic at Pause, and classics at Burgerville, you can get your greasy, salty fix in any neighborhood until the early morning. Portland’s newest french fry fix, the Potato Champion cart, is now open for business and definitely in the running for best fried potato sticks.
The cart is located in the corner in the food cart dominated park lot at SE 12th and SE Hawthorne Street. It’s brightly painted with a blue sky and green rolling hills and the smell of fries drifts from blocks away, bringing you closer and closer. Options consist of fries, soda, dips, and gravy for the fries. The fries are Belgian frites style, having been cooked twice in oil. They are handed down from the cart’s window, with basic condiments like ketchup, mustard, and salt available on an outer ledge.
The fries are sold straight up as small ($3.50) and large cones ($4.50). Getting to the point, the fries are reliably crispy, hot, and fairly salty. They don’t taste like bland, old potatoes – they taste like golden strips of potato. They’re greasier than you might expect, because they’re quickly fried upon your order and then abruptly drained of oil. Fresh out of a fryer is either going to strike you as appetizing or appalling; you either dig fried potatoes, or you don’t.
The downside to the cone was experienced on a of couple visits: the very, very bottom fries were all what could be called stragglers: 1/2 inch of less pieces of overcooked potato, but the rest were perfect! The cone is somewhat easy to walk around with if you’re comfortable with either dumping condiments on top or going bare. If you’re lucky, the cart’s picnic table or tree stump-style seating circle will be available for easy going munching and dipping.
Each order of fries comes with one sauce of choice, and additional sauce is available for 50 cents a piece. The vegan choices include horseradish ketchup, Vegenaise, djion mustard, and a surprisingly mild rosemary truffle ketchup. My dining partner and I were ready to be negatively overwhelmed by the rosemary truffle-ness, but we really liked it. The two of us barely made 1/4 of a dent in the dip as well, opting for regular ketchup every so often. A vegan peanut satay sauce is in the works, and regular ketchup and mustard are totally free.
Small and large cups of vegan Poutine ($4.00 and $5.00) are made up of fries, vegan gravy, and chunks of Follow Your Heart cheddar. The gravy is housemade with a thin base of vegetable stock, balsamic vinegar, and onions. It’s tangier than something you’d put on your vegan biscuits, and even more pungent when you bite into the cheeze. The salty fries do get soggy, as is the tradition with gravy fries, but the meal does come with a fork. Share with a friend to keep the fries going into your mouth somewhat crispy. Half of a small vegan Poutine was more than enough for me, and the flavor combinations were nothing I’d crave in the future, but big points for creativity and thoughtfulness. I’d like to hear what others think of it!
Not only is this a cart that makes you fresh, hot fries, but they’re getting vegan friendlier by the week! We’ve only been graced with Potato Champion since April, and it’s like every week they add something new and vegan. The cart is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6pm-midnight and Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm-2am. Perfect for picking up after a bar crawl or late night with friends.While the mature vegan in me says these fries are for splitting and are not a meal, there’s a voice inside saying ‘yes they are!’
It’s not like you’re going to visit the cart with a side salad in hand!
After his first few bites of Belgian fries, my dining companion instructed me to hit him over the head with a baseball bat if he ever contemplated baking fries in an oven again. Living within walking distance, he simply needs to hold out and eat healthy through Sunday-Tuesday!
Large Cone of Fries
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Location: SE 12th and SE Hawthorne Parking Lot, Portland, OR
Hours: Wednesday-Thursday 6pm-1am, Friday and Saturday 6pm-3am