Bombay Chaat House

Bombay Chaat House Brief Review
Overall Service Food Quality Atmosphere Vegan Options
9.6 10 9 10 9.5
Location: SW 12th and SW Yamhill parking lot Portland, OR 97205
Hours: 11am-6pm M-F, 11am-4pm Sat Times Visited: 3

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Whatever side of the original India Chaat House break up you were on, or couldn’t care less about, the new Bombay Chaat House is where the more reliably delicious lunch special is being served. Three lunch visits have brought about this confirmation that was more like a revelation, for a former India Chaat House (ICH) groupie, no less.  Check out the comments on this Portland Food Carts post for more talk on the split.

Hungry and coming up to the corner of SW 12th and Yamhill, you’re faced with two options.  The original ICH, a dear cart that was our first review ever, and the bold red and green newcomer to its left.  The old co-owner, Avtar, of the original cart and her family opened this new cart next to the ICH, which is under new management.  The two Big Big Big Lunch Specials I’ve experienced at the original, since the split, have been alright, but I have to admit that overall the food was blander and and lacked spice, the naan was tougher, and the rice just wasn’t the same.  I don’t know if they were simply using a cheaper variety of rice or Abtar took the magic spices with her, but it wasn’t something my fork wanted to return to.

My first lunch special ($5.00) from the Bombay Chaat House (BCC) was served quickly by a friendly young man I’ve seen before at the original ICH, and it almost blew my mind how much better it was than my last two meals on that block.  It had the same components as its neighbors, naturally: it was served in a plastic container, it was gigantic, there was naan, three dishes and rice.  Yet never before had I thought, “I could eat a bowl of this thick Dal Tarka”, but here the thought crossed my mind.  The rice was fluffy, the portion of deep spinach Saag was generous, and the Aloo Channa was wonderfully saucy and the best version of the dish I could remember in years.  And the naan – it was better than any I’d had before in my life! It was tender, warm, and on top of that, it was huge.  I ripped off a piece, dipped it in the complimentary, obligatory hot sauce, moved onto the Aloo Channa and my day improved.  Both of my subsequent visits featured similar lunch specials of fantastic quality.  On one visit, there was a non-vegan Palak Paneer component, but it was subbed with additional flavorsome Vegetable Masala, consisting of peas, carrots, cauliflower, and more.  I’ve heard from other cart-goers that they’ve seen more all-vegan specials and the cart has made vegan versions on the spot of other dishes.

Besides the obvious, thrilling jump-in quality, let’s face facts – BCC is blatantly cutting its competitor’s set lunch price by 50 cents and was the first to offer complimentary small cups of soy chai with each order, which the original cart is now doing.  Not to mention there are extra outdoor tables here, offering you the choice of sitting under the small roof or outside at a cute table for one or two.  

Again, despite the controversy, it makes sense that you’ll see customers, such as myself, deciding on the all vegetarian Indian cart with a cheaper, higher quality lunch special.  You can see where my vote lies, but I’m not ruling out the original entirely.  Check them both out, try some meals from the rest of the menu, and see if one has something you like more than the other and switch things up! If you think one cart has tastier pakoras or chaat items, don’t be shy about it. The Stumptown Vegans think the ICH made amazing garlic naan that we’ve raved repeatedly, but we’ve yet to see how BCC compares.  If there’s enough support, why not see both of these carts thrive?  

$5 Lunch Special:
Bombay Chaat House

Bombay Chaat House

 The cart:

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12 responses to “Bombay Chaat House

  1. I agree about the naan–the plain naan is even better than it used to be at ICH. Although the aloo kulcha–my old standby for a $2 meal from ICH (which is now sour and odd and small from ICH)–wasn’t as good as the old days. Maybe that was just an off day. Everything else I’ve had has been very tasty.

    The controversy is so he-said/she-said, I just don’t see how anyone can know if there’s a “bad guy” in the situation. So I’m going with BCH, because the people there are friendlier and the food is tastier. Now if only the fur protesters could be convinced to come up with methods more likely to actually get someone to ask questions about the ethics of fur, rather than just pissing people off, I’d be 100% happy to live so close to this corner again. . .

  2. “And the naan – it was better than any I’d had before in my life! ”

    Whaaaaaattt! You obviously haven’t eaten anywhere but food carts then. Both places are really wretched. Sure you get a lot for the money if that’s what you want but even the worst Dhaba in India cooks up better grub then these two places.

    I have eaten at both a few times each time swearing that it would be the last but continue to keep giving both of them more chances….but it ain’t happening. They are both god awful and my wife cooks better food then them and she’s not even Indian.

    (incidentally I have been to India about 6 times for a total of two years and all over the whole country so I can honestly say that I am pretty experienced at Indian cuisine)

  3. Mike – Sorry to say I haven’t been to India, and that you don’t enjoy these carts.

    I like these carts, and so do a heck of a lot of other people, and I’m glad they’re serving the Portland community.

  4. My girlfriend and I bought a lunch special from each place yesterday, and the Bombay Chaat House was far and away without exception the better choice. People’s personal lives are their own business, but the food they serve is everyone’s. Delicious food trumps someone else’s business any day of the week.

  5. They seem to have become incredibly inconsistent. The last time I went, they forgot to go vegan (putting in the khorma), and everything was slightly sour. The naan especially was sour, inedible actually (I was worried it had gone bad). My partner got an aloo kulcha a couple days later, and had to toss it out because it was sour and seemed to “have sand in it”. Then the other day I went there around 4pm, and they’d closed, so I went next door to give another shot to the new ICH. And though my experience with them previously had been negative–this was quite tasty, and the naan was more like a dosa but was also quite good.

    So I’m pretty much confused. They’ve both been quite good and awful, multiple times. And the drama has almost lead me to wash my hands of them both, even though they’re so close at hand for me. The Oregonian article made nobody look good, though it seems like the new owner of the ICH had no idea what he was getting into.

  6. So I went over to see how things were shaping up. Yeah, the food at BCH is not very good. The menu lists the same stuff as before, but the dishes taste like they are old and smell bad. I got a few things, my old favs: Navratan Korma, Palak Paneer. My friend got the special. The naan was falling apart and tasted bitter, so that was a bad start. I didn’t honestly expect it to be the same as before, and maybe if you catch them on a day when they cooked the night before you might get a decent meal, but I had to throw away alot of food. No recommendation after that folks, sorry.

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