|Sonny Bowl Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: SW 3rd and SW Washington|
|Hours: M-F 11am-3pm||Times Visited: 6+|
I first happened upon this cart by chance. I was heading to D.C. Vegetarian down the row, and naturally, perused this small and shiny new cart’s white board menu. Realizing there were no mentions of dairy, meat or eggs, just grains and veggies, I inquired and learned it was all vegan and open for the first time that same day. Oh, Portland. Sonny Bowl has since put up a permanent sign against its metal walls advertising its three vegan bowl options. This is on top of the recent addition of two small tables out front. It’s not every cart that can offer actual seating in its own parking spot, shaded by the taller carts alongside it. You do have to squeeze past the bushes out front on SW 3rd to order at the counter, let alone grab a table. There surely must be a secret password to get the tall bushes to part and let you in, to order, because it’s a tad awkward to push by.
Look, there’s not a lot to fuss over at this cart, so that’s probably why I do fuss over how much I appreciate what it serves. Everything is as it’s labeled. There are three bowl choices. Each comes with mixed, chopped vegetables, assigned housemade sauces and beans and/or soy curls topped with a garnish. After a few visits, I thought my preference was with Bowl #3. I find it hard to pass on tender BBQ soy curls, and they dominate this selection. They’re paired with crisp, chopped green beans tossed in a mild citrus ginger sauce and a great helping of moist, short grain brown rice, topped with crispy chow mein noodles. Sonny Bowl has a flare for adorning all bowls with a nifty garnish. I’m happy to see soy curls becoming such a common protein on menus. The soy curls themselves are cooked in a light, tangy BBQ sauce with chopped onions and joined with the citrus ginger vegetable. It’s interesting to see which flavor wins out in each bite, the earthy BBQ soy curls or the gingery green beans. I dig the everyday style of this bowl, but I admittedly reach for the plethora of hot sauces and other condiments to choose from to spice it up. Personally, I go for the Secret Aardvark and Braggs.
Bowl #1 has a cilantro herb sauce, veggies and black beans. The bowl that stole my preference is Bowl #2. This round meal has the brown rice, the colorful, chopped veggies, welcome chickpeas for that added something special and something super vegan, and a creamy, pineapple coconut curry sauce. The sauce is a bit fruity and decently spiced, and the amount is generous. I encourage you to quickly mix up your sauce’d veggies, chickpeas and rice as to spread out the goodness. And the bonus? A few chunks of fresh pineapple. To complete the routine, my recent bowl was sprinkled with golden raisins and slivered almonds.
When I think Sonny Bowl, I think of wholesome, affordable food and sweet service. Ordering the Pineapple Curry Bowl #2 seizes all of that. The cart’s proprietor, Sanjay, prepares all bowls to order, so be prepared to wait more than a few minutes if there’s even just one person ahead of you. Each meal, served in a reusable bowl with a sturdy lid, is $5 a piece, with the option of adding soy curls for $1 to bowls #1 and #2. I have finished a bowl on a very hungry afternoon, but typically, I’m left with a small portion of leftovers. Big eaters may want to pair this with the giant salad rolls from Just Thai down the cart row, or the daily soup from D.C. Vegetarian.
The bowls are all simply well-priced options for the downtown daytime crowd, looking for a meal that we could make at home, because we enjoy home-style, vegan cooking. There’s no gimmick. One of my habitual downtown lunch spots in Portland is the veganized Whole Bowl, because I like the taste and I know what to expect. It’s entirely reliable and worth my money. This is on the same page with the nutritious addition of vegetables and variety – and I’m a repeat customer.
BBQ Soy Curls – Bowl #3
Pineapple Curry – Bowl #2
The cart – it’s since been moved back and has two small two-person tables out front.