|The Ruby Dragon Cart Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: N Mississippi and N Skidmore|
|Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 8am breakfast-sundown||Times Visited: 2|
We’re such happily spoiled Portland vegans.
On my first visit to the brand new Mississippi Marketplace cart lot, I overheard two girls lamenting about how there is nothing vegan to eat on Mississippi Street. How did they get through their days without an all vegan cart within walking distance? I’m not a fan of the ginormous, mushy tofu scramble at Gravy down the block, but it’s an offering, along with Por Que No, great thin crust slices at Mississippi Pizza Pub, quite a few menu items at Muddy’s Coffeehouse, the rotating vegan options at Equinox, and Portland classic Laughing Planet, to name a few on the actual street. And who could forget Portland superstar and Stumptown Vegan favorite Flavourspot?
Don’t mind me rolling my eyes at how happily spoiled we are. It’s time to celebrate the opening of more vegan food carts! The Mississippi Marketplace is brand new and was specifically designed to host carts. Ruby Dragon is one of two new, all-vegan additions to Portland’s cart fever of 2009, in this lot alone. The other addition is only one spot away- Julie and Jay Hasson’s superb Native Bowl.
As usual these days, the Ruby Dragon cart is charming. It reminds me of Savor Soup House – it’s like a little house. It has a gable style roof and vertical wooden panels on the bottom half of the cart, and a pleasant green on the upper half. There are tables for four across the parking lot – mostly covered under a large canopy; there’s still a ton of room to have an impromptu picnic on the lot grounds if the weather permits, and sweetest of all, there is a row of bar stool seating built into the side of the cart itself.
The menu is large, somewhat comparable in size to a small restaurant’s. It’s larger than a lot of corner cafe’s! There is a breakfast section, Eternal Mornings, Soup and Salad offering, and a large Afternoon Til Sundown listing. The breakfasts include tofu and tempeh scrambles with vegetables, sandwiches, baked oats, pastries, and more. The breakfast menu states offerings are served all day, but a chalk board at the cart usually lists a handful of specific offerings and specials. There are seven curries described on their menu, and they have two available every day. They announce the designated curries, such as the Ruby and Cashew Eggplant, on their twitter and on the chalk board, all of which are served with sticky rice ($7 per curry). Daily desserts rotate as well, from their ginger-friendly take on apple pie, to cupcakes, sweet bread, quinoa chocolate chip cookies and small cinnamon rolls (2 for $3).
Ruby Dragon proudly features Oregon based Dave’s Killer Bread, Surata Tempeh, and Dae Han Tofu. It’s no surprise that there is a focus on local, organic produce. From the cart itself, to the staff, to the menu, to the food on my plate, everything at this cart sang ‘made with love’. Just check out this statement from their blog:
Our foods mirror our own creativity and passion to nurture others on how to live a sustainable lifestyle. Our dishes are meant to appeal not just to the life long vegan, but the omnivore, and the experimentor.
I headed savoury on my first visit and ordered a single version of the Abbot ($4.50 single, $6.50 double), which was described as an open-faced, ‘world class sandwich’. There are obviously worldly flavors at this cart, such as: Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese, Thai, and dear, Portland hippie. The sandwich was on Dave’s Sprouted Toast, always fantastic; with creamy, generous Vegenaise; snappy, curry glazed cashews, a thin length of seasoned, addictive tempeh, and a side of subtle Ethiopian spiced home fries with chopped onions. I’ll be honest, I didn’t find it easy to pick up this sandwich, I opted to use a fork for my meal. Regardless of how you eat it, the sandwich is unique winner. It’s a whole lot of brown, color wise, but not flavor wise. The meal itself was prepared in less than ten minutes with a couple orders ahead of mine, and my herbal teapot was also ready quickly. As it was ordered for there, it was served on a real plate with silverware, to be returned after use.
On my second visit, I intended to turn sweet and order the Tiger’s Paw quinoa and hemp seed pancakes. I’ve heard raves from friends and back to my eavesdropping, I heard someone call this “the best pancake I’ve ever had in my life” on my initial visit. The heated intrigue was there, but the staff was out of batter and my cart companion and I decided to share a single version of the Jade Abbot (single $5.50, $7.50 double), along with tasty panko-crusted rolls from the Sushi Tree stand (soon to be a cart). Indeed, it’s the same base sandwich, upgraded with Ruby Dragon’s rich and raw kale salad with avocado, lemon juice and sea salt. I swear, the only thing I felt was missing from the previous sandwich was something green on my plate, and here ya go.
Were they faced with limited ingredients one day in the kitchen and discovered this gem? Was it simply divinely inspired? I don’t know, but I’m getting the tingles just thinking about salty kale, avocado, tempeh, cashews, Vegenaise and Dave’s together again.
The combination of food made with love and the range of flavor influences at this cart is sweet. If you find your way here after a long night and hard morning, I feel confident their cooking and a soothing pot of herbal tea could cure your woes. And for the early risers – it opens at 8am daily!
The Mississippi Marketplace may seem a bit fabricated, but it’s an astoundingly clean and family friendly cart lot with a vegan nook of awesome potential. You’re likely going to throw down $6-$10 for a meal, but the quality and experience is worth it. I envy this neighborhood’s new lunch options!
There are portable toilets on the lot, an ATM coming and once Prost opens on the corner, you’ll be able to bring your cart food onto their deck and enjoy with a beer.
Herbal Tea Presentation