|Whiffie’s cart Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: SE 12th and Hawthorne|
|Hours: Tues-Thurs 6pm-12am, Weekends 8pm-3am
or until the pies run out
|Times Visited: Countless|
There was a time before the Whiffies fried pie cart opened, and then there’s everything after. The summer of the food cart explosion, if you will.
The rectangular white cart residing in the Cartopia at SE 12thand Hawthorne rose to instant popularity in late Spring 2009 through a word of mouth, interactive, Twitter-based campaign. The marketing, particularly prior to opening, was revolutionary in Portland. The rest is…recent history.
Maybe you’ve heard talk of the legend – Whiffies proprietor, Gregg Abbott, is the poster boy for taking your future into your own hands, ala cart. He was inspired by his chef father’s classic pie recipe and the popularity of fried foods, as well as his desire to have an independent business and come up with classic and creative pie fillings.
Visit the eclectic, vegan-friendly cart pod at SE 12th and Hawthorne and see what everyone is raving about–from food cart enthusiasts, to families driving in from the ‘burbs, to foursquare mayors, to drunken hipsters stumbling out of dive bars, tourists, and everyone else you know. I’m sure guilty of raving excessively about it. I am still in shock that such a novel cart exists and that it’s equally vegan friendly!
From Tuesday to Sunday night, Whiffies is open from early evening until late late night, or literally, when the pies run out. There always seem to be at least a few people outside the Whiffies cart, waiting for their pies, mingling beneath the canopy at the picnic tables or scoping out the rest of the lot. The cart itself has the larger-than-life masked, fried pie mascot painted on its white front wall. To its left is the open window where some of the nicest cart employees in Portland take your order. Propped against the window is a large whiteboard showcasing the pies of the day. They’re handwritten and narrowed into two columns, savory and sweet, and vegan options are labeled. Both above and below the window are bold, state fair-style signs advertising refreshing iced tea and lemonade. Whiffies also sells homemade kombucha and warmer drinks during the colder weather. Simply ask if they’re vegan if you’re unsure. The staff knows all.
All pies are individually fried per order, and cooked in light and clean rice bran oil. After a dip into the vegan deep fryer (specify vegan) into this special oil, the golden, thick yet flaky, wheat crust has an almost buttery quality.
I’ve tried many pies, and my most recent experience was an instant favorite – the cherry chocolate chip. The hot, jellied, cherry pie filling contains whole cherries and small bursts of melted chocolate chips inside the delicious, fried crust. How amazing is that to get within minutes at a food cart!?! Every time I’ve had a pie at Whiffies, my reaction is the same: awe and delight.
The menu is constantly evolving and new additions are advertised on Twitter. Regular sweet pies ($3) have included wonderfully goopy blueberry, classic apple, luscious peanut butter (sometimes dotted with chocolate chips), sweet chocolate cream that’s like a pillow of pudding (yes, vegan!), and Oregon’s pride, the marionberry. Savory pies ($4) get a little wilder: spaghetti and vegan meatballs, breakfast pie with potatoes, BBQ tofu, and apricot BBQ with soy curls.
Part of the awesomeness of Whiffies are these ongoing experiments and the attention to feedback. They’ve offered a seasonal pumpkin crème I’d write fan mail to, homemade hazelnut not-tella with banana, the infamous durian cream, and chefs from local restaurants have made signature pies. Sometimes the first run of a new pie has a few kinks, like a runny filling, but it’s usually hot stuff right from the beginning. BBQ tofu, I’m talking to you.
Eating a pie
There are many who’d argue a savory pie is an acceptable dinner, and I’ve done it, but it means kale for dinner tomorrow to keep some balance and fresh vegetables in your diet. Not saying that’s a horrible arrangement, but I lean towards the indulgent, late night pie camp. My dining style of choice is splitting with a friend and carefully breaking it in half, as to not lose any filling. When faced with my own pie, I break off a small part of the shell and use that piece to dip into the filling for a bit, before biting in and letting the wonder set in. So, what’s your pie-dining method of choice?
You have little excuse not to try this delightful, superstar food cart. Whiffies is a new Portland institution, and a shining, inexpensive example of the Taqueria Los Gorditos school of welcome, vegan consideration from an omni-cart!
Cherry Chocolate Chip Pie
All Photos by Lucas DeShazer