Latest Update 5/12/2010: Well, apparently the downtown cart is closed. If anyone sees them reopen elsewhere, please let us know – and support your favorite carts!
Update: We’ve been warned they’ve closed! Any folks seen them open? We’re on the case…
|Spud Locker cart, Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: SW 2nd and SW Stark|
|Recommended Dish: All Hands on Deck $5|
|Hours: M-F, 11am-2:30pm
503.764.1415 for delivery via Portland Pedal Power
|Times Visited: 3|
The Spud Locker cart is packed with satisfying novelty. The curious, grey cart was originally designed as a prototype for a military canteen truck, and thanks to the owners, it underwent a metamorphosis into a striking food cart. You can read more about the cart’s origins and the vegetarian cart owners’ history on their website.
Spud Locker spent the summer of 2009 on NE Alberta Street, and has since relocated downtown to SW 2nd and Stark. If you’re looking for something straight forward and filling, and notice lines at D.C. Vegetarian and Just Thai on S.W. 3rd, here’s another option: round the northeastern corner down SW Washington, veer half a block left, hold your nose past the People’s Pig truck, and prepare to order potatoes.
It’s highly likely you’ve had a bland baked potato or two as the default vegetarian option at a shameful restaurant in the past. Mentally accept that at Spud Locker, they’re about to break out the novel toppings and smother a russet baked potato or potato wedges in them for your lunch.
In a city often dominated by soup weather, it’s nice to have something equally warm and satisfying on a chilly, rainy day, or any day!
While I’ve visited three times now, it wasn’t until my third visit that I truly grasped the comfort food this cart was possible of producing. On my first visit, I went with a baked potato and the obvious add-ons of Tofutti sour cream, nutritional yeast, black olives (25 cents each), and one of the complimentary hot sauces, for a total of $4.25 The baked potatoes are large, served quite warm, and with a thankfully, slightly crisped peel. The credit goes to the old-fashioned cast iron oven inside the cart that all potatoes are baked in. $3.50 may seem like a lot of freaking baked potato or base of oven-roasted wedges, but the inexpensive, stepping stone toppings – and associated novelty – are why you’re here.
On my second visit, I tiptoed slightly into something more exciting and ordered a baked potato with the hot topping ($1.25 extra) of gluten-free Peanut Curry Sauce. There are four hot toppings total, and all are vegan: Three Bean Chili, Peanut Curry, English Baked Beans, and Paul’s Spicy Gravy. All but the gravy are gluten-free, as well.
The Peanut Curry Sauce is rich with coconut milk and channels lime, shallots, and a mild Indonesian curry. I enjoyed it, but there wasn’t enough going on. In my opinion, it’s missing some more sweet, and heat (though there’s always the counter top hot sauces). However, if peanut sauce is your jam, consider the full Aircraft Carrier ($5.25) with the Peanut Curry Sauce, lime, cilantro, sour cream (specify vegan), mixed veggies, and crushed peanuts. It’s one of 5 Favorite Combinations with great names ($5-6) on the menu. This includes the gluten-free Battleship ($5.75), with the three bean chili, vegan cheese, sour cream, and salsa.
I’ve seen a vegetarian version of the Battleship, and it was gigantic. Once my friend opened her container, I was surprised she hadn’t been weighed down while carrying her meal down the block! There is no available seating, so all meals are to go and help strengthen your arm muscles.
The epiphany of potential on my third visit occurred with the order of the All Hands on Deck meal ($5). It’s one of two newer options of $5 specials that come with a bottle of water. There is no question that it keeps with the ‘filling’ trend here, and offers more variety than most options. This meal features their oven-roasted potato wedges. These are cooked with olive oil and flavored with fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper. The potatoes are topped with Paul’s Spicy Gravy, which is creamy, assuredly spicy, and assisted by mixing in the crispy shallots that are sprinkled on top. The other two components make me think of the Bye & Bye: cooked greens and simmered black-eyed peas. On the day I went, the kale was cooked with fake bacon bits, which was a fun touch. I didn’t actually taste the hint of smoke they were going for, instead, I swear the salty greens were reminiscent of seaweed, like nori or kelp was thrown in. Very intriguing. The beans were cooked down with white onions, lots of black pepper, and possibly, tomato. Both sides helped tone down the heat and generous herbs of the potatoes and gravy. I don’t know if I see myself re-ordering this, and wish I had shaken some salt on top, but I can’t argue that it’s not a full vegetarian meal for a worthy price.
Is Spud Locker crave-worthy? Only time will tell. I wish there was something I was raving about besides gut satisfaction, potential, and how cool the cart is, but it hasn’t happened for me yet, so let’s move onto another question:
Are jacket potatoes the new rainy day soup? Possibly. Does a potato hit the spot? It’s up to you.
I do know this: The people behind Spud Locker know potatoes and know what they’re doing: selling well-named, damn filling, quickly assembled comfort food, for decent prices.
All Hands on Deck
Build Your Own
Peanut Curry Sauce