Where: The Bivy/ Saint Burrito 113 SE 28th Ave., Portland
I was 25 when I was first exposed to the glory of food trucks.
My older sister invited me to visit her in New Brunswick where she was attending grad school. Besides record exchanges, all-you-can-eat mediocre buffet sushi, and other wonders of the modern world- Steph said I HAD to get a “fat sandwich” from one of the grease trucks while I was there.
Fat sandwiches are what the country would eat for every meal if no one discovered kale and Whole Foods fell off the face of the Earth. Everything you can fit on a New Jersey sub roll- usually starchy/meaty/deep fried things- all wrapped up into a 10-inch long heart-murdering missile of joy. She brought me to a square of trucks staffed by evil/enterprising young student bent on the perfection of these lethal concoctions, and I- to my only partial shame- finished a chicken finger/fries/meatball/cheesesteak/Parmesan/mashed potato sandwich in one sitting.
We sat in a parking lot, knocked them back with bubble tea, and felt no pain.
Even before I moved to Portland, a veritable food truck capital of America, street food had- quite literally- gained a place in my heart. Some food is simply best experienced- NEEDS to be experienced- while standing in the elements, leaning against a wall, or hunched over a public garbage can with the sounds of the world surrounding you.
Even so, I have yet to review a single truck.
It’s time to fix that I think- so let’s start with breakfast and burritos.
Around the corner from the cafe where I work is a smallish food pod (the term for a food court-style gathering of trucks.) Ranging from various-cultures chicken to Middle Eastern to Thai, the pod boasts 7 venues as well as a beer-only truck with regularly-rotating taps. Most of the carts have been there for several years, but nothing lasts forever. When the Mexican-inspired “Guero” left its truck to establish it’s first brick-and-mortar down the street, two new businesses were ready to fill the vacancy.
First came “The Bivy”- offering “campfire inspired brunch”, they took the flavors of a camping cookout and dragged them back to town, smoking their own meats right by the service window and baking their own English muffins. The Bivy perfectly represents my own philosophy for the best way to cook- “Simplicity with Elegance.”
When I first stopped by the new truck after work, cold beer already in hand thanks to the Captured Beer Cart, I was hit by a barrage of scents wafting from inside. The hot metal of the flattop. Browning butter. Spicy smoke, as their bacon (butchered and smoked on site) sizzled away, and the hot fat blending with the butter underneath eggs.
“Whatever that is, I need one.”
It was the Prigo- their flagship sandwich, and the best goddamned breakfast sandwich you will find anywhere.
It came out to me about 15 minutes later, and as soon as the foil-wrapped puck hit my palm and the sweet smell of grease eked out- I knew I had chosen wisely.
The Prigo features a scratch-made English Muffin, a slice of Tillamook cheddar cheese, house apple butter, big chunks of their bacon, and a seared egg. No, not fried- SEARED. The white is slightly crisped, and yet- at the first bite- the barely-cooked yolk explodes, coating the contents and taking the sandwich over the moon.
You might notice, however, that I mentioned “brunch.” The Bivy’s hours are only from 9a to 4p. While not the same financial burden as a brick-and-mortar, running a food truck is still a costly and demanding proposition. When you have a skeleton staff and a specialized menu, how do you afford to keep your place?
Well, you go halfsies. Enter Saint Burrito, and the first timeshared food truck I’ve ever seen.
Saint Burrito, a Mexican-inspired truck that runs select days from 4:30p to 9:30p, signed on to share the truck with The Bivy- completing the unique pairing by painting their menu and signage on the backs of the Bivys. Run by a couple who confess themselves as “not being cooks,” Saint Burrito’s menu offers – duh- burritos loaded up with chicken, carnitas, or vegetables. There is no “build your own” dynamic here- all burritos are compounded as the should be. Rather than typical yellow rice, Saint Burrito says “No. Red rice.”
These are ridiculously good burritos- delivered in the simple foil wrapping that says “Here you go, dude- all good. Take that thing for a walk, man- enjoy it.”
Every now and then, Saint Burrito runs a Yellowfin Tuna fish tacos, for $3 a piece. Forget the “Taco Tuesday,” limp greaseslop-filled sleeves of sadness you associated with the word. These are honest-to-God street tacos- three bites maximum, loaded up with sashimi-grade marinated tuna, grilled rare, and paired with their pico de gallo and chile crema. Finished with a little wedge of lime to make it all that much better- a quick little nosh before while you wait on the main event.
WHEN: The Bivy is open daily from 9 to 4. Busiest times are the late morning and early afternoon. I try to show up around 1 or so.
Saint Burrito takes over Wednesday through Sunday, 4:30p to 10p. Call either at (503) 875-0038
WHY: You are in the city of Portland, a goddamned food capital, and it just doesn’t feel right if you aren’t walking around with a greasy, meaty, delicious something wrapped in foil in your hand.