(Second Review -- June 2012)
808 Grinds is a food cart located in SW Portland. It can be found near SW 9th Ave. and SW Washington St., right on the corner.
One of my high school classmates knows the two guys running 808 Grinds (Jensen Yip and Kevin Scofield), and suggested that I check it out. We're all from Hawaii, so I figure...can't go wrong here.
|Menu on 7/9/11|
Once 808 Grinds opened, I got the $5 shoyu chicken plate: a nice helping of their shoyu chicken with one scoop of white rice and one scoop of their macaroni salad.
|Shoyu chicken w/one scoop rice and one scoop mac salad (from 808 Grinds)|
The shoyu chicken was on the money. Extremely flavorful and moist. The combination of that soy sauce, sugar, garlic, etc., was an absolute winner. I liked the green onions topping the shoyu chicken, both for visual presentation and flavor.
The true test was the mac salad, and these guys nailed that as well. Hands down, one of the better mac salads I've ever had. The flavors just spoke to me..."you're home." The peas and shredded carrots in the mac salad gave extra flavor and color. This plate overall really took me back to the Islands. I may have been in Oregon for four years and lost that natural Pidgin (a.k.a. Hawaii Creole English for those not in the know) in me, but hell man, this basically had me speaking full-on Pidgin for the next few hours.
If there's any nitpicking to be done, it's probably the lack of choices as far as sides are concerned. It's really just white rice and/or mac salad to accompany each entree. Perhaps brown rice and some tossed salad with dressing could be options to think about for the future. Generally, more choices means you'll get a wider range of clientele. Of course, food costs are also something to consider -- and heck, I should remind myself that we're talking about a food cart here -- but when the time is right, I would hope such a suggestion is considered.
I'd like to see if Jensen and Kevin would be up to making a dessert or sweet appetizer that you can find in the Islands and run that as a limited-time special (if they've already done that, I missed the memo). I figure if they run specials (it was spam musubi when I went), then they might as well go for broke and do something sweet too. Something like haupia comes to mind. Or even chi chi dango. It could really set them apart from other Hawaiian BBQ food establishments in Oregon. I guess if you get too adventurous, it might not sell well with the mainlanders, but the local boys like me will flock there, no problem!
As far as their 2-choice combo plate is concerned ($8), you can customize it, a huge plus. According to Jensen and Kevin, most go with either 808 Combo (808 fried chicken and kalua pig) or the chicken combo (808 fried chicken/shoyu chicken).
I'll also say that it's a bit more of a drive to get to this food cart in SW Portland, as opposed to, say, going to Corvallis and hitting up Local Boyz. To me, I like the shoyu chicken equally at both places. But 808 Grinds has the edge on the mac salad. Yes, Local Boyz wins with respect to having more menu options, but that's really an unfair fight, comparing an actual sit-down food establishment to a food cart.
I've read other reviewers' posts on Yelp, which state how the fried chicken and the kalua pig are very salty. I'll check that out for myself in the future. For me, I do prefer kalua pig on the salty side, and at least I'm forewarned for future 808 Grinds visits.
I would like to see if 808 Grinds can really push the envelope a bit more on variety. In the meantime, Jensen and Kevin do an amazing job in bringing the flavors of the 808 to SW Portland! Highly recommended! Check out 808 Grinds, because this stuff is the real deal. Navigate those SW Portland streets like you want this! Run the red lights if you need to (OK, don't actually do that). I definitely plan on returning to try their other menu items!