Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Garden State

(NOTE: Garden State closed in October 2011)

(Second Review -- October 2011)

Garden State, a food cart located near North Mississippi Ave. and North Skidmore St. in Portland, Oregon, has been serving up "Italian street food" in Oregon since 2006.

Garden State's signature sandwich is their Meatball Hero ($6.50), using Cascade natural beef (rolled into meatballs), marinara suace, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese in a ciabatta roll.

Menu on July 14, 2011
However, I felt that would be a bit heavy in the stomach for me (and I'm all about light foods on most days). So I went with their Chickpea Sandwich ($7), a fried chickpea patty, grilled zucchini, carrot-radish slaw, lettuce, and lemon aioli stuffed in a ciabatta roll.

Chickpea sandwich
It was a little bit of a wait for this sandwich, but the guys in the truck were cooking that chickpea patty to order. Such beautiful colors on that cross-section, folks.

I really enjoyed the flavors in this sandwich. The chickpea patty was velvety in my mouth and nicely seasoned, fresh out of the fryer. The color is enhanced by adding cumin, and I thought that and the cayenne pepper worked real well to liven the chickpeas up even more. It was basically eating fried hummus -- and that's a good thing here.

The crunch of the lettuce, carrots, and slaw brought the contrasting textures, and the lemon aioli brought some jiving moves to this party. The sandwich did get a bit messy when trying to eat it; the chickpea patty really fell apart as I bit into it. But still, it was a very flavor-controlled, balanced sandwich.

I'm not overly gaga over bread, but ciabatta just may be one of my favorite breads out there. Garden State's ciabatta bread was wonderfully toasted for that gotta-have-it crunch.

You can even view the recipe here. It's 655 calories and 47 grams of fat, but only 5.5 grams of that is saturated fat (so you're getting mostly healthy fats here). Also, only 22 grams of cholesterol...not too shabby huh?

In my book, Garden State is a solid thumbs up. I may not be a full-on vegetarian, but I like to enjoy a good meatless meal more often than not. This is definitely a spot vegetarians should hit up. And never fear, my carnivore pals. The Meatball Hero has gotten tremendous reviews from a lot of people. It's no wonder that Garden State has been featured on "Good Morning America" and in "Portland Monthly Magazine."

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