(UPDATE: I had passed by The Grillery a couple of times in December 2011, only to see the cart closed during normal lunch hours. Along with one of Heather's posts saying she would be leaving the cart, this led me to believe the cart had -- or would be -- closed for good. However, on 1/9/12, a Facebook post on The Grillery confirmed they were open again. I assume they took a winter vacation of sorts.)
The Grillery, led by Travis Tsosie and Heather Reeder, is a sliders-and-fries food cart on N Vancouver Ave. in Portland, Oregon. They are the new kids on the block, opening in early September 2011.
I was impressed that they took a trailer and basically built the food cart themselves. Their blog, which dates back to September 2010, chronicles their growth from food cart idea to registered food cart (and they continue to update their progress to this day). It's probably the most interesting food cart-related blog I've seen. Their dream started with the purchase of a 1967 Shasta Trailer, and has become reality due to a lot of hard work.
|Menu (as of late September 2011)|
Basically, a customer will start with a menu and can make his or her own slider (a mini burger, for those that don't know). One can get a $5 Meal Deal (one slider with a side of fries) or a $7 Meal Deal (two sliders with a side of fries). The choices:
Patty: Beef or veggie (a portobello mushroom)
Free toppings: Ketchup, yellow mustard, Grill sauce, BBQ sauce, greens, tomato, onions, pickles
Cheese (25 cents per slider): Cheddar, blue cheese, pepper jack
50-cent toppings: Bacon, avocado, extra cheese
Oh, and before you start calculating the possible combinations, let's throw in three different types of fries! A choice of regular, cajun, or sweet potato fries! As a note, the sweet potato fries cost an additional 50 cents.
The Grillery also offers a weekly special; when I went in late September, it was a "Maui Wowie" slider: a burger with house-made teriyaki sauce, grilled pineapple, and bacon.
I chose a $7 Meal Deal: one beef and one veggie slider, each topped with pepper jack cheese, ketchup, yellow mustard, greens, tomatoes, onions, and pickles. The Grillery uses potato slider buns from Franz Bakery. I went with cajun fries because I love spice!
While I waited for my sliders, Heather offered me some of their Fiesta corn: corn slathered with their Grill Sauce and cotija cheese, served with a lime wedge.
|Fiesta Corn (The Grillery)|
As Heather crafts the sliders, I'm thinking to myself..."This is a slider? It's looking like a mini tower of awesomeness!" The veggie slider is really a baby portobello mushroom, which threw me a bit for a loop; other burger places I've gone to that serve veggie patties use a formed patty blend of grains, veggies, and other meatless products. Not here. Heather artfully wrapped the two sliders up. The fries came out of the fryer, got a nice hit of cajun seasoning, and got placed in a paper bag (since my order was for take-out).
|The veggie slider on the left, a slider on steroids|
|Beef patty slider|
I liked the buns here. Nicely grilled on the underside, yet so soft and enjoyable overall. The pickles and onions brought great bite and exquisite textural contrast to the slider. And with me, you can't go wrong with ketchup and mustard on a burger -- even better that the sauces are homemade!
If anything, I was hoping the beef patty and the mushroom had come straight off the flattop (neither seemed hot to the touch when I started eating my food about 3-4 minutes after leaving the cart).
While the fries had great, intense cajun flavor, they were soggy and greasy, despite eating them as soon as I got back to the car (no more than a two-minute walk). I've read many comments from different food carts, and the fries here could be similar to the ones at Twisted Sistas (now in the Q-19 Food Pod...and no, I haven't been to Twisted Sistas yet). In my opinion, these fries would be ideal inside a sandwich (see Big-Ass Sandwiches and their amazing food), but as far as a side dish to munch on, I'm simply one for the stiff, crispy-outside fries any day.
Despite my usual nitpicking, nothing stopped me from devouring the entire meal.
The Grillery has a promotional card offer: buy 10 sliders and get a free meal (which I interpret as one free $5 Meal Deal). Rewarding loyal customers is always a plus in my book!
I visited The Grillery as they hit their third or fourth week of service, so they are probably still learning and tweaking as they go. For now, it's a great start. Fantastic corn, promising custom sliders, and tasty fries. Heather and Travis were a pleasure to talk with and I wish them well on their food cart endeavor! While I have many more food establishments to hit, I may just have to try a special slider next time! 7.5/10