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Tiffin Asha's Sheila Bommakanti

Image: Tiffin Asha

When I’m making a case for Portland’s food cart scene, three-year-old Tiffin Asha at 3710 N. Mississippi is part of Exhibit A. The argument includes how a small box on wheels can unleash a cuisine rarely seen (in this case, the Southern Indian region of Andhra Pradesh) with deliciousness, commitment, Portland playfulness, and more than a few addictive dishes. That includes one of my favorite dishes in the city, the Hot Chick: pakora-fried chicken, sharp pickles and cardamom-infused honey wrapped in a giant, crispy dosa. The whole thing just crunches with spice and surprise. This fall, the Hot Chick (and other Tiffin Asha specialties) will get a permanent home, at last.

Eat Beat has learned that owners and partners Elizabeth Golay and Sheila Bommakanti just inked a lease at 1670 NE Killingworth St. The cart’s last day is Sunday, August 14, and the new restaurant hopes to be open by November. The game plan calls for dinner five nights a week, brunch and a beer and wine license. 

With a full kitchen, Golay, a former pastry chef at Seattle’s popular Poppy and a California Culinary Academy grad, hopes to delve deeper into the snacks of Andhra Pradesh, sometimes known as tiffin and eaten on-the-go with spice-blend condiments called gun powders. “The food from this Southern Indian region has been overlooked and is just not known,” she says. Dosas will remain a focus, stuffed with the likes of Yukon potatoes and tomato chutney, along with Golay’s excellent chutneys, homemade chai, Southern Indian filter coffee, and thoughtful classics (even Tiffin Asha’s vada, a kind of savory Indian doughnut, gets a sprinkling of coconut-chile fleur de sel). Bommakanti, a one-time civil rights lawyer who left her career to support the cart’s dream, will host the front of the house at the 36-seat restaurant.

The neighborhood has attracted other small-scale, chef-owned restaurants. Across the street is the new Hat Yai, Langbaan’s spin-off Southern fried chicken/curry joint, the popular Podnah’s Pit and La Taq, and recent newcomers Sea Star Bakery/Handsome Pizza and Tea Bar. 

“I’ve waited 18 years for this time to come,” Golay says. “I can’t wait to bring more options to the menu. This food is in my veins; I just love it.”

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