Fry bread, the Native American, deep-fried dough popularized in the Southwestern United States, is making its way into Portland’s comfort-seeking foodie sub-culture. Vitaly Paley, owner of Paley’s Place, Imperial, and Portland Penny Diner, is one of its biggest advocates: “Portland is a nice little melting pot of American cuisine…it was always interesting to me how native Northwest culture blended with the culture we created.” Paley, along with a new fry bread cocktail bar and a Division Street food cart, is leading the way in Portland’s mini fry bread emergence. Grab a fork and dig in.
Bleached cow skulls, rope-bound light bulbs, and studded brown leather chairs greet you at Downtown’s High Noon, setting the scene for a standoff between you and the crescent-shaped fry bread tacos ($7). The recently opened “Southwest by Northwest” bar specializes in tequila and mescal, and their natural bedfellow, fry bread. Four flavors, achiote chicken to brisket are best topped with creamy tomatillo or spicy roasted pasilla verde salsa and bright pickled onions. Ignore the flatware; this is a hands-on operation. 823 SW 2nd Ave; 503-841-6411
Vitaly Paley describes his creation as a cross between Native American, lard-fried dough, and Neapolitan fried pizza. It’s bouffant, and barely sweet, making for a sturdy “taco” base for Paley and Top Chef star, executive chef Doug Adams to play with. Top marks go to the predictable but unabashedly crave-worthy pork belly taco, glazed in sweet soy and jammed with bahn mi pickles and red jalapenos, and the “Hangtown Fry,” a creation busting at the seams with juicy fried oysters, scrambled eggs, bacon, and spicy remoulade. PPD hopes to expand its fry bread offerings into breakfast in the near future. 410 SW Broadway; 503-228-7224
Rod Thompson, a Oglala Lakota Sioux Indian, uses updated family recipes at his Division street food cart. His supersized, two-person tacos ($7-8) run from a bare bones refried bean spread to the “Supreme,” with large shavings of cheddar melted over garlicky ground beef, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. Insider tip: try Teepee’s “Indian Toes,” bite-sized bits of fry bread tossed with cinnamon-sugar and served piping hot out of a brown paper bag. 4926 SE Division St