Eat This Now

Sausage Party at Matt’s BBQ

At Portland’s hottest ‘cue cart, the ribs are great. But don’t forget the jalapeño-cheddar sausage.

By Kelly Clarke August 24, 2016

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The Matt's BBQ jalapeño cheddar sausage in its natural environment. 

Image: Drew Tyson

Hungry locals have been making a beeline for the broiling hot parking lot of a pawn shop on NE MLK Boulevard all summer long, thanks to the super-tender, white oak-smoked ribs and brisket at Matt’s BBQ. Matt Vicedomini, owner of the tidy food cart, slays curious eaters, barbecue know-it-alls, and local media with a short, no-nonsense menu of central Texas smoke-craft; his standout meats served as plates or stuffed in sandwiches and tacos. But buried under Matt’s slabs of ribs and criminally rich chopped pork lurks a lesser touted gem: a damn fine jalapeño cheddar sausage.

A ruddy-hued triumph of spicy, juicy, smoky flavor, Matt’s cheddar sausage tastes like the fiery, grown-up version of those Oscar Mayer cheese dogs that you begged your parents to buy come grill season during childhood summers: positively oozing saucy cheddar and laced with sucker punches of fresh jalapeño, every bite arriving with a casing snap as forceful as a rubber band to the face.

Vicedomini and his crew grind the sausages fresh each week, commingling rib and brisket trimmings with fresh garlic and a straightforward mix of salt, pepper, cayenne, and paprika, then smoking them over white oak on his new eight-foot-long custom smoker every day. The pitmaster has been working on his recipe since the cart opened last year, scouring “every single book on sausage-making at the library” and tweaking spices as he goes. The secret? Cheap cheese. “We experimented with fancier, ‘Portland-friendly’ brands but they didn’t work so well,” he admits. “Lesser cheese melts better and stays gooey.”

Spice-shy Matt's newbies usually order the milder regular sausage, so Vicedomini makes less of the jalapeño dogs each week—but they're an under-the-radar draw for regulars. “They always sell out," he says. "There’s a girl that lives in Salem; she stops by every few weeks and gets five jalapeño cheddar sausages to go. Five.”

That girl is my hero. Go purist and eat the hot, cheesy wonder unadorned for $4; get the Sausage Plate with solid sides and white bread for $12, or, better yet, devour it layered as a sandwich with slaw, pickles, and mellow, peppery barbecue sauce on “fancy bread” for $8.

Yes, you’d be a fool to miss the banner brisket or ribs at this cart. But please, just don’t forget to order the sausage while you’re at it. Or five.

Matt’s BBQ
In the H&B Loans parking lot at
4709 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
11 a.m.–7 p.m. (or sold out) Wednesday–Saturday

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