In Portland, Oregon, the only thing more numerous than flannel-clad hipsters and hoppy microbrews are probably the food carts that pepper the city’s sidewalks. Thanks to a sort of lassez-faire attitude toward regulating street vendors, Portland is home to a booming food cart scene – one that’s as diverse as it is massive. With well over 500 carts scattered throughout the city limits, it’s definitely not hard to track down a delicious, reasonably-priced meal.
There are tons of hidden gems to be found here, and one of our latest discoveries is this (relatively) new spot called Left Coast. Now before you go judging a book by its cover, don’t let the name fool you – this place isn’t some kind of self-righteous, west-repping peddler of locally-grown vegan food. Despite what the name might suggest, Left Coast’s menu is actually rather eclectic, and the owner/operator John Sturm seems to draw inspiration from every corner of the US.
“I would say it’s more of like an all-American diner with a Southern twist, or like a low-country twist,” he says,”with ‘low-country’ being like the Georgia-South Carolina coastline. Really it’s just diner food though.”
Believe us when we tell you he’s just being modest. With menu offerings ranging from chorizo burgers to fried alligator tail, it was immediately apparent to us that this isn’t your average diner grub, especially for a diner in the Northwest. Sturm’s Southern-inspired dishes are unlike anything else you’ll find in the city. We highly recommend his shrimp po-boy or the signature fried chicken sandwich; both are glimmering examples of well-executed simplicity. There’s nothing fancy going on here – it’s just good-ass food.
“I’ve been getting really good at taking these sort of gourmet recipes and just dumbing them down. That’s the key. The breading on my stuff is about as simple as it gets. I’ve been asked before what’s in it, and I always tell people there’s not a secret ingredient or anything; it’s just flour, salt, pepper, and buttermilk. That’s it. Toss on some sriracha mayo and coleslaw mixed with pepperoncini and jalapeño, and you’re done. It doesn’t need to be complex. So long as you cook it well and execute it, it turns out delicious.”
We couldn’t agree more.
You can find Left Coast in downtown Portland on SW 5th and Stark, and if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to keep an eye on the cart’s Facebook page – John likes to send out an APB when he gets a fresh batch of alligator tail shipped in.