I blame Kevin Sandri for my appreciation of the food cart. My first year in Portland, his cart, Garden State, was selling sandwiches at a waterfront food festival. Not familiar with the cart, I – the unsuspecting, naive victim – grabbed the cod sandwich without much thought or expectation. When I took a bite, I quickly realized this was not your standard fish fry, haphazardly slapped on a bun with mayonnaise-pumped tartar sauce. It was far from it, in fact. This was a sandwich of downright elegance. The cod was gently poached with a hint of bright citrus, and I knew that it was something special…from a truck, no less.
Now, years later, it’s common knowledge that plenty of restaurant-quality food can float from the open windows of food trucks on every corner of Portland and beyond, but I’m pretty sure Kevin was the first one to teach me so. Here, we chat about the intersections between music and the culinary world, his daughter’s food preferences, and more.
Q: You’ve made food in a few different formats: carts (Garden State and Burgatroyd), a meal delivery service for weight loss (Farm to Fit), a sandwich shop (Lardo), and now, Alberta Street Pub. How are you enjoying the ASP gig?
A: Well, I definitely have more of a home life these days, which is great because I have more time home with my daughter. In the span of 15 years I’ve had two major careers, one being in food, and the other, music (as guitarist in the Foghorn Stringband), so it’s nice to work in an environment where both those worlds come together. Next door, we have all kinds of bands – Irish, Brazilian, folk circles – so it’s always lively around here.
Q: Your first cart, Garden State, had an almost cult-like following. Does the Alberta Street Pub menu have any dishes borrowed from Garden State?
A: There are a few of our old stand-bys. The chickpea sandwich was a big favorite, so we have that. I actually got an e-mail from an old Garden State customer saying, “I really loved that chickpea sandwich, and I know this sounds weird, but will I ever get to have it again?” (Laughs). So we had to add that. Also, the meatball hero is on our happy hour menu, so you can find that as well.
Q: Is there any particular dish that screams Alberta Street Pub?
A: That’s tough. Maybe the boiled peanuts? I was actually driving in North Portland and pulled over and there were some people selling boiled peanuts in Dixie cups. They were so perfect, salty and hot. I thought, this is the perfect beer food. I knew they needed to make it to the menu immediately.
Q: You have a history in music. Any similarities between the food and music worlds?
A: Definitely. Recipes, like music, are interesting, because no one actually really owns it. You might have a traditional version of something, but everyone’s interpretation of it morphs it in its own unique way. A song can totally be interpreted differently in hundreds of ways, just like a dish.
Q: Do you listen to music when you cook?
A: Yes. Lately, it’s been a lot of heavy metal stoner music by a band named Electric Wizard.
Q: Where does your daughter like to eat?
A: Ah, she’s a terror. She’s almost 4 years old. She’s pretty vocal about what she likes. If we’re eating without her mom, who is gluten-free, my daughter always insists on something with plenty of gluten. She likes Pizza Fino for that reason. The other day she told me she wanted brownies, and I said “Okay, we’ll make brownies,” to which she responded, “I want gluten brownies!”
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender