Blue Rooster goes high-end informal

Park it here
By BRIAN DUFF  |  May 16, 2013

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BREAKFAST SANDWICH Blue Rooster's version, with a side of Brussels sprouts.  

The food trucks are beginning to descend upon us. Cities have found various ways to deal with the hordes. New York regulates them unreasonably, but enforces selectively to get what they like where they like it. In Oregon they shove all the trucks into one block. Whatever approach we manage to sort out here in Portland, being stuck in a truck all day is going to be a big enough pain in the ass that everyone in a food truck will dream of wowing the masses, making it big, and moving up to an actual storefront.

If they want to know what that will be like, they should check out the new Blue Rooster Food Company. Blue Rooster has gotten this sort of high-end informal food right by going the other way — the chef left New York's highly regarded Bar Boulud to start this new low-end venture in the Old Port. It's low-end in the sense that the menu focuses on sandwiches, dogs, chips, and fries — but it's not humble. Blue Rooster takes ingredients seriously even as the tone is informal and playful — just like the mythical great food truck.

The space suits the venture well — a ring of blue counter-tops in a smallish red space, in front of a big open kitchen. It encourages stand-up eating, or even curb-sitting out front, and the group standing together waiting for their order or scarfing their food feel like they are part of something — especially, one imagines, at 2 am on weekends — again food-truck style. A huge chalkboard overhead lists what is on offer.

The sandwich of the day was a bahn mi, and it was a good one. The baguette had a great crispy crust and the soft interior soaked up a thin and zingy sour mayo. it was filled with thick slices of a red- hued pâté with a bit of meaty texture and lots of sweetness. Some country ham added saltiness, diced carrot more sweet, and the celery root more sour and crunchy texture. But $9 for bahn mi just seems wrong when Kim's does it well for $3.

The rest of the menu, though, costs no more than the typical Portland sandwich (around $7) and tastes a good deal better. Many of the details are fantastic, like pickling the yellow tomatoes on the porcetta sandwich, which brings out its fruitiness (and its grapefruit color) even as it adds some sour. A sweet-salty pork belly, with a nice crispy edge, was stuffed with a spicy, juicy sausage. All the richness was cut by some sharpness arugula and the sour tomato. Thoughtful!

So was a roast turkey sandwich, especially thanks to a terrific sharp and bitter Brussels sprout slaw tucked inside the white bun. The turkey was good, but sprout salad made it, the sour mayo mingling with the bitter bits of sprout, and carrots adding just a faint hint of sweet. A breakfast sandwich combined a runny-yolked egg, a thin little latke, and a thick slice of pork belly on a great crumbly biscuit.

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