Viking Soul Food @ The Bite on Belmont (Portland, OR)

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This week’s excursion brought me to The Bite on Belmont – a small food cart pod situated in the heart of the Belmont District. I have been to this pod in the past and have always wanted to try a particular food cart here that, unfortunately, always seems to be closed when I visit. Today, it was no different. Oh well. On to to the next one. Somewhat hidden in the back of the pod sits one of the more unique-looking food carts that you will find in the Portland area. Viking Soul Food, housed in an old, shiny Airstream trailer, evokes images of the Atomic Age design style from the late 1940s and 1950s. Each time I see one of these things I am always reminded of the Fallout video game series (one of my favorites), with its post-apocalyptic landscape littered with trailers and vehicles that appear to have originated from the same era. Anyway, let’s get back to the point; this isn’t a video game blog.

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Viking Soul Food serves Norwegian cuisine, which I was not too familiar with. I stopped by this cart last summer, but it was only to grab a quick, sweet snack (lefse). On this cold winter day in the middle of February, I was intrigued because it seemed like the perfect food to compliment the weather. I mean, if anyone should know how to warm your soul, with food, on a cold winter day, it would be the Norwegians, right? Well, it may not have warmed our souls, but the heated tent where we sat to eat sure did. Unfortunately, I was not overly impressed with the food we ordered. I mean, it was good – it just wasn’t my style, I guess.

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We started off with a green salad and a lingonberry iced tea. I had no idea exactly what a lingonberry was, and it wasn’t until I began writing this post that I learned it’s very similar to a cranberry. The iced tea reminds me of a refreshing summer drink, but it was equally good on this day. The lingonberry, popular in Northern Europe, has a lightly sweet and tart flavor, but not so much that it overpowered the tea itself. The salad, according to the menu, is made with a parsley vinaigrette, pickled beets, and almonds. For an extra $1 you can have them throw some chêvre (goat cheese) on top. For whatever reason, the pickled beets were nowhere to be found. What’s funny is that I have never liked beets, but I was excited to try them in this salad. I have never had pickled beets and thought that, maybe, there was a chance I would like them. I could have gone back to ask why they were missing, but it was not a big deal to me. Besides, I was nice and cozy inside the heated tent. At first, the salad was a little bitter, and I thought that I did not like it. A few bites later, though, I realized that the vinaigrette had one of those tastes that got better the more you ate. And, the creamy chêvre made this salad, too, by the way. It adds tartness that seems to tone down the bitterness of the vinaigrette. So, if you order the salad, I highly recommend it!

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Next, the main courses. I ordered the Norwegian meatballs for myself, and my fiancée wanted to try the Pølse plate. The meatballs are served over a bed of slaw and pickled cabbage that is smothered with a caramelized goat cheese gravy. I really didn’t know what to expect. However, I think I half-expected the meatballs to taste similar to the Swedish meatballs from Ikea. Before you try to call me out – yes, I do realize that there’s a difference between Swedish and Norwegian. Similarly, I half-expected the gravy to be similar to Ikea’s gravy, but with goat cheese cooked into it. Neither assumption was accurate. The meatballs tasted…like a meatball, I suppose – though there were some seasonings that I could not quite identify. The gravy was really sweet, and the amount of goat cheese made it very thick. I love goat cheese, but this was too much, even for me. I may have liked this dish more if it were not served on the bed of slaw and cabbage, but then it would not be authentic. I liked the pickled cabbage, but I thought it paired better with the Pølse plate than it did with the meatballs. When first ordering, I fully expected to like the meatballs more than the other dish. To my surprise, the opposite was true. Fortunately, this worked out well because my fiancée liked my plate more than hers, so we traded.

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The Pølse plate features Swedish potato sausage over a bed of slaw and pickled cabbage, then topped with melted Jarlsberg cheese and just a touch of mustard (not sure what kind). According to the menu, it’s also served with lingonberries but, like the pickled beets, were nowhere to be found. Again, I could have inquired as to why but chose not to. Ironically, the sausage reminded me of Ikea’s Swedish meatballs – what I thought the Norwegian meatballs would have tasted like. Go figure. While I liked this plate more than the meatballs, I was a little disappointed with the texture of the melted cheese. It was not soft and creamy. Instead, it was much more like melted cheese that has cooled, and is becoming firm. Now, it’s entirely possible that this was because of the cold air outside (despite sitting in the heated tent where it was warm). For all I know, Jarlsberg may just be one of those cheeses that does not melt well. Truthfully, I think this was my first time trying it.

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For dessert, we shared a lefse, lightly toasted with butter and cane sugar. Lefse, for those unfamiliar with it, is a soft Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes (among other ingredients, of course). After it’s toasted, and the butter and other ingredients are added, it’s rolled up into what looks like a mini burrito, and served warm. This treat, as simple as it seems, is absolutely delicious! You’ll have to forgive me – dessert is my favorite part of any meal and I forgot to take a picture before we began eating it. As you can see, I made a sad attempt at piecing it back together for you. Honestly, I just threw it down, piece to piece, without giving it much thought. Barely an effort, really. My point is that it’s slightly bigger than it appears in the picture. The first time I came to Viking Soul Food, I tried the butter & raw honey lefse, which is far superior to the one I had on this visit. Both are really good, though not very photogenic (especially when partially eaten already).

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In conclusion, I recommend paying a visit to Viking Soul Food if you’re ever in the area. Even though I was not wowed by what we ordered, it doesn’t mean that you will have the same experience. In fact, you may fall in love with it. Even if you don’t end up liking their food, it’s worth trying because their menu is so unique. You’re not likely to find Norwegian cuisine just anywhere. As far as I know, they are the only place in Portland serving this type of food. There’s nothing wrong with being a little adventurous when it comes to food because you never know what you will or will not like. As the saying goes, don’t knock it until you try it. If I were to offer any criticism at all, it would be on missing menu items, such as the missing pickled beets, for example. If something is out of season (or otherwise not on hand) I would appreciate knowing in advance. Despite that, I will definitely return for the lefse, if for nothing else. Plus, I’m still intrigued by other items on their menu that I would like to try. Namely, the pickled egg and the mushroom wrap. Oh, and I would absolutely go back for more lingonberry iced tea – especially during the warmer months.

Feel free to let me know if you have eaten there before, or if you plan to do so. And, as always, don’t hesitate to comment or leave feedback. You can also follow me on social media or subscribe via E-mail to stay up to date with new content! Likes, shares, follows, and all that other good stuff is sincerely appreciated!

One Comment

  • Julie Hershman Galvin

    February 23, 2018 at 9:59 AM

    Definitely intriguing! Our next door neighbors (and my best friends) when I was a child had a Norwegian grandmother and I fell in love early on with Lefse. I got the recipe years ago, but have never made it, for some reason. I really ought to give it a try.

    Reply

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