Food cart Nacheaux brings Cajun/Mexican fusion cuisine to Southeast Portland.
When I heard about the Nacheaux food truck at the Cartlandia pod on 82nd Avenue, I was intrigued. Husband-and-wife team Anthony and Stephanie Brown serve up Southern-fried goodness with a Mexican twist. Both Mexican and Cajun cuisines are two of my all-time favorites, and I felt their marriage could either be really great or fall flat.
My family had planned to go to Nacheaux for lunch on a Friday, but I called to make sure they were open. It turns out they were closed for a special event. (Pro tip: Always call ahead!) But I was told they’d be open the next day, so we headed out on a blustery Saturday for lunch.
You can’t miss the robin’s-egg-blue cart adorned with a dabbing unicorn. We perused the menu and decided on our picks. Once we ordered, we were told it’d be a 30-minute wait.
So we decided to walk around before finding a covered table. (Cartlandia has an abundance of distanced, covered outdoor spots.) We grabbed tempura-fried onion rings from the Ball-Z cart and a blended strawberry boba from Bobablastic. It was a good thing, because our wait ended up being more like 45 minutes.
My 8-year-old daughter, Adela, got a side of mac ‘n’ cheese for her lunch. Cart owner Anthony Brown had helpfully offered to make her the less-spicy kids’ mac ‘n’ cheese ($5.50), especially since it’s not a formal menu item. She gave the creamy macaroni a big thumbs-up. And I mean this literally — she didn’t want to stop eating to answer me when I asked how her lunch was. My 5-year-old son, Cruz, ordered a side of cornmeal-crusted fried chicken tenders ($5.50). He ate them with no complaints, which is honestly not how most meals go.
My husband tried one of the specials: a fried catfish sandwich on Texas toast ($9) with cabbage slaw, pickled onions and a kicked-up Mexican crema called Nacheaux sauce; this combo is called “Nacheaux-style” and is a recurring theme on the menu. He finished it in about three giant bites and said he’d order it again. And I opted for the fried-chicken burrito, which also included red beans and rice, a five-cheese blend and those Nacheaux-style toppings ($9). The concept worked and the salsa that came on the side was the real deal — like the salsa my family makes at home when tomatoes and jalapeños from our garden are ripe. And the tart punch of the pickled onion reminded me of the escabeche my grandfather used to make. We also tried the signature Nacheaux Nachos ($9), which I liked even better than my burrito. The fried tortilla chips were coated with Cajun spices and topped with Mexican-style pork carnitas, red beans and dirty rice, and the Nacheaux accompaniments. The nachos really were a shining example of how well this fusion of flavors worked.
We had also ordered the churro beignets ($4.25), but they didn’t come with our food. So I went back and asked for them. A batch got fried up quickly for me, and we ate them as we loaded into the car. The cinnamon flavor and denser texture were definitely reminiscent of a churro, and the dusting of powdered sugar added that beignet touch. We gobbled them up, but I felt they could have benefited from having more of that yeasted lightness that you’d find in a traditional New Orleans-style beignet.
So even with a long wait time and a forgotten order of churros, the successful mix of flavors at Nacheaux was enough to make us want to try the cart again — provided we place our order online before leaving the house.
Nacheaux 8145 SE 82nd Ave., in the Cartlandia pod. 971-319-1134, nacheauxpdx.com.