I learned a trick when writing about Portland’s food trends for the December issue of PDX Parent: My kids will be downright excited to try a new restaurant if said restaurant has appeared on a TV show.
So lucky for me, Viking Soul Food, a popular cart that sells Scandinavian-inspired fare, recently opened a brick-and-mortar outpost in the Woodstock neighborhood (pictured above) — and the cart appeared on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Watching “triple D” has become a family tradition when we are at a hotel. So sure enough, when I mentioned that host Guy Fieri had visited the cart, my kids were in — even though Scandinavian cuisine is not something they are accustomed to.
Viking Soul Food, took over the very tiny space once occupied by El Gallo Taqueria; I only noticed six seats. We visited on a suitably Norwegian evening — cold, gray and blustery — and pulled up stools at a counter that overlooked Woodstock Boulevard.
The restaurant specializes in lefse, a potato-based flatbread similar in appearance to a giant flour tortilla. Viking Soul Food uses lefse as a base for Scandinavian-inspired sweet and savory wraps. Pro tip: The savory wraps can be ordered as a plate, which makes most dishes gluten-free.
My 10-year-old daughter, Adela, went with a Norwegian Meatballs plate, with the lefse on the side (pictured above). She liked the meatballs and lefse, and was intrigued by the caramelized cheese gravy, but wasn’t sure about the pickled cabbage. I had a taste of it all and found the meatballs really tender and packed with flavor. And the cheese gravy was a train to flavortown, as Guy Fieri might say. On the suggestion of the person who took our order (and prepared our food), we ordered the root vegetable champ; think powered up creamy mashed potatoes. It was both sweet and savory from sweet potatoes and dill — and thoroughly delicious. (Adela had a few bites, and I enjoyed the leftovers with my lunch the next day.) My 8-year-old son, Cruz, shared Adela’s meatballs and gave them a thumbs up. We just ordered a lefse with butter and salt for him. He scarfed it down.
I ordered the vegetarian mushroom hazelnut patty lefse, with mixed greens, blue cheese, pickled purple cabbage and parsley vinaigrette (pictured below). It was amazing, each component of the wrap simultaneously popped with its own flavor and melded perfectly with the other tastes. The mushroom patties were bursting with umami and amped up by the blue cheese. The parsley vinaigrette added a bright note to everything. The pickled cabbage gave it a satisfying crunch. I really haven’t had anything quite like it.
My husband tried the house-smoked salmon wrap and on a whim also ordered a cup of seafood chowder. He was half way through chowing down on his wrap when his chowder arrived. (All of our food came out so quickly, the kids even noticed and appreciated it.) The portion was so generous, he thought he’d received a bowl by mistake. Pro tip: The $7 cup of seafood chowder might be the best food deal in Portland right now. The hefty serving of belly-warming chowder packed with snapper, shrimp, clams and veggies in a saffron cream is a perfect balance of filling and nutritious. One bowl is a complete meal. Of course, my husband still ate his wrap, too, because he said it was so good he had to finish it.
Everyone enjoyed the lefse so much, we wanted to try the sweet versions. We ordered a lingonberry and cream cheese, which was a tasty combo of tart and creamy. But the lemon custard lefse with five-spice pecans was worthy to be served in Valhalla. Both kids (and adults) swooned over it.
When Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives had his taste of Viking Soul Food, he said, “How have I survived this long without eating this?” Guy, we know exactly how you feel.
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