Fried chicken has been a long time American favorite. After the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich caused drive through lines that resembled rush hour traffic, the dish has become a fan favorite. Portland, while not known for its southern cuisine, seems to have entered a fried chicken renaissance.
With a family from Indiana, fried chicken is a staple and fan favorite. As a self proclaimed connoisseur, I thought, what better way to explore what Portland has to offer than the food carts. I rounded up a mixed group of tasters to accompany me: Jude Callaway, Lev Michaels, Charlie North and Donagh Palmer. The tasters offered their own unique perspective and rating for each sandwich. Ratings were done out of ten using a scale adopted from music critic Anthony Fantano which emphasizes adding “solid, strong or light” to each rating for more specificity.
First Stop: FOMO Chicken, SE 28th and Ankney
What we ordered: Chicken Sandwich, $14
Upon first sight, the sandwich was small, neatly put together, and surrounded by french fries. The first bites were delightful. The chicken was perfectly cooked with condiments and a bun that complimented it thoroughly. “It’s got a really good crisp and great fries,” said Lev. Others noticed the slight kick it had, thanks to the sauce. “The flavor and texture of the sandwich is really good, but it also has flair,” commented Charlie. FOMO offers a variety of chicken dishes in addition to their chicken sandwich. Donagh, apart from the tasting, ordered the Sweet Soy Garlic Fried Chicken which had an incredible flavor and was overall declared better than the sandwich by the group.
While the sandwich was generally liked throughout the group, there were complaints of the small size and high price. Overall the group agreed it was very solid and definitely a place that we would return to.
Ratings: Lev: Light 8, Jude: Strong 7, Charlie: Strong 7, Donagh: Solid 7, My rating: Solid 7
Second Stop: JOJO, SE Powell and 35th
What we ordered: Chicken Sandwich $13.50
When I mentioned that I was writing a food cart fried chicken review, JOJO was the one place everyone said I had to try. I came in with high expectations, but JOJO did not disappoint. The sandwich was large with a huge piece of chicken hanging out the sides, dripping with sauce. “It’s a little messy, but it’s a good messy,” remarked Charlie. The chicken and overall taste was immaculate. Jude, who had not eaten fried chicken before this outing, said, “It has a much stronger flavor than FOMO. It makes me want to eat more. I had no idea how much I was missing out on chicken sandwiches.” The tray was empty within a matter of minutes since we ate quickly. JOJO’s menu concentrates on their sandwiches and fries, (jojos), yet unfortunately we were not able to try the jojos as they need to be ordered separately from the chicken.
All things considered, JOJO was a fan favorite and delivered in all areas. Lev summed it up saying, “Great size and bang for your buck as well.”
Ratings: Lev: Solid 9, Jude: Solid 9, Charlie: 10, Donagh: Strong 8, My rating: Light 9
Third Stop: Chicken and Guns, SE Hawthorne and 12th
What we ordered: Half Bird with fries and all sauces.
Unlike the past two orders, the half bird was an assortment of fried chicken including wings, breasts, and drumettes. We ordered the chicken with the side of “guns,” or french fries, and all of the available dipping sauces. Now familiar with the chicken sandwich format, the pileup of bone-in meat was startling, but a pleasant change. Two sauces came with the dish, Peruvian Aji and Chimichurri. We took turns prying chicken off the bone and dipping it in each of the sauces. Lev noted the taste, saying, “The chicken is seasoned really well. The sauces add additional flavor and help the meal from being too boring.” The “guns” were also captivating as they helped balance out the rich and savory chicken. Most of the group categorized the spread as straight up solid. “The potatoes are good, the chicken is good, the sauce is good, overall real good,” affirmed Charlie.
Ratings: Lev: Solid 8, Jude: Strong 6, Charlie: Strong 8, Donagh: Strong 6, My rating: Strong 7
Honorable mentions that we did not get to try:
General Burnside’s Chicken Cantina, SE Hawthorne and 32nd
LoRell’s Chicken Shack, SE 52nd and Foster
This experience caused the group to gain a new respect for Portland food carts, especially when it came to fried chicken. “Portland has a high concentration of [fried chicken] places in a small area and they’re all super good,” said Lev. Jude as a first time fried chicken taster had found a new favorite: “I went into this thinking that fried chicken wasn’t really good, but the sandwiches were one of the best things I’ve had in awhile.” While Popeyes or SuperDeluxe are easy options, it’s good to know Portland has more to offer than just fast food when it comes to fried chicken.