Considering the inimitable satisfaction one gets from smashing a plate of fries topped in melted cheese curds and gravy while out on the town, it’s shocking how few places in Portland offer a good plate of poutine. Then again, this legendary cart in Cartopia -- one of Portland's original food pods, at SE Hawthorne and 12th -- is so good at doling out sloppy, salty hits covered in pulled pork, palak paneer, and satay that it may be futile to compete in the first place.
Housed in Hawthorne’s lively Cartopia pod, the Potato Champion food cart is deserving of its name, serving Belgian-style French fries and poutines topped with everything from palak paneer to chili cheese. Its hand-cut and double-fried potatoes come with a choice of house-made sauces like wasabi mayo, bourbon honey mustard, or vegan curry ketchup, and it’s all on the table until 1 a.m.
Like any good friterie, this one offers a large selection of dipping sauces, including anchovy mayo (try it), satay sauce (interesting), ketchup with rosemary and truffle oil (move on) and -- the ultimate -- sweet-hot mustard sauce. Yes, mustard sounds strange with fries, but trust me: This homemade formula is a startlement, a nostril slapper, a game changer. If you're really flying, also try the "poutine," the Canadian soul-food combo of fries, spicy brown gravy and cheese curds. Rich doesn't begin to cover it, but neither does wonderfully evil.
Aw, remember Potato Champion? It’s still kicking, and those peanut butter and jelly fries with peanut satay and raspberry chipotle jam are as tasty as they were those late nights in your younger days. Pop over to Cartopia for a pile, or order them for delivery through Caviar.
Cartopia's Potato Champion fries up Belgian-style pommes frites (twice-fried and served in a paper cone, natch) — but because those American palates are unwilling to settle for just mayo as the dipping sauce of choice, PC offers up to 20 different kinds of sauces, nearly all made in-house. Whether you prefer the dunk-it-yourself method or the grab-a-fork options (we're lookin' at you, poutine), we visited the cart on a random Thursday to break down a dozen dippers.
What’s better than the Canadian classic of cheese curds, gravy, and fries when you’re stumbling around drunk at 1 am? Literally nothing: It’s the best drunk food imaginable. And Potato Champion has it DOWN. A medium sized portion runs for $8.25 and it’s plenty for a ravenous drunk, and the large portion for $11 is great for sharing. I suggest the satay poutine—it comes with a house-made Thai peanut sauce drizzled over your french fries. And if your friends are picky, they have many other great food carts to choose from. Everyone can come back together in the spacious seating area to enjoy their various crepes, noodles, pizza, and poutine.