Get ready yourselves for a controversial assertion: the very best rooster wings in Portland suitable now are at Erica’s Soul Food, a brilliant yellow cart upcoming to a minimart on SE 82nd Avenue near Stark.
“This design and style of wings arrived about from men and women in Atlanta remaining a little additional,” laughs the cart’s founder and chef, Erica Montgomery. Montgomery, who originally learned to cook from household, specifically her grandparents, and has worked in professional kitchens considering that age 19. She moved right here from her lifelong household in Atlanta in 2017 with only $900, performing in kitchens throughout Portland to established up a daily life for herself. “I lived a rough and tumble lifetime there,” Montgomery shares about her Atlanta several years, but Portland represented a new beginning—and a opportunity to fill a industry gap.
ATL-model wings are an physical exercise in blessed maximalism, served incredibly hot and crispy from the fryer, then “extra wet” with a blend of both of those buffalo and lemon pepper sauce, equivalent parts tangy and brilliant, very hot and vinegary. “I felt like this design and style of wings had been definitely lacking right here,” suggests Montgomery. “It’s a enormous point on the Tv set exhibit Atlanta, and you come across them all about the town, but no 1 listed here in Portland was carrying out it right. I felt like I wanted to arrive right.” Montgomery tends to make the wing sauces herself, and wing plates arrive out somehow at the same time crispy, crunchy, and dressed in one of Montgomery’s nine sauce alternatives, including jerk, maple BBQ, and peach Sriracha, plus a facet of ranch or blue cheese for dipping.
Montgomery’s cart opened in January 2020. Like each chef in Portland, Montgomery was known as to the problem when the pandemic hit. “For me, it felt like my task became to give a protected way for men and women to come get food,” she shares. “It made a cause to have a dialogue with my neighbors, to commiserate, and preserve our community safe and sound.”
This spring, Erica’s Soul Meals assisted hook up places to eat and marginalized communities to accessible vaccine appointments by offering signal-ups for jabs at a regional Walgreens. Setting up this thirty day period, she’s partnering with a neighborhood clinic to offer stroll-in vaccines proper outdoors her cart—and vaccine recipients are rewarded with gift certificates for her food.
Montgomery also on a regular basis speaks out on difficulties associated to social justice, utilizing Instagram to focus on police shootings—she closed her cart to reveal at Lents Park following a gentleman was shot and killed there by police in April—to suicide awareness for the BIPOC group. “I imagine having my meals cart has been a way to experience like my most genuine self. I feel so appreciated … and if I can access my followers who may possibly listen to some beneficial information and facts, I experience seriously driven to do that.”
In this way, Montgomery is emblematic of a new wave of chefs. Food items and neighborhood have generally been intertwined, but social media presents a system for business owners to direct their communities in a new way, with contemporary, crucial voices building significant impacts reaching significantly outside of tired “celebrity chef” lifestyle.
But back again to those wings. On their personal, Montgomery’s ATL-model damp wings are a revelation serving them “extra wet” indicates there is enough sauce still left about to dip your crinkle-lower fries in, or to drizzle over mac and cheese. The jerk sauce is tingly and spicy, with an fragrant dose of nutmeg and allspice. It is the texture that elevates these wings into rare air—she receives the dry-fry regularity just proper.
There is way extra to the menu, with mains like salmon croquettes with sweet onion—made in accordance to her grandmother’s recipe—and wildly flavorful meat loaf. Montgomery also provides a assortment of bowls and sides such as corn bread, cabbage, and black-eyed peas—most of which are vegan, with a variety of gluten-absolutely free solutions. “I consider to fly below the radar with that [healthy] things to get individuals to like my food stuff 1st,” claims Montgomery. But word about Erica’s is now obviously out to Atlanta expats in Portland, a lot of of whom now count them selves as regulars for the wings as properly as for the boiled peanuts, a Ga beloved Montgomery refers to as “the caviar of the South.” For dessert, test Montgomery’s pound cake—a generations-old relatives recipe made making use of White Lily flour, a will have to-have for Southern baking that she goes to great lengths to observe down below in Oregon.
As carts rise once again as hubs of culinary innovation with cultish fanbases, Erica’s has emerged as one particular of the most thrilling new kitchens to open up in Portland in the previous yr and a half—not just for its foodstuff, but for its neighborhood affect. Phone your wing-loving good friends. Make yours a double get. Wings this superior are a reward. Delight in and be grateful.