Lardo PDX– sniff. I remember when we first met, when it was a new food cart, brand new and just custom built, when I attended the annual food cart festival Eat Mobile 2011. I also visited it on a food cart tour. Then, the cart grew up- so fast!- to a brick and mortar location, first on the east side of the river, and now on the west side where I visited its bright shiny digs with huge glass windows and doors and the same clean wood and food that celebrates fat. F/Jack that can eat no fat hates this place, but I naturally love it. Now they are so grown up they are throwing Super Bowl parties with heated tents and a big screen and game day food today, and earlier this month collaborated to offer a Swine and Barley Wine event (A Pig Out Production) of barleywine pairings with offerings from their menu and cheese from Steve’s Cheese (check out a take from an attendee at one of the local PDX blogs I follow, Beer Musings from Portland)
In their transformation from food cart to two physical restaurants, they still have a very casual level of service. I’ve seen this in many places in Portland in order to reduce service staff costs. You go up and order from a chalkboard on the wall, and are handed a number so that your order can be delivered to you, and then you bus yourself to the bins. Wisely, they already have to go boxes for your leftovers out.
I also want to assure you that what is pictured below is more than one lunch I had at Lardo, and these sandwiches are not all mine. You don’t need to fear for my heart and whether I can continue to enjoy deliciousness. This was not one meal.
First of all, the Bloody Mary is quite spicy! I loved it! There haven been many a bloody mary that I have tried around PDX that didn’t bring it (and with great distilleries like New Deal with their Hot Monkey vodka and so much heirloom tomatoes and homemade pickling!). Thankfully, Lardo brought it to punch with flavor with their take on a bloody mary. As I waited for my order to be prepared (they do so to order), that bloody mary really raised my expectations of what I was about to experience, as it ranked right up there with ones I’ve had at for instance when I visited Tasty N Sons and my brunch at Simpatica.
You may consider bringing a friend to share with if you get the double burger and fries- I felt my heart would burst just eating that half of a Double Burger (with both Cascade natural beef and pork belly as the meats along with the cheddar and lardo sauce) and the Dirty Fries. Oh those Dirty Fries with fried pork fat scraps, marinated peppers, fried herbs and parmesan, a tasty but filling combination on the tastebuds of savory and salty and spicy and sour, both crispy and so lingeringly soft in the same chew. Genius.
I’m not sure why you would not order these fries dirty- you sort of need all those peppers to balance out that pork belly on the burger. Not to say the pork belly isn’t delicious- at one point I separated them out to eat them individually to savor them, and even without the pork belly that burger is so juicy and messy and glorious. I can see this showing up on the national charts of Food & Wine as one of the best burgers in the US, and it is definitely in the top 3 for Portland.
Other sandwiches I was able to sample included the fried chicken sandwich, eggplant parmesan, and porchetta sandwich. The fried chicken sandwich was decent but I was hoping for more- I don’t mind cold fried chicken, and the description of Cold Fried Chicken, blue cheese, bacon, pickles sounded promising. But, I realized as I ate it that I was hoping for a cold fried chicken that would compare well with cold chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Maybe my memories are rosy since it has been years since I’ve had KFC since I don’t eat fast food chains anymore, but I remember not minding leftover KFC the next day because of the wonderful seasoning on their original recipe chicken or the extra crispy chicken version still having a corner of super crunch here or there. Neither of this was true with the cold fried chicken from Lardo, and I was hoping they would have celebrated the fat of the skin more either with seasoning to let it sing, or lots of breading to highlight extra crispy skin. I also wouldn’t have minded more blue cheese, such as Rogue blue cheese tang.
Meanwhile, Lardo’s Eggplant Parm ‘Old School’ with tomato sauce, provolone, basil was messy with its generous saucing, and the breading still had a bit of crispness despite it. It is a good option for the vegetarian who you drag to eat Lardo with you. In fact, Lardo offers two vegetarian sandwiches- there was also a Rapini sandwich with aged provolone, capers, and red pepper agrodolce available as an option.
Finally, Lardo’s signature porchetta sandwich with caper aioli, gremolata that have been written up nationally including the recipe shared at Saveur. It’s a sandwich of fatty melt in your mouth pork belly that is wrapped around the roasted pork and doesn’t apologize for it, and in fact adds all that good olive oil and gremolata on top (though seriously just the meat/fat combo itself is already luscious).
Lardo is serious about bringing the fat back. And, it doesn’t hurt that now with having a restaurant space (two actually!), they can offer half a dozen options for cocktails and more than a dozen local Northwest microbrew beers to wash that extreme richness down with. They also have pie holes- I stared so wistfully at those pecan pie holes but couldn’t muster the courage to add more to my arteries in one meal (well, also considering what gluttony the meal order already consisted of as you see. I more than blew my caloric allowance before dessert…) Not a single thing is more than $10, but every item is an indulgent pleasure that seems to border on sinful in its exaltation of richness.