Boy oh boy, is today a cold one. Portland usually gets warmer for a few weeks in February—BEFORE IT SNOWS IN FREAKING APRIL—but until we get to that bizarre thaw, we're all in the business of keeping warm. You know what time it is: It's gumbo season.
Gumbo can be many things and involve many ingredients because the much beloved dish comes from the interplay of African, Indigenous, Haitian, Spanish, and French cuisine in Louisiana during the US colonial era. But most of what I know about gumbo comes from older people in the neighborhood I grew up in, and that knowledge can be summed up as "no corn in the gumbo."
Ordering gumbo-for-one can be a strange situation since the dish is traditionally a stone soup endeavor—made with whatever's on hand or in season, in a big pot, to feed a large gathering. But we're all still quarantining and it's cold as biscuits. So bless up these New Orleans and Southern spots that serve up a hot bowl to go!
Northeast hole-in-the-wall/New Orleans bistro Acadia has been doing contactless takeout for most of the pandemic, as well as delivery via the apps. They have a fairly cheery system in place: patiently taking your order and leaving it on a table inside their door. My bag had a little smiley face, and (gosh) I'm grasping at anything for cheer these days.
Acadia's seafood gumbo didn't look like much upon opening, though well-packaged and piping hot. But when I poured that tomatoey, fish-filled, earthy wonder soup over the accompanying sticky white rice, I was blown away by the flavors.
There's a lot of subtlety to Acadia's gumbo, including a delicious bite of lemon sneaking in from over your shoulder. I was warm again in minutes and couldn't finish the whole meal. When I went in for next-day leftovers, Acadia's gumbo was somehow even more flavorful after a reheat—all that delicious crab, crawfish, shrimp, and okra stewing around and making friends overnight.
Acadia, 1303 NE Fremont, (503) 249-5001, acadiapdx.com
In order to get Mumbo Gumbo's Build Your Own Gumbo (BYOG) plate you used to have to travel all the way to Milwaukie. But they just recently opened a cart in the Cartside pod off North Williams. The BYOG has a number of vegan-friendly options (the vegan gumbo sauce base, for one), but the available meatless proteins (veggie andouille sausage and chick'n) are only vegetarian.
The flavors at Mumbo Gumbo are not as deep and ponderous as at Acadia—which is probably to be expected as one moves from bistro to food cart—but the portions are enormous and fit nicely into a strapped, hangry budget. The regular andouille sausage was impossible to discern from the hot links, but the shrimps were plump and plentiful. Mumbo serves their BYOG mixed in with rice and beans so it's all ready to go, and Cartside is a pretty delightful place to sit outside, even in cold, gloomy January.
Mumbo Gumbo, 6200 SE Milwaukie, (503) 902-8898; 1825 N Williams, (503) 999-0819, mumbogumbopdx.com