This past October, Portland's Northern Thai comfort food restaurant empire Pok Pok—the extremely popular project of chef and restaurateur Andy Ricker—closed its last locations for good. And while the waits were long and the bills sizable whenever you visited, those delectable fish sauce wings will be hard to replace in our hearts.
But Portland has other spicy, Asian cuisine-inspired wing spots. Some are brand spanking new and others have been with us all along. Look behind you, Portlanders. Do you see those prints in the sand? You dropped your wings, silly.
The newest answer to Portland's fish sauce wings void is, appropriately enough, a vegan one. And though Mama Dút's new brick and mortar Vietnamese deli is only open for pick-up on Saturday and Sunday (preorder during the week, or call to see if they have anything extra that day) this charm-filled pop-up turned pick-up has ton of fan force behind it. I missed the vegan "phish sauce wangs" window twice before I was finally able to score a spot in line to try chef Thuy Pham's caramelized garlic soy-based creations.
When you don't eat meat or cheese you tend to forget what the real stuff tastes like, so I'm not sure the extreme chewiness of these "wangs" will be a problem for most vegans. Frankly, I found it off-putting, but the sauce those wings are slathered in makes them highly addictive, so I eventually forgot about the texture and kept putting these wangs in my mouth. I got through eight wangs that way.
If such extreme chewiness sounds disappointing, I have a better report about Mama Dút's vegan pork belly buns. The marinated fake pork is soft, the buns are steamed, and the delicious homemade kimchi and vegetables hit with the perfect spicy fermented punch. I eagerly lay in wait for Mama Dút to be open regular hours.
Mama Dút, 1414 SE Morrison, (503) 954-1222, mamadutfoods.com
It's a bummer that the recent, necessary restaurant shutdown included outdoor dining spots like Sunshine Noodles, because even a cursory picking-up-wings glance at the new Cambodian noodle bar—currently renting the Psychic Bar building space on N Mississippi—gave off good vibes for miles. With twinkling lighting, heat lamps, covered seating, and an inviting fire, Sunshine Noodles rockets one back to the Before Times of casual, romantic evenings—all the while safely following distance guidelines.
So add this gem to your list of restaurants to visit when restrictions are lifted. Or just do yourself a favor and sup on an order of Sunshine's fried, lime-pepper wings right now! Well, they're only open Wed-Sun, but they recently extended their hours to 11 am-2 pm for lunch and 4 pm-9 pm for dinner! While you're ordering, I also highly recommend the Beyoncé limeade made with lime, lime leaf, maple syrup, and a little Thai chili to make you put the hot sauce back in your bag.
Sunshine Noodles, 3560 N Mississippi, (971) 770-0504, sunshinenoodles.com
"That's correct," I said into my phone. "I want the soup with the wings AND an order of wings."
That's just one method of ordering as many wings as possible from PaaDee while also hopefully playing it cool about how much you like PaaDee's amazing sriracha-fish fried chicken wings dish, Peek Gai Todd.
In the search for restaurants killing it at takeout right now, I surveyed a large swathe of friends, acquaintances, and people who started up conversations at the grocery store. Over and over, a resounding number came back with PaaDee—an extremely popular, hard-to-get-a-reservation-at Thai comfort food restaurant kiddy corner from the Laurelhurst Theater.
A weird upside to the shut down is suddenly you can eat at all the restaurants where the wait was too long before! And, holy gosh, have I been face down in PaaDee's creamy, coconut-y Khao Soi noodle soup as much as possible during these trying times. Yellow curry doesn't begin to describe all the flavors happening in that rich, and satisfying broth. Plus, the dish comes with a topper of your choice of chicken wings or tofu! You need to do what's right for you—but get the wings. No, seriously... get the wings. For the love of all that is soup holy, get the wings!
PaaDee, 6 SE 28th, (503)-360-1453, paadeepdx.com