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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Food cart

Mon–Sat 11:00am–7:00pm

Features Outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC

804 SW 12th St.
Portland, OR
(503) 241-7944
India Chaat House
In this amusing (and sad) War of the Roses, nobody wins

As the story goes, this is the famous original truck run by an Indian couple who split acrimoniously. Until then, people really quite enjoyed it. Then, there was a split; the husband went to India; and upon returning, he found that his ex had opened Bombay Chaat House, another truck right by his. At this point, FOX might have picked it up for a hilarious sitcom rife with colorful “ethnic” characters and called it something like “Naansense.” But, alas, the husband did what anyone might do in this case: he sold the thing.

In a free-market economy, as the theory goes, competition is supposed to drive up quality and drive down prices. Well, at least half the prediction has come true: the cost here could hardly be any lower. When we discuss the quality of these two carts, though, we remind ourselves of an old couple complaining about their respective ailments.

At both, we’ve had substandard Southern Indian food, but here, we’ve had absolutely soggy pakora—some of the worst of our lives; clumpy, boring white rice; a vegetable curry dominated by cauliflower that tasted vaguely winey and fermented, like mushrooms à la grecque; and aloo saag that was ruined by the starchiness of overcooked, crumbly potato blending in with the spinach. Yellow dal is somehow absolutely tasteless. Even naan (if it hasn’t run out) is yeasty and undercooked. The list goes on.

We feel bad for anyone coming here with no previous exposure to the wonderful flavors and textures of all-vegetarian South Indian cuisine. It can be better, we assure you. The seating area here is nicer, and the tendrils of incense are a little transportive (and can substitute for the food’s lack of flavor), but really, you’re better off leaving the parking lot. The free Chai tea is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t make this cart worthwhile, nor does the promise of dramatic tension. We say that your safest bet is to avoid both of these chaat carts—the story’s the only thing in this parking lot with any good flavor.

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