Portland, OR: White rocker perfects Thai street food in a shack
Andy Ricker—rock bassist, housepainter, white guy from Vermont—backpacked through Thailand in the '80s and had an epiphany about the perfection of a certain kind of street food.
Twenty years later, Andy Ricker—Portland resto-scene bigwig, James Beard Award finalist—serves the flavors he unearthed there in many guises, and some of the best Thai food outside of Thailand. Our favorites are on the menu at Pok Pok, his pioneering effort.
It started in '05 as a shack-trailer outside his house, and expanded to a divey-feeling (in a good way) bar/dining room in the basement.
Musts: Kai yaang, game hen rubbed with lemongrass, garlic, cilantro and pepper and roasted over charcoal (charcoal is a big thing at Pok Pok—Ricker uses about 500 lbs. a week). Khao soi kai, a mild curry broth with fresh-pressed coconut milk and chili paste, roasted chicken, and a mess of crispy yellow noodles. Papaya Pok Pok, the signature green papaya salad which may ruin you for all others outside of Thailand. Ike's Vietnamese fish sauce wings, which are so popular, you can also get them across the street at Ricker's new Whiskey Soda Lounge (home of "the drinking food of Thailand").
And drinking vinegars, which are like a sour-patch version of an Italian soda (get the plum).
Dessert: Pok Pok affogato, condensed-milk ice cream with a shot of Vietnamese coffee, served with a Chinese fried donut.
Weather permitting, sit shack-side under the trees. It feels like you're at the best backyard barbecue ever.