Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack (Food Cart) – Portland, OR

It’s no secret that I’m a fiend for fried chicken, in particular well-executed spicy fried chicken. To date, one of my favourite places for fried chicken has been the fast-food chain Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits (multiple locations throughout the US and a few locations in Ontario, Canada). As a foodie, I’m rather embarrassed to admit this since admitting that Popeye’s is my favourite place for fried chicken is almost like admitting McD’s is my favourite place for hamburgers (which, by the way, is totally not true with respect to McD’s being my favourite place for hamburgers). If it’s not already difficult enough to find a place that makes really good fried chicken, it’s even harder to find a place that makes really good spicy fried chicken.

When I found out there was a new food cart in Portland specializing in hot (as in spicy) fried chicken, I knew I had to check it out. Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack specializes in Nashville-style hot fried chicken. The owners, Jeff and Stephanie Barcelona, are originally from Asheville, North Carolina but they were hooked on the hot fried chicken they tried at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville and so they decided to perfect their own version of it. The Cackalack’s food cart is located at the ‘Good Food Here’ cart pod at SE 43rd Avenue and Belmont Street.

It actually took me two attempts before I managed to sample the fried chicken. My original plan was to head there for dinner on a Saturday evening. Since there were other carts at the same cart pod such as Eurotrash and Lardo, my orignal plan was to sample a few items from each of these carts and make a meal out of it. Unfortunately, when I arrived around 6pm that Saturday evening, Cackalack’s had closed early because they had sold out of everything. To me, that was a promising sign that their fried chicken must be really good.

I went back the next day for brunch. I arrived shortly after they opened, around 11am, to ensure this time I would be able to get some fried chicken. Cackalack’s menu is pretty straightforward. Their regular menu consists of starters, sandwiches, and fried chicken. On weekends, they also serve breakfast/brunch items such as biscuits & gravy, breakfast sandwiches, and biscuit sandwiches. My friend C and I already knew what we wanted – the hot fried chicken. The spice level for the fried chicken at Cackalack’s ranges from naked (not spicy), mild, hot, to XXX.

The fried chicken is served on Texas toast and comes with a side of either Cajun fries or smoky slaw. My friend C and I agreed to get a different side for each of our orders so we would be able to sample both the fries and the slaw. My friend C ordered the Fried Chicken – Leg Quarter ($6) in mild since the staff mentioned that mild was supposedly pretty hot already. The bone-in Leg Quarter actually takes longer to prepare (about 15 minutes) compared to the Boneless Breast so it was really nice that they let us know in advance in case we were in a hurry. To our surprise, the crispy crust on the Leg Quarter turned out to be quite dark. I suspect they may have left it in the fryer longer, perhaps even a touch too long, to ensure it would be fully cooked. Fortunately, since it was dark meat, it was still pretty tender, juicy, and not dry. I had a taste of this ‘mild’ Leg Quarter. To me, it was truly mild and not hot at all despite what the staff told us earlier. Even my friend C said she would have preferred a little more heat. The Cajun fries were nicely seasoned and crispy but not necessarily all that memorable. Both my friend C and I felt that the fries were a little too much of carbs and grease to go along with the crusty fried chicken, which by nature is already greasy so next time we probably would opt for the Smoky slaw to balance things out.

I decided to be brave and ordered the Fried Chicken – Boneless Breast ($7) in hot. As it turns out, hot wasn’t really that hot. I could taste the heat but I would have been ok if it had been kicked up a couple notches.  Having said that, I’m not sure I would go so far as to order it XXX on my next visit either as I’ve heard that the XXX is basted in habanero sauce. Overall, I really enjoyed the hot Boneless Breast. The pure white meat was succulent and juicy. The crust was crunchy and flavourful. And I noticed the crust on this Boneless Breast was significantly a lighter golden color compared to the Leg Quarter.  This was more of the color I was expecting for perfectly fried chicken. The Smoky slaw is vinegar-based, as opposed to creamy, which I actually prefer in this pairing with the fried chicken as the acidity in the vinegar helps to cut the grease in the chicken. This is my first time tasting Nashville-style fried chicken so I can’t comment on its authenticity but it was certainly delicious and I would definitely go back to have it again. Apparently, they use organic chicken from Draper Valley Farms so this is basically gourmet spicy fried chicken served from a food cart.

But the really sad part is now that I’ve finally found a place that makes really good spicy fried chicken, I just learned recently that Cackalack’s food cart has been sold. In fact, these next two days will be the last two days of operation by the original owners,  Jeff and Stephanie Barcelona. Rumor has it that they are moving back East and that’s why they sold the cart. The new owner will take over on January 1 and apparently the menu will be kept the same with a few new additions. Only time will tell whether the hot chicken will be as good as before under the new ownership.

Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack
Good Food Here Cart Pod
4262 SE Belmont St (SE 43rd & Belmont)
Portland, OR

http://www.cackalackshotchickenshack.com

@CACKALACKS

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This entry was posted in American, Dinner, eat, Lunch, Oregon, Portland, Snack and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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