I have a bad attitude about the Seattle food cart scene. It’s based almost entirely on the lack of them, and the rest of the entirely on the fact that the majority of the food trucks/carts in Seattle only serve lunch during the week. That sucks. If these carts aren’t parked near your work’s neighborhood, you ain’t gettin’ none. Is that fair? No. No, it is not. Sure some of them open on Saturday lunchtimes as well, but that’s just another work day around here, so it do me no good, man. My food adventure days are generally limited to Sundays, so no cart food for me.
Since there are only so many sick days a girl can take to try some bona fide Seattle street food, I decided that one of them had to be used on Matt.
That’s Matt and that’s where Matt’s at, standing in front of his truck located that Friday in Interbay, at 16th and Dravus. We visited last month and I’d gone for two things–king cake and the shrimp and grits.
Obviously when I saw the line drawn through “shrimp and grits” on the chalkboard, I knew I’d missed out. “You’ve gotta get here early for the grits,” Matt was telling one of the guys in front of me in line.
Let me explain why this did nothing to change my already pissy attitude. Food carts in Seattle are generally open for three hours, between 11-2. If I arrive at 1:00, sure I’m arriving one hour before closing. I’m also arriving a mere two hours after opening. But the cart is open for only three hours! And I wanted shrimp and grits! And I took the day off to….
Really Matt was only out of shrimp and grits, but I had baggage, see. I’m not going into detail about what happened when Matt told James there was no king cake.
The short of it is that I sucked it up and we ordered directly from Matt, who is a pretty good front man for the show. Helpful, funny, and just an all around friendly guy. Where Ya at Matt’s is designed to give the Puget Sound a taste of New Orleans. Everything is hand-made and adheres to the “Food My Granny Made For Me” school of cooking, and I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that Matt’s granny comes from New Orleans. Though things like gumbo and muffulettas appear, the focus is on po’ boys, and there’s a big variety of ‘em. James went for the Andouille Sausage ($9).
Big flavor on these, and though I’m not much of a sausage fan, the sandwich was good. The amount of lettuce and onions was scaled properly to the bread and sausage, and the sauce Matt makes is spicy and not too salty. Much of the controversy around a po’boy’s authenticity is the bread. Supposedly you can only get the real french rolls to create the sandwiches in Louisiana. The bread has a crisp crust and light, fluffy innards that require good brick ovens to create. Matt says that he creates everything, down to the mayo, so I’m guessing that includes the bread, too. I liked the bread, although I would’ve probably scooped some of the fluff out before building. Then again, the sandwiches are so big, they probably need that foundation to sustain the weight.
Since I couldn’t have grits, I went with the shrimp po’boy ($9). It’s hard to get a good fried ___ sandwich. Fried fish, chicken, or especially shrimp run the risk of having too much batter that ends in mouthfuls of flavorless bread. Matt’s folks started with fresh shrimp and coated them in a seasoned stuffs and fried them just the right amount of time before dumping ‘em on the perfectly dressed roll. When I’m having a shrimp sandwich, I want the shrimp to be the main act, with lettuce, bread, and mayo singing soft backup and this sandwich delivered. Great sandwich, worth the trip.
The real reason I finally hunted down the jazzed up truck was actually the promise of king cake. I went to school in Mobile, Alabama, where, no matter what anybody in New Orleans will tell you, Mardi Gras version Americuh was first celebrated. Moon pies, beads, parades, Bubba, and king cake were all good, good times. Unfortunately, no king cake for me because Matt didn’t have any that day. My initial reaction had been a sobbing, hair-tearing fit, sure. It’s natural. But after my intimate conversation with the shrimp po’boy, my attitude adjusted and I easily went with the backup plan. Ye ol’ beignets.
Beignet is French for deep fried dough drowned in powdered sugar. I’ve had the beignets at Cafe du Monde, but since they were consumed while being assaulted by booze and random acts of public lewdity half a lifetime ago, I can’t attest to their bona fideness. My guess is that they’re probably better. There’s big vanilla flavor in that dough, and hey. It’s fried dough covered in sugar. The only way to make it better is to dunk it.
The coffee (where’s the chickory, Matt?) isn’t ready to sip until it’s got the film of grease and sugar skimming the top.
The dunking gets more enthusiastic after that first bite. Must be why there are no tables.
Yes, I’m still bitter that I haven’t found any food cart pods in Seattle like the one at D Street Noshery in Portland. I understand business models, the need for days off, operational costs, sure. But there’s a whole population of Sunday grazers out there who have been missing out on Matt’s bounty because of the hours he, and others like him, keeps. It’s just selfish. The only way for this to get better is for Matt’s business to grow so much, he’s forced to create a fleet of these jazzy trucks and spread them all over Seattle. People will leave their offices for po’boys and return with that fine dusting of powder rimming their mouths and shirt fronts. Dancing down the hallway, hopped up on coffee and sugar and ready to face the rest of their miserable, corporate days. And when somebody asks “Where Ya at, Matt?” He’ll be in his truck, counting the fistfuls of money he’s making. Success couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Even if he is stingy with his grits.