The pioneers who journeyed the Oregon Trail set an example whose spirit continues to this day. Rose City Waffles may have opened in April of 2016 but that is not when the cart began its journey. Melody Lydy is one of the true pioneers of Portland’s food carts. She established her first food cart during the late Pleistocene Epoch of food carts history, the year 2000.
At the beginning of this century Portland’s cityscape was not as it is now. There were no food carts pods as we now know them. Food carts existed primarily as push carts selling there wares on street corners and sidewalks. Vendors set up their carts at the beginning of each day and removed them when they had finished for the day.
Melody left the food cart world after a few years working as a street food vendor to establish a carting business. Then, sixteen years later, an opportunity arose that pulled Melody back to the food carts. But the food cart landscape had changed dramatically. Now the food cart culture was mature. Food cart civilizations had been established as food carts grouped together in pods.
It was at the Happy Valley Station food cart pod that Melody rejoined the culture by creating the Rose City Waffles food cart. Rose City Waffles has given Melody the opportunity to build a menu around one of her favorite mealtimes, breakfast. While she does admit she was not a fan of waffles per se, her love of French toast has brought about a waffle that so far seems to be a unique take on the griddle cakes. The French Toast Waffle.
Take a regular waffle, dredge it in the same way you would for a slice of bread (in Melody’s custom dredge of course), put it back on the waffle iron and cook it until that normal waffle becomes a French toast waffle. You can consume this double-dipped delight by itself (with some butter and syrup), or you can create waffle-based foods to tantalize the taste buds.
One of those exceptional edibles is Rose City Waffle’s strawberry waffle. While at first glance it appears to be a typical strawberry waffle you’d find most anywhere, one bite assures that this in not your Gramma’s (or even your mother’s) strawberry waffle. Built upon a French toast waffle are fresh strawberries covered with strawberry compote and garnished with whipped cream.
Then there is the “handwich.” The handwich is a waffle, folded in half, and stuffed with a variety of fresh berries and whipped cream. Or, a white-meat, deep-fried, chicken breast filet is placed in the folded waffle, drizzled with syrup and served with Melody’s own country gravy. If so inclined you can go full cave-person and consume a handwich with your hands or bow to civilized methods and use utensils.
However, there is one menu item which has outgrown the ability of a single waffle to contain it. Sort of a handwich with big aspirations. This is the Big Monty. Almost two pounds of love. Start with two (as in 2) big French toast waffles and between them place, Black Forest ham, bacon, Havarti cheese, cheddar cheese, fruit jam, maple syrup, butter, and dusted with powdered sugar. The Big Monty is not for the small of appetite. Few can finish one in a single sitting.
Rose City Waffles is located at Happy Valley Station at SE 145th and Sunnyside Road. The cart is open Monday through Thursday, 7 AM till 8 PM; Friday and Saturday from, 7 AM till 9 PM; and Sundays from 7 AM till 6 PM.
Listen now as Steven Shomler and Ken Wilson talk with Melody Lydy about the prehistoric days of Portland food carts, what it was like in those pre-pod times, and what it means to once again be a food cart proprietor.