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Does Portland Have a Quintessential Food?

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Chef Johanna Ware raises some interesting questions.

If you didn't catch Willamette Week's "Fresh Meat" column yesterday, check it out. It's a two-fer.

The column is a place for transplants to kvetch about "the foodstuffs from their native lands that Portland fails to prepare properly." Of course, this means the online comments can get a little crazy. Though it's easy to dismiss the column as a feeding ground for internet trolls, you can't have progress without dialogue, and "Fresh Meat" certainly gets the conversation started.

This week, Smallwares chef/owner Johanna Ware opens up about her anger over Portland's too-fancy sandwiches. "I still don't have a go-to place for a basic sandwich. I haven't found that kaiser roll, turkey, crappy bodega sandwich that I want," says the Illinois native.

That alone is enough to ignite a flurry of comments for or against fancy sandwiches, and inspire a few nominations for sandwich shops around town.

But then columnist/comedian Amy Miller asks Ware what she considers to be Portland's quintessential food item, akin to a Chicago hot dog or NYC pizza.

"I don't know. I could name so many quintessential Chicago or New York items, and I can't name one for Portland," says Ware.

That comment sparked plenty of "go back to where you came from" vitriol, too. But it makes us wonder: Does Portland have a quintessential food? What do you think? And if it doesn't, maybe that's ok? Maybe our contribution to American food isn't limited to a dish. Maybe it's an attitude or a spirit instead.

Whether you agree or disagree with Wares, the thing is, she gave us plenty of food for thought. Chime in on the comments below, or head on over to the forum.


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