Melissa McMillan is going all in.
The Ashland resident and owner of the wildly popular Sammich sandwich shop told Eater that she's definitely rolling out her Pastrami Zombie sandwich cart in Portland on June 17, whether she's secured a spot to park it or not.
We caught up with McMillan at a private tasting about 10 days ago (looks like PoMo was there, too), and she shared with us the details on her new cart, a still-being-refurbished 1973 Chevy step van. Here's what she told us:
- Pastrami Zombie will serve an abbreviated list of Sammich's greatest sandwich hits, including her soon-to-be-famous Montreal-style pastrami (with Swiss, slaw, and Russian dressing), her Reuben, and a Pastrami Zombie burger (think a Reuben plus a patty on a toasted Italian roll), as well as specials like poached and crumbed albacore tuna salad sandwiches and Chicago Italian beef sandwiches
- The cart will serve grilled cheeses for kids (or vegetarian adults), with sides like potato salad, Tim's potato chips, and a TBD salad
- Her pastrami takes 7 days to trim, brine, smoke, and steam
- When you're queued up, you'll most likely get heckled, but don't be insulted, the heckles aren't personal and come from a place of genuine affection (your bespectacled author was referred to as "Four-eyes")
- Substitutions will be accommodated if they're within reason; McMillan told us the story about the time she refused to serve a someone an Italian beef with a side of ketchup; he was heckled so mercilessly by her other Sammich customers that he bounced, leaving a 2-star Yelp review in his wake
Prior to opening up Sammich, McMillan had spent her first eight years in Oregon working the front and back of house in a handful of restaurants, but she's been working with food for as long as she can remember.
She started running the salad station at a Chicago-area restaurant where he mother bartended when she was just 13, and has been smoking meats at her relative's Texas ranch since she was "old enough to touch the smoker."
She's also spent the last 10 years in Ashland coaching boys' little league baseball teams. When she opened Sammich, she tried to quit, but she says "the parents wouldn't let me."
The last—and third—time she tried to quit the team was to work on her new food cart. To get her to stay and continue coaching, "the dads [a plumber, an electrician, and a painter] chipped in to help [her] work on the truck."
Expect to see the temporarily rootless Pastrami Zombie food cart somewhere soon. As for where is anybody's guess.