Vegan gumbo, smothered shrimp, and stacked banana pudding parfaits have arrived in Westmoreland. Mumbo Gumbo, a new food cart in Portland’s tiny Smile Pod, specializes in Cajun classics that can accommodate a number of diners, from the shellfish-averse to the meat-free.
Mumbo Gumbo’s signature dish starts with a vegan base, which can be customized with various add-ins: Starting at $4, the gumbo gets loaded up with everything from shrimp to Field Roast andouille, for an additional $2-4 per protein. “I was pretty adamant about quality. If I can do a vegan base and it tastes pretty damn good, then okay, but if it doesn’t work, it’s going to have to be what it is with shrimp stock and chicken,” says chef and owner Brandon Stevens. “Luckily I made it, and it was fantastic.”
Beyond the classic Southern stew, Mumbo Gumbo offers a few other Cajun staples: Vegan red beans and rice, the popular shrimp and grits smothered in a white-wine-and-andouille cream sauce, and banana pudding with Nilla wafers and caramel. The cart also hawks a Boudin sausage topped with house-pickled okra and brown mustard.
Stevens moved up from California to open his cart, which tackles dishes he grew up loving after years in the food business — His grandfather worked as a military chef before he opened Sacramento’s Stagecoach restaurant, one of the city’s oldest black-owned restaurants. “We served Southern-style breakfast — chicken-fried pork chops, catfish and grits,” Stevens remembers. “I started working in the restaurant at 12, washing dishes; by 20, maybe 22, I’d worked every position.” After a career in corporate restaurant management, Stevens joined his nephew to open Mumbo Gumbo.