When Jacob Palmer opened ThiccBoi at the Bantu Island pod in January, it wasn’t just a food cart: It was an opportunity. The cart serves an array of chicken wings and tenders tossed in sauces like Buffalo, hot honey, barbecue jerk, or orange-chicken-adjacent “orange curry,” as well as things like garlic rice and a brioche-bun chicken sandwich with pickles and slaw. But beyond a chicken cart, ThiccBoi was Palmer’s opportunity for a platform, a community space.
“When I first moved to this neighborhood, from Rose City to Alberta, it was a drastic change. I’d hear shootings. It was before most of the businesses on this street existed,” Palmer says. “I’m not going to say it was better then than it is now, but we’re seeing the effects on the community. What’s going to bring people together is to create spaces like pods and create a sense of togetherness, something affordable.”
Palmer grew up in Portland, and while it wasn’t a professional interest until recently, he’s always loved food. He remembered visiting his great-grandmother in St. Louis, watching her fry chicken, and going out to meals with his family and ordering golden piles of chicken tenders. He’s worked in a number of Portland kitchens — for SeaSweets Poke and Smokin’ Fire Fish’s Chris Cha, before he opened his restaurant — but ThiccBoi was something else. He wanted to perfect his crispy chicken, make a chicken wing that was never frozen, gluten-free and dairy-free, saucy yet crispy, that lived up to the memories of his great-grandmother and the places he ate growing up. “Ultimately, it comes down to consistency. It’s got to be crispy, and the same every time,” he says. “In Portland, representing yourself and your culture is so important. It’s the best thing you can do. People seem to be looking for authenticity.”
For Palmer, part of that authenticity has to do with his relationship with his customers: He’s open about missteps and goals via his Instagram page, as well as his identity as a business owner. As ThiccBoi grows, he wants to use his space as a place to feature art by other BIPOC Portlanders, even lining the cart with local art and helping develop the pod’s outdoor dining spaces. “You have to figure out what you want to prioritize,” he says. “I want to support fellow marginalized communities. It’ll give me a platform to be vocal about my beliefs. I don’t want to foster any type of negative commentary, but I’m going to say Black Lives Matter.”
ThiccBoi is open for takeout at the Bantu Island food cart pod, at 1533 NE Alberta Street.