Binghamton, New York, a small city near the Pennsylvania border, is known for a few things: its zoo, its university, and its iconic sandwich, known as a spiedie. Spiedies consist of sub rolls filled with tangy, peppery, marinated cubes of meat, grilled on a skewer and topped with fresh marinade. In Portland, there are a few restaurants that serve grilled meats, but spiedies have been a little more elusive — at least, until earlier this month, when Julian Gomez and Ben Healy-Levy opened their Southeast Portland food cart.
Boy Howdy, parked in the food cart pod near Paradox Cafe on Belmont, specializes in both traditional and more conceptual spiedies, a nod to Healy-Levy’s early years growing up in Binghamton. “I wanted to pull from my roots a little bit,” he says. “We thought it’d be a fun way to play around with flavors.” For them, that means selling marinated chicken spiedies, as well as grilled chicken sandwiches that pull inspiration from other culinary traditions.
Each sandwich starts with a Bella’s Italian Bakery roll, but from there, Gomez and Healy-Levy use a number of different varieties of grilled-to-order, marinated chicken. For the Nikkei, chili-ginger-marinated chicken comes with sesame guacamole, aji verde, and pickled onion salsa criolla; the Doner pairs a yogurt-marinated chicken thigh with lemon garlic aioli, tomato-and-arugula salad, and other veggies. The shop also sells two variations on a traditional spiedie, using the lemon-pepper marinated chicken: The Boy Howdy, which comes with a splash of fresh marinade and lemon-garlic aioli, and the Binghamton, which also gets a dose of chili pepper relish. All of the chicken marinates for anywhere between 12 and 24 hours, for as much flavor permeation as possible.
The two wanted to make sure Boy Howdy served vegan-friendly sandwiches, so instead of grilling tofu, tempeh, or a faux meat, Gomez and Healy-Levy landed on using grilled portobello mushrooms as a foundation: The Black Sheep arrives with roasted red peppers and eggplant, as well as a dose of pesto and caramelized garlic, while the portobello banh mi gets classic accoutrement like pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, and jalapeno, as well as a cucumber salad and vegan sriracha mayo.
Gomez and Healy-Levy met while working at Broder Cafe on SE Clinton; Gomez’s friend, Mike Atkins, once owned the Clinton Street Theater and adjacent pub down the block. Atkins approached Gomez, interested in investing in whatever culinary project he had in mind; Gomez reached out to Healy-Levy to see if he’d be interested in owning a cart. “[Atkins] has been the coolest. He’s our hype man for sure,” Gomez says. “He gave us free reign... It’s our menu, it’s our food, it’s our image.”
Boy Howdy is open at 3423 SE Belmont Street.
• Boy Howdy [Instagram]
• Spiedies Are the Best Sandwiches You’ve Never Heard Of [BA]