When Deepak Saxena, the owner of the popular Prost pod Indian cart Desi PDX, comes home after a long day, he often makes himself a snack: He takes the tamarind- and ginger-braised pulled pork he serves at the cart — typically a part of a plate with curry confit onions, crispy chickpeas, and spiced basmati rice — and throws it on a sandwich. It’s a low-lift meal, and when he began thinking about expanding, his masala pulled pork sandwiches quickly came to mind. “I wanted to go in a different direction from Desi PDX,” Saxena says. “I liked the idea of doing Indian sandwiches; it’s how I eat at home.”
So within the next year, Saxena will open two new Indian sandwich spots: one within a bar, and another as a cart. At Chaat Wallah, Saxena will top toasted Dos Hermanos buns with everything from coconut-water-braised tuna to spiced ground lamb, served alongside bhel puri and nachos topped with paneer and chutney.
Chaat Wallah, which roughly translates to snack vendor, will specialize in sandwiches and, of course, snacks — bhel puri in butter lettuce boats, crispy-fried chickpeas tossed in garam masala, yogurt dip with caramelized shallots and sumac. The snack menu also includes more substantial dishes like “nacho chaat”: chips covered in cheddar and paneer crumbles, drizzled in tamarind-date and spicy cilantro chutneys, and finished with smoked yogurt and crispy curls of sev. Customers will be able to add toppings like pulled pork and lamb, pulled from the shop’s sandwich menu.
Many of Chaat Wallah’s sandwiches use a foundation of proteins found at Desi PDX: The masala pulled pork makes an appearance with turmeric vinaigrette slaw, pickled onions, and mango achaar mayo, while the cart’s “kalonji kale keema” — saucy ground lamb with kale and a tomato-and-butternut-squash-based sauce — becomes the foundation for Saxena’s take on a sloppy joe, with garlic-chilli-kalonji crisp, pickled eggplant, and mint yogurt. Chaat Wallah’s version of a tuna salad blends tuna with coconut milk tandoori sauce and garam masala mustard, served with the same turmeric vinaigrette slaw as the masala pulled pork. And non-meat-eaters can order dabeli, a sandwich with roots in Gujarat. Typically, dabeli is made with a mashed potato patty, served with pomegranate seeds, peanuts, and chutney; Chaat Wallah’s dabeli blends spiced mashed potato with lentil tempeh, topping it with garlic-chilli-kalonji crisp, pickled onions, crushed peanuts, pomegranate seeds, and microgreens. All of the sandwich bases are gluten-free, and the shop will offer both traditional Dos Hermanos buns as well as New Cascadia gluten-free buns.
The first Chaat Wallah will open in the Iron Fireman Collective building, at 4784 SE 17th Avenue, sometime this fall; Chaat Wallah will be opening in conjunction with a yet-to-be-announced bar in that building. The second location, a cart, will land in Northeast Portland in 2022. Stay tuned for more updates.