Friday, May 03, 2013

Garden State's Sandri in Motion


You might say that Kevin Sandri is going back to his roots. He started out a professional musician, playing his nights away for not a lot of money but a lot of acclaim. But since acclaim wasn't something he could put on the table or use to pay the rent, and with no other discernable skills that would get him a regular job, he decided to open a food cart using dishes from his childhood in New Jersey.

It was before food carts were a dime a dozen in Portland, but customers were soon flocking to his quilted aluminum trailer in an obscure corner of Southeast Portland for his meatball hero packed with big, beefy balls and luscious sauce, and his chickpea sandwich and arancine. Within a couple of years the cart scene was booming and he'd opened a second Garden State as well as a hipster burger cart called Burgatroyd in the Mississippi Marketplace pod.

The cart boom was getting crazy with pods opening up in every vacant lot in the city, as ubiquitous as Starbucks were a decade earlier, and Sandri decided it was time to get out. After selling his carts (Burgatroyd still operates in the Mississippi pod under new ownership), he helped start up a couple of food businesses in town.

Sandri's signature meatball hero.

After a stint he called "chef rehab" working the line at Rick Gencarelli's Lardo, he said he's ready to step back into the food fray by taking the reins in the kitchen at the newly renovated and under-new-ownership Alberta Street Pub. The pub was one of the first businesses in what was then a very down-and-out (read "scary") corner on NE Alberta street. Two brothers, Eli and Django Amerson, have bought the pub from original owner Michael Beglan and are set to reopen in the coming weeks.

Customers can expect a full bar with beer and wine on tap, music at least three nights a week, and a menu with a house burger and what Sandri is calling a killer plate of fish and chips that'll put other fried fish dishes into the wannabe category. He's looking forward to calling in his former farm suppliers for many of the raw ingredients, so the city may be in for the (oddly in this food-crazy town) rare experiences of a pub with stellar food. We can only hope he brings back that hero to the specials menu once in awhile, as well as stepping up on stage with his guitar!

6 comments:

Jason said...

This is a nice blog. I was working on the Alberta Street Pub's website, and saw a link from here. Looking forward to sampling Sandri's food, too!

Thanks--I'll remember to read your reviews of great places around Portland!

KAB said...

Thanks, Jason. Looking forward to running into you at the pub!

Ben said...

Will Sandri's famous Garden State meatball hero be going up against the vegan meatball hero served across the street at Bye and Bye? Oooh. Throw down!

KAB said...

Inquiring minds, Ben, inquiring minds…

heidi said...

Hope he puts his chickpea sandwich on the menu, too!!! :)

Susan LaDue said...

Loved reading this post. Kevin Sandri's grandparents, Ernie and Frieda Sandri were neighbors in Ridgefield Park, NJ and I hung out with Kevin's dad all the time. The family had an excellent deli in town. Good to know the RP deli has a descendent in Kevin's work!!