For over a decade, Megan Walhood and Jeremy Daniels have served lefse, a Norwegian-style potato flatbread, out of their Southeast Portland food cart, Viking Soul Food. They hand-make their lefse daily, stuffing them with savory fillings like house-cured steelhead, pairing them with lingonberries for a crepe-like dessert, and simply toasting them with butter, a bare-bones comfort. Not only is Viking Soul Food one of the only places in the Portland area to make lefse, it’s one of a handful of places in the city where locals can eat Scandinavian food, making the cart a Belmont Street fixture since 2010.
This November, the cart will expand with a restaurant in the Woodstock neighborhood, taking over the space formerly occupied by El Gallo Taqueria. Although the intimate space only seats about ten, the restaurant will feature a small deli and market, which will stock house-made specialities like sauces and pickles, desserts, and Scandinavian goods like specialty mustards, cloudberry jam, and jars of lingonberries. The deli case will also house take-home portions of Walhood and Daniels’ smoked salmon, which they cure for five days in a cardamom, coriander, and caraway rub before smoking it with juniper wood.
“We decided this year that there were just so many limitations to what we could do, we just kind of hit a wall,” Walhood says. “We’ve always been interested in expanding into a little deli/market, and we also really want to provide a better working environment for our staff as well.”
In addition to the cart’s cult favorite dishes like Norwegian meatball wraps and savory hand pies, the restaurant will go all-in on soup, just in time for the rainy season. Specials like seafood chowder (shellfish, cod, saffron), roasted mushroom soup, and Troll Hunter Stew (braised beef, Swedish potato sausage, and gjetost, a Scandinavian goat cheese) have been customer hits in the past, and the larger capacity of the restaurant will allow for soups to be offered on a more regular basis. Smørrebrød, open-faced sandwiches traditionally served on rye bread, will add to Viking Soul Food’s Scandinavian street food vibe. On the dessert front, Walhood and Daniels are excited to expand beyond their sweet lefses and explore traditional Scandinavian desserts.
The restaurant will offer beer and wine, and plans to serve drinks like aquavit cocktails once it gets its liquor license. Diners will also be able to enjoy mead, in particular, one that will be brewed in collaboration with Wyrd Leather and Mead.
Viking Soul Food was recently named as a participant in DoorDash’s 2022 accelerator program, which offered an eight-week long training program and a $20,000 grant to Portland restaurants. Walhood and Daniels are putting some of their grant money towards the restaurant’s start-up costs, and they’re excited to be part of a network of small business owners who can share their experiences and help support one another.
“I’m excited to take advantage of [the program’s] access to coaches,” Walhood says. “Because we’re good at food and we’ve managed to survive for 12 years, but we’re not the most savvy when it comes to having all the numbers in order. … That’s the boring stuff. We like to be in the kitchen.”
Viking Soul Food will open at 4422 SE Woodstock Boulevard.