Why: Food carts are a great dining option, but when the cold weather sets in, the absence of seating can discourage even the die-hard food cart visitor.
With Trap Door Brewing serving nothing but beverages in its space, and E-San Thai’s food cart lacking a shelter from the elements for diners, the two businesses could not be more perfectly paired to offer a combined experience for customers — order your E-San dish and enjoy it with a brew or cider inside Trap Door (kids are welcome until 8 p.m.).
Menu selections: E-San has 36 Thai-food choices, which may be made with chicken, pork, beef or tofu. Fresh vegetables and proteins are made to order at the diner’s preference of spiciness and served with steaming hot rice.
Top choices from E-San include Pad See Ew, which is made with wide rice noodles and broccoli stir fried with soy sauce and a protein; Gang Garee, which combines bell pepper, onion, potato, carrots and a protein in a yellow curry sauce; and the Pad Kee Mao, a mix of bell pepper, sweet basil leaves and broccoli steamed with wide rice noodles and chili sauce.
What I tried: My dining companion and I tried a couple of the other popular menu items. I had the Evil Prince made with chicken and my dining companion had the Pad Phet made with beef. The Evil Prince combines fresh whole basil leaves, cabbage, carrots and broccoli in a delicious and rich red-curry coconut milk. I opted for a lightly spicy meal, which I found matched my expectation, and I liked how the chicken easily took on the flavor of the curry milk. The basil leaves added just enough of their distinct flavor without dominating the dish. My dining companion did not request any spiciness in the Pad Phet, which is made with Thai eggplant, basil, lime leaves, onion and bell pepper stir-fried with Thai curry paste. He instead added his own heat from the red chili sauce made available at the cart, and found it to his liking. He said the meat was tender, and the combination of ingredients created a satisfying dish. We concluded that it was easy to taste why these two dishes are so popular.
Dining Out review: E-San Thai & Trap Door BrewingHours: The E-San Thai food cart is open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Place orders by phone at 503-933-0151. Trap Door Brewing is open 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday. Kids are welcome in the brewpub until 8 p.m. Where: E-San is next door to Trap Door Brewing, 2315 Main St., Vancouver. E-San also has a sit-down restaurant in Portland; more information is at www.e-santhai.com. Trap Door Brewing is online at www.trapdoorbrewing.com and on Facebook. Health score: E-San Thai’s food cart received a score of 10 on Oct. 14. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.
Other observations: Two window counters at the cart, one on the end and one on the cart’s side, have menu boards posted at them. Ordering is made simple by numbered selections, and it takes approximately 10 minutes for the average ticket turnaround. The quality of food from E-San’s cart easily outshines some of the Thai sit-down restaurants in Clark County. I often find cabbage and meat at Thai restaurants lack freshness and quality; this was not the case at E-San’s cart.
Trap Door Brewing provides outdoor and indoor seating along with house brews, cider, juice and soda. Rich wood tones create an inviting atmosphere made lively by rock music, which covers several decades of hits. Artwork includes paintings of anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables in bold colors.
Cost: E-San’s selections are $10 or less.