Double carbs! When we think about "Portlandia" — both the television show and the state of mind of the real city of Portland, Oregon, that spawned it — we think of the city’s unofficial motto: “Where the young go to retire.” We think of a Columbia sportswear-clad marathon enthusiast drinking a microbrew, or maybe a kombucha, or maybe a cup of organic single origin hand-roasted coffee. We do not think of sandwiches made of pork hash. But there really is a pork hash sandwich in that town, and it’s at Lardo, a former food cart and now a brick-and-mortar sandwich shop with two locations, one on either side of the Willamette River.
Lardo is no ordinary sandwich shop, and not just because almost all of the giant, messy-but-worth-it, expensive sandwiches (they start at $9 and top out around $13) are made with heaping amounts of pork in all its guises. It’s also because the chef and owner, Rick Gencarelli, is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who worked for years as a sous-chef for celebrity chef Todd English. Gencarelli relocated from the East Coast to Portland in 2009, launching Lardo as one of many, many entries in that city’s vibrant food truck scene. Gencarelli’s intentionally excessive sandwiches (“Lardo proudly celebrates its excesses,” he says) became habit-forming for the city’s food community, and he quickly moved into larger, permanent digs.
Back to that pork hash sandwich: You could almost miss it, hidden among seemingly more exciting offerings, as you scan the chalkboard. Yes, there is a banh mi (more than serviceable, this version stuffed with pork meatballs is suitably tangy and herbaceous if “new wave”); a very good pork belly gyro on a olive-oil grilled flatbed (excellent tzatziki, super fatty meat if you like that kind of thing — and who doesn’t); and an absolutely to-die-for platter of homemade French fries topped with hunks of sausage cuts and other well-seasoned pork scraps, vinegary peppers, fried herbs, and a large grate of parmesan cheese (these are called “dirty fries,” naturally).
Do not be distracted: The pork hash sandwich with Aardvark hot sauce, mayo, and spicy hashbrowns is one of the most decadent sandwiches you may ever encounter — not just because it’s a double-carb extravaganza in this era of Atkins and Paleo; not just because there’s a melting fried egg loving ladled atop the whole business; not just because the locally made Aardvark hot sauce is a habañero-heavy blend of Caribbean and Tex-Mex spices. Because of all of it, amalgamated. This is a sandwich that laughs at marathons.