Food Cart Bolo’s Brad Dodson Shares His Favorite Portland Restaurants

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Brad Dodson was cooking in a starred restaurant when he realized something was missing. He started his career at restaurants like Beast and Le Pigeon, before moving to the Village Pub in the Bay Area. “I was doing a lot of really nice French and Italian food, but it didn’t really speak to me and the flavors that I liked,” he says. “I didn’t really know why it was, until I started exploring my ancestry and Portuguese cuisine.”

Dodson is the chef and owner of Bolo, the recently opened cart in the capsule on Bantu Island in northeastern Alberta. Dodson’s specialty are Portuguese sweet muffins called bolo levedo, which he uses as a vehicle for a spicy fried chicken sandwich with cilantro, a fried deviled egg sandwich, and a burger filled with pineapple, onions, and lemon juice. spice reminiscent of a meatloaf sandwich. Muffins also turn into donuts when tossed with sugar and filled (pumpkin spice was a recent offering), or on their own as an accompaniment to offerings like fish soup or squash delicata. We caught up with Dodson to talk about what led him to bring his sweet and savory Portuguese American sandwiches to Portland, and asked him about some of his favorite dishes in town, from burgers to seafood.

A platter of Bolo sandwiches and sides.
Thom Hilton / Eater Portland

Eater: Is Bolo the only Portuguese restaurant in Portland?

Brad Doson:. I think so. My ancestors moved to eastern Oregon in the mid 1800’s. I grew up there and moved to Portland as a young cook. When the pandemic hit I was unemployed and started making bolo levedos from my kitchen window and handing them out to people. Then I started having Venmo people me…

I feel like a lot of our favorite places started like this recently. What’s wrong with the bolo? It looks a bit like an English muffin.

Totally, that’s how I would describe it to someone who has never had one before. They’re from this little island, San Miguel, in the Azores, and it’s a very geothermal place, so they were making them on a cast iron that was sitting over a hot volcanic vent. I just went there recently and they are still there. They are everywhere and you can put anything on them. They are soft, spongy, almost like brioche dough, with eggs, butter and sugar in them. Slightly soft, a very nice vehicle for just about anything.

Including burgers! I saw on Instagram that you recently had a burger at Claudia. What are your other favorite burgers in town besides yours?

I’m tired of eating my own food. I really like a classic dive in Portland, you know? Old beer memorabilia, a cheap pint, nothing fancy. The classic drive-in style burger, LTO, pickles, secret sauce, ideally American cheese, a chewy bun that gets soggy by the time you’re done. Not a bistro burger, I don’t want to run a steak knife through it.

Like a crispy, cold sandwich, and the pancake is the only hot item?

Yes, totally, definitely. The Lay Low Tavern burger on Mondays is five bucks and that’s just, like, everything I want in a burger. I love Tulip Shop Tavern, it’s great – great people. I love the burger at Claudia. The place is nothing fancy, but it’s still quiet. Drinking a beer and a burger alone is my church.

How about a favorite date night?

I really had a great experience in Normandy recently. The atmosphere was great and the food was really fantastic. I had seared albacore tuna. Lazy Susan is just outrageously good, probably my favorite restaurant in town. I really like whitefish spread with fried saltines, and every time they do a grilled fish dish, like grilled mackerel. It’s also great fun to double date at an old fashioned place like Clyde’s Prime Rib. Chungdam Korean Fusion on Powell, they have an amazing mackerel dish there and it’s fun to go there.

What else are you into right now?

I prefer a laid back environment with high end techniques. Food, comfort food, it’s just good. I want to go somewhere where I feel good about myself and have friendly service.

If anything has some kind of sterility, I’m out of the.

Dark, cozy, maybe a few candles, that’s the vibe I’m looking for. Lay Low hits both, both the burger and the aesthetic for me.

I love Rangoon Bistro; I think they’re so nice, so friendly, it’s my favorite place to go with the kid. They greet her and immediately bring her a plate of rice. Super unpretentious.

If I could go back to Being Baby, I’d be raised on Rangoon Bistro’s coconut milk. I feel like my life would be so much better.

Absolutely. I would be a better person.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.