Kargi Gogo | Portland Food Cart
Prior to visiting Kargi Gogo in Southwest Portland, we knew very little about the country of Georgia, other than it was located between Russia and Turkey. We didn’t know food and hospitality are a central part of Georgian daily life. We didn’t know Georgians love to dance, sing, eat, drink, and toast. We didn’t know about “supras”: traditional, hours-long feasts during which toasts are made every ten minutes and success is determined by how many empty plates are stacked in front of you. But after spending a short time watching husband and wife Sean and McKinze prepare traditional Georgian dumplings and reminisce over their time there, we left with a greater appreciation for the tiny Eastern European country. Which is exactly what they had set out to do when starting Kargi Gogo.
Sean and McKinze’s love affair with Georgia began when they joined the Peace Corps shortly after marrying. Sent to assist in community economic development, they lived with a Georgian host family for roughly two years, immersing themselves in the local way of life. They describe their time there as a profound, life-changing experience. McKinze, especially, was struck by the easy warmth and hospitality prevalent in Georgian culture. “Relationships are the most important thing in Georgian life,” she explains. “In the States, if you were in your friend’s neighborhood you might assume they’re busy and may not want to just drop by. But in Georgia if you DON’T drop by? You’re in trouble. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life, there’s always time to sit down and have some cheese bread and drink some wine. That is something I think we can learn.”
Upon returning to the States, Sean and McKinze decided to share their experience in true Georgian fashion: through food. Kargi Gogo (which translates into “Good Girl”) serves the same authentic dishes found in Georgia, a country unique for being at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. “It’s a mix of the heartiness you find in Eastern European food and the brightness of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors,” describes Sean. “You have a lot of those heavy starches, like dumplings, but you take the best parts of that and add in freshness, vibrancy, color, and flavor.”
How to eat a Khinkali (Georgian dumpling): Hold it by the “belly button,” flip it over, take a bite, and drink the broth. Save the belly buttons to keep track of how many you eat. A typical Georgian male can eat around 25, but never try to outdo a Georgian in anything.
Lobiani (Bean and Onion Bread)
Kargi Gogo’s menu features five of Sean and McKinze’s favorite Georgian dishes. The Khinkali (dumplings) are probably their most popular item. A busy summer day could have them turning out 150 to 200 of the juicy, pork- and beef-filled bundles. The Khachapuri (cheese bread) is another crowd pleaser. There’s just something irresistible about melted cheese oozing out of a crisp, golden crust. But if you’re a first-timer, we recommend the Supra Plate. Offering a little bit of everything, it’s the perfect introduction for Georgian flavors. Regardless what you try, give them a hearty “Gamarjoba” (hello) for us!