On the corner in front of Portland State’s Branford Price Millar Library sits a small blue food cart. It’s called Dogs and Fries, and it’s owned and operated by Hossein Talebi. Hoss, as he likes to be called, has run this food stand for a number of years. Talebi has beef dogs, turkey dogs, and chicken dogs. There are also vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.
On this day Talebi threw a Spicy Chipotle Vegan Dog on the grill for me and served it up with grilled onions, sauerkraut, relish, ketchup, and mustard. He uses Field Roast brand chipotle sausage, and it tastes excellent when grilled, especially when coupled with the sweetness of grilled onions. Originally, Talebi wanted to serve Persian food and do a kebab cart. Kebabs are the go-to street food in Iran. However, he eventually settled on the traditional street food of America: hot dogs.
Talebi was born and raised in Iran, a country currently on the proposed travel ban list. He moved to Portland at the age of 19, stating that after the revolution, things changed drastically in Iran.
“I remember living in Iran as a child,” Talebi said. “We didn’t have electricity, we didn’t have water…I remember being afraid to wear t-shirts when I was young. I got arrested for wearing tight jeans when I was out.”
Once here, Talebi started school at PSU and married an American woman he met while working at a pizzeria. I asked if his family had reservations about marrying an American woman. The response was a little surprising.
“My family was totally fine,” Talebi said, “But her family…they were very conservative Republicans, who are very strong in their Catholic faith, and honestly that was attractive to me. But for them, it was very hard to have some guy from the other side of the world sweeping their only daughter off of her feet.”
Talebi chose to live in Portland because he had visited here for a little bit when he was ten and said he knew immediately this was where he wanted to live. “I’ve been here for 20 years, and I lived here longer than I have lived anywhere else in my life,” he said. “So, I consider myself an Oregonian.”
Ten years ago, Talebi began looking for a way to give back to the community that he loved. “I finally joined an [organization] called the Kiwanis Club,” he said. “Since then my life has transformed…I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where people do this much for their communities.”
I was surprised by the variety offered at Dogs and Fries cart: two different vegan dogs and just about every variety of non-vegan dog you can think of. Be that as it may, he assured me that he does not allow any cross-contamination between the two. I was also surprised to discover that you can even order online for pickup. I recommend the Spicy Chipotle Vegan Dog and the PJ Fries. As in peanut butter and jelly, but with a twist. Happy eating!