May 01, 2023

Chef Gabriel Pascuzzi Has Brought Back the Oxtail French Dip (and More) in All Its Glory

When one of Portland's finest destinations for sliced meat and cheese between two pieces of bread closed its doors in December 2021 as the result of rising costs for product and labor, it felt like the city's sandwich-loving soul had taken a gut punch.

Where else but Stacked Sandwich Shop could you sink your teeth into classed-up takes on staples like oxtail French dip and a turkey Reuben? This artisan approach to the lunchtime staple made Stacked stand out, and almost certainly helped earn chef Gabriel Pascuzzi a spot on the Portland season of Top Chef. Needless to say, among the many pandemic-related closures, the loss of Stacked was painful. Now, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Pascuzzi has revived Stacked with a slimmed-down menu of old favorites and new creations that feels faithful to the original.

Moving from Southeast Portland to Slabtown, Stacked 2.0 now shares a small space with the second location of Pascuzzi's grain bowl shop Feel Good PDX, both of which are a stone's throw from his chicken-centric Mama Bird. At the ordering kiosk, you can select both sandwiches and bowls, presenting a sort of devil-and-angel scenario given the latter's healthier components. They’re tasty, but you’re here for a sandwich, grain bowl be damned.

In a city saturated with excellent chicken sandwiches, Pascuzzi has added a flavor-packed contender ($13) to the lineup. Fried in a similar style to beer-battered fish and chips, the juicy thigh exudes a pleasant hint of spice that comes from a green curry aioli. Fresh, crunchy cucumber, jalapeño and cilantro gives the sandwich a bánh mì vibe.

For you hoagie lovers, the roasted coppa ($14) is a can't-miss, with its soft and chewy Grand Central roll serving as the proper vehicle to hold succulent pork blanketed in provolone. It contrasts wonderfully with the bright acidity of the pickled onions, the subtle spice of the Calabrian chile aioli, and garden freshness of the arugula and gremolata.

The Stacked experience isn't complete without the famous oxtail French dip ($16), a sandwich that was once considered one of Portland's iconic dishes. At the moment, Stacked makes only about 25 a day, so I recommend placing an order online in advance. You’ll be thankful you planned ahead when you sink into this delectable piece of sandwich artistry that features the flavors you love in French onion soup (charred onions for the win!) nestled inside a hoagie roll that stays intact even when you dunk it in the soul-warming jus. The meat is cooked to such tenderness as to taste almost like confit, and an earthy umami is amped up by the cremini mushrooms. The garlic and horseradish toum has a creamy sting that keeps your senses on high alert, preventing the meat coma from fully setting in. This sandwich has long been Pascuzzi's secret weapon, and luckily he still knows how to use it.

If you’re looking for lighter fare, the smoked turkey hero ($14) is a proper lunchtime grinder that gives you a hit of smoke from the turkey and bacon, tang from Mama Lil's peppers, and a smattering of deli condiments, and there's a fistful of shredded iceberg for fresh crunch. The turkey Reuben ($13) is another OG Stacked dish that's made a welcome return, this time packed with meat and purple cabbage. A hit of green apple is subtle but adds a zippy crunch and sweetness to play off the "2k island dressing." Oh yeah, don't sleep on the salted chocolate chip cookie ($4), which is baked in house.

Compared to the more expansive original location, the new Stacked is a scaled-back, more intimate operation—likely a result of the pandemic, since many restaurants have placed an emphasis on efficiency. This isn't a bad thing as the busy lunchtime services showed. The business has even hinted that beer and cocktails could be coming soon, which will surely make it more of a hang than a grab-and-go spot. With Stacked 2.0, Pascuzzi gives us sandwiches that are seemingly simple but have enough flair to leave you dreaming about them all day.

EAT: Stacked Sandwich Shop, 2175 NW Raleigh St., 971-279-2731, 11 am-7 pm Tuesday-Saturday.