Thanks for the food
Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food shares the love of cozy family recipes in Oregon City, Ore.
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
Portland, Ore., is known for its legendary food-truck scene, serving up some of the best eats in the region.
Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food started as a Portland food truck, founded in 2014 by mother-daughter duo Cathy Cleaver and Ingrid Legore. In 2016, they moved to a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Oregon City, Ore., where they serve up traditional recipes and Norwegian-inspired dishes, made with local ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. Their trademark: Lefse is rolled by hand every day (!) using the family recipe and technique. If that’s not for the love of good lefse, I don’t know what is.
I recently spoke with co-owner Cathy Cleaver to learn more about Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food and how the restaurant shares traditional Norwegian cuisine in Oregon.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Christy Olsen Field: What inspired you to open Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food?
Cathy Cleaver: My family is Norwegian on both sides, and we cooked a lot of Norwegian food for family gatherings. Food was really important when we came together.
Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food came… I finished my graduate degree in fine arts and was working in a corporate job and just hated it. My daughter Ingrid was also working in her first job, and she hated it, too.
One day, we were cooking with my dad and making lefse together. Ingrid has been making lefse since she was 4 years old and has a real knack for it. She said, “I wish I could make lefse for a job.” And then we started talking about it, and it turned into a serious conversation. We opened our food truck just four months later in 2014.
COF: What was the response to the food truck?
CC: Well, people aren’t really that familiar with Norwegian food. We opened in a food-truck pod with 18 trucks. There is a lot of competition! Things were a bit slow at first, but after we got some good reviews and feedback, things started to pick up quickly. In 2016, we had an opportunity to open a brick-and-mortar location in Oregon City, which is about a 15-minute drive south of Portland.
COF: Where do you get your recipes?
CC: When we decided to open the food truck, we contacted family members to gather old family recipes. We also look a lot at cookbooks and experiment, but a lot of our menu is inspired by old family recipes.
COF: I’ve heard that lefse is a big deal at Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food, and you make it fresh every day.
CC: Yes, we do. We make it just like my dad taught us. We cook the potatoes the day before and make it every day. We typically make about 60 rounds per day, which is about half of what we used to do, pre-COVID. We also have special orders by the dozen, which we do a few times per week.
COF: Tell me a bit about your menu. What are some customer favorites?
CC: We actually just closed for nine days to refresh our menu. Lefse is our main thing. We make sandwich wraps based on an idea that my family did when I was a kid at Christmastime: a lefse wrap with codfish, potatoes, and lingonberry preserves. Our Norwegian Meatball Wrap is our top seller, with meatballs and surkål topped with gjet-ost cheese sauce. Our Smoked Salmon Wrap is also really popular, with smoked salmon and slices of hard-boiled egg and cucumbers on a bed of arugula, and topped with chevre and our house-made dill sauce. We also have a pølse wrap. We have some sweet wraps, too, like our Lemon Raspberry wrap with house-made lemon curd, raspberry sauce, and whipped cream. We also offer burgers and some seasonal specials. Lefse is ideal for a wrap because it has a subtle flavor and works well with both sweet and savory fillings.
COF: How has COVID affected Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food?
CC: It’s been tough—we are about 50% where we were before the pandemic hit. Our location is in downtown Oregon City, so a lot of our business was people coming in for lunch. Business was down 25% at first, and now it’s finally coming back a bit. But it’s disheartening because the vibe has changed. Everything we loved about working in food service has taken a hit— a crowd of people hanging out on a Friday night just doesn’t happen anymore.
COF: Have you thought about going back to a food truck again?
CC: We thought about doing a food truck again during COVID, but it felt like a step backward from where we are. So we felt like the right thing to do was to ride it out.
Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food is open Tuesday through Sunday for dining or take-out at 209 Seventh St., Oregon City, OR 97045. Special order for lefse by the dozen is available, as well as catering. For more information, call (503) 774-0457 or visit online at IngridsScandinavianFood.com or on Facebook.
All photos courtesy of Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 8, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.