Tábor serves Czech specialties, such as goulash (a meat and vegetable stew), spaetzle (soft egg noodles), schnitzel (a breaded and fried meat cutlet), and bramborak (a Czech-style potato pancake), all made from scratch. Although these dishes are common across Eastern Europe, they vary greatly from region to region. "They might use the same ingredients," says Monika, "but there are very distinct differences in the timing, temperatures, and presentation of the meals that create different outcomes specific to the various regions." The Viteks also serve a few Americanized versions of these dishes, such as the Schnitzelwich (a schnitzel cutlet sandwich with paprika and horseradish spread), as an introduction to Czech food. "Then, if our customers are feeling adventurous, we recommend something else," says Monika.
Thanks to the Viteks and Tábor, Czech food is gaining prominence in the United States and beyond all due to word of mouth, as the couple has never paid for advertisements or promotions. Tábor has been featured in Bon Appétit, the New York Times, Details magazine, and the Toronto Sun.
The Viteks are eager to seize the opportunity their success is bringing to teach their community about Czech culture through cuisine. They offer cooking classes and visit local schools with food samplers to bring lessons about European culture to life. "We recently brought strawberry dumplings to a preschool class," says Monika. "This is not a very traditional dish; it's more like a grandmother's dish. They were very excited."
The Tábor cart, painted in cheerful red and green tones, is located in the Pod, a popular lot in Portland, at SW 5th Avenue and Stark Street, that is home to a variety of stationary, rent-paying food carts. Leading the trend toward gourmet food carts, the Pod is now a national dining destination, where the Viteks enjoy the friendly, competitive vibe among the vendors. "It's good for everybody. We watch each other and we try to better ourselves and be number one," says Karel.
For now, the Viteks are happy to be operating out of a cart. "We played around with the idea of a restaurant, but it's a huge commitment," says Monika. And after such a long journey to get to where they are, staying put may be a welcome idea.
Follow Tábor on Schnitzelwich.com
Published by permission of The Vilcek Foundation, © 2011. The Vilcek Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the contributions of foreign-born artists and scientists to the United States. Learn more at www.vilcek.org.
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