Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Portland Food Carts

  Been to Portland? Then you've seen the growing phenomenon of mobile kitchens/lunch wagons/snack shacks/whatever you want to call them known as food carts. Sure, they weren't started in Portland, but the Rose City seems to be taking food carts to the extreme.

  It's hard to know for sure how many there are exactly. I've seen the number range from 500-600. The carts are generally open for business during the lunchtime hours, and are set up in parking lots, sidewalks, and sometimes city parks.

  Most of the pods (groups of food carts) can be found downtown, making it a convenient option for office workers, students, tourists, or anyone looking for a quick, delicious, inexpensive lunch.

  What makes the food carts so unique is that they offer a combination of quality, diversity, and value. You can find any sort of 'ethnic' food you desire: Thai, Bosnian, Czech, Ethiopian, Mexican, etc; or the classics: Pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and waffles. There are also carts that satisfy the vegetarian or vegan appetites (this is Portland after all).

  All these options can usually be found for $5-7. Not bad for a tasty lunchtime meal.

A pod of carts downtown.
  I can say I've only managed to try three or four food carts, but I've always loved what I've had. I don't find myself downtown during lunch very often, otherwise that number would be much higher!
  One cart deserves a special shout-out: Koi Fusion. I had been hearing about the Korean/Mexican fusion cart for sometime, but had never had the opportunity to try it until this summer. Think Korean BBQ (marinated meats, veggies, and sauces) 'fused' into Mexican forms (tacos, quesadillas, burritos).

  I tried the Bulgogi Taco, and was in food-heaven right away. I'm looking forward to visiting again while I'm home for Christmas! Koi does just fine without me adding to the hype, but it's just that  good!

Koi Fusion truck.
  There are websites to help keep food cart frequenters up-to-date on locations, menus, closures, and openings. Food Carts Portland provides a guide on where to find the carts, and what to eat once you get there. It contains a listing of carts, a map, a search feature, and categories by cuisine types and specific locations. But don't expect to find reviews there, they want you to decide for yourself!

  There's also been a book published called CARTopia: Portland's Food Cart Revolution if you want to learn more about the food cart phenomenon in Portland.

  Whenever you're from a certain place, it's easy to ignore the things that make it famous. I hardly knew that Portland had become a 'foodie destination'. But people tell me this is true. So I'm probably not alone in thinking that the popularity of food carts in the city will help that reputation continue to grow.

  And if you haven't had the pleasure of visiting the Rose City yet, here's another reason to do so. Just make sure you try out a cart or two (or 10)!




  1. Food carts are new in the USA ? We've had some for years... you have to try it... special quality food from the Northern part of France... ;-)

  2. @Virginie

    They're not new...but 600 in one city is kind of unheard of. I've seen the few that are around town here.