Tuesday, April 27

PDX - The Food Cart Edition

If you aren't familiar with the burgeoning food cart scene in Portland, let me just tell you, it's really something. There are 300+ mobile eateries set up, mostly, in 'pods' throughout the city. Each pod is typically set up in a parking lot with hookups to electricity and water. Unlike in some cities where food cart vendors are always on the run and the only way to track them is through Twitter feeds, these carts are officially sanctioned by the city (hello, San Francisco bureaucrats, are you listening?) There's even a Food Carts Portland website where you can find eats by location, food type, breakfast/lunch/dinner, new carts, etc. It definitely made it easier to track down good grub. I'm just sayin'!

The rains had retreated, so I sought out coffee streetside at the Spella Caffe cart @ SW 9th & Alder.

The boys were super friendly and even offered a place to sit when we returned later in the day to sample some of their neighbors' lunch fare.

If you like chicken, we need to talk Nong's Khao Man Gai! Not only is Nong a dynamic personality, she sells out of her amazing chicken & sauce every day. It's abundantly clear why: like all great street food vendors, she does one thing and she does it exceptionally well.

Nong's khao man gai is just like you'd find on the streets of Bangkok. It's poached chicken served on rice made with the poaching water and seasoned with herbs. But it's her sauce that's the ticket--it's got garlic, soy bean paste, lots of ginger, Thai chilies and vinegar. I went back twice during my stay and one of my friends, the fabulous cookbook author Andrea Nguyen, was known to sometimes indulge twice in one day!

The next gem of a find was a little taco cart standing solo just a couple blocks away on SW 3rd. This adorable paint job caught my eye. Seriously, how could you not love the stoplight!

Not only was my chicken taco muy rica, it was the perfect antidote to the Stumptown Coffee/Voodoo doughnut combo racing through my veins.

Some friends invited me along to explore the lively late night pod @ SE 12th & Hawthorne and am so glad I rallied. It was Friday night, so the carts were surrounded by folks out celebrating the beginning of the weekend.

It's hard to imagine a more classic drinking food than Poutine. For the uninitiated, poutine has it's origins in the greasy-spoons of Quebec and consists of good ol' fashioned pommes frites topped with fresh cheese curd and gravy (personally, I like mine with a dash of vinegar, too). The kids at Potato Champion most definitely have poutine wired!

It's easy to see why the girls at Perierra Crépereie &c have a consistently long line of eager customers for their sweet and savory crépes. You've gotta love a crépe cart that does a ricotta, Italian plum and honey combo.

The crépe I ordered was supposed to come with plantains and, truth be told, I was a little disappointed when I saw the bananas. But the dulce de leche (part of the original order) clearly made up for it since we devoured the whole thing.

Whiffies pie cart wins for most entertaining signage -- most of which is done by a dedicated fan base of patrons cum artistes.

The owner, Greg, serves up just one thing at his cart: fried pocket pies. He does both savory and sweet, keeping some favorites but otherwise changing the menu daily to keep the intrigue high.

The selection of the eve was a chocolate, coconut and almond pie -- an Almond Joy of sorts. Delish! The pie dough is made by hand and the pies are fried in a soy-based oil so you can feel better about the fried part of what you're ingesting (worked for me!)

With all of the incredible food choices, it's a good thing Portland is such a walkable city. I'm already looking forward to going back and exploring more. If you have any suggestions for me of good eats, please send 'em my way.


  1. Katie, I must protest. You've got to implement some sort of advisory system to warn us just how detrimental to our well-being reading each entry in your blog can be. I dunno, maybe it could be like the Department of Homeland Security's Advisory System. For example, this entry should be at least yellow (elevated), if not orange (high). Why? Well, here is how it's detrimental to me. This entry made me want to jump in my car and drive to Portland this very minute, so that I could experience firsthand what you write about in this entry. That would be very detrimental to my job/career. So, since heading to Portland right now isn't an option, I thought about heading to the local supermarket to stock up on Pizza Pockets (and whatever else I could find wrapped in its own pastry shell), the Mission for Tacos, Ti Couz for crepes . . . you get the idea . . . all in one outing. Not the same, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And if I did that and ate all that crazy food in one sitting (as I would no doubt do), I'd likely go into a food coma, which isn't good for my mental or physical health. So now do you see why I beg of you, give us some advance warning, please!

    Just kidding. You don't need to implement an advisory system. I'm sure I'd treat it the same why I treat the MPAA's rating system, for example: I'd ignore it . . . and go ahead and read each blog entry anyway. But that's not gonna stop me from complaining about the hunger pangs and uncontrolled salivating I now have thanks to you! :-)

  2. So much good food. And so much of it to be had at the amazing Portland food carts. The problem is where to start? Oh where to start!