Portland's top 20 food cart offerings


So, you're coming to Portland but you don't think you'll bother trying out any of the food carts. After all, even though this IS the food cart capital of the country, cart pods are popping up everywhere, perhaps even in your home town and you think you've already done that scene.

Stop it. Seriously, just stop it right now. Not only does Portland have more food carts per capita than anywhere in the country, but there are also many offering up way more diverse options than you could possibly imagine.

Pull on your big boy/big girl pants and get out there. Make it a point to step far outside your comfort zone to taste some delicacies you have never even dreamed about.



Nong's Khao Man Gai~

You have to try this cart. What is Khao Man Gai you ask? Well, think of the epitome of chicken and rice. But not. What began as a single food cart serving a single dish, that's right, they only offered one dish, has morphed into a couple of food carts and a brick & mortar locations. But to experience it as it's meant to be head down to the cart. The problem with this dish is that once you've had it, chicken and rice will never again be the same for you. Poached chicken, jasmine rice, and a mysterious Thai herb broth with fermented soybeans, ginger, garlic, chilies, vinegar and homemade syrup and soy sauce. The explosion of flavors are unlike anything you have ever eaten.

flickr/tangocyclist

The Egg Carton~

Behold a breakfast sandwich like you have never before experienced. The FoPo Cristo features two slices of thick French toast stuffed with a fried egg, two different types of bacon, cheese, mustard and strawberry jam, an inspired addition. Absolutely decadent, this is perfect hangover food or a star studded brunch date spot.

Chicken & Guns~

Roasted chicken carts are a dime a dozen in Latin America, but here in Portland Chicken & Guns has taken it to a new level. Succulently juicy and tender, add in some crunchy potatoes with sea salt, salsa and a touch of hot sauce and your taste buds will have you singing all the way south of the border.

Chez Dodo~

Okay, no laughing at the rather odd name, this is the only Mauritian food cart in the United States. Yep, the only one. This unique island chain features the influence from India, France, Creole, China, and Africa creating an astonishing tasty dish called Shyamosa. This giant samosa like pastry is stuffed with curried potatoes and veggies and topped with both a mint chutney and sweet chili sauce. Happiness on a plate.

Bing Mi~

Chinese can be so yesterday, but not at this eclectic food cart. Like our # 1 listing, there is only one option but after tasting a Jian Bing you need look no further. Imagine it now, a giant crepe, filled with egg, black bean sauce, chili paste, herbs, pickled vegetables and wonton crackers. Add on a touch of hoisin sauce and your life as a foodie is complete.


flickr/ Gary Soup

EuroDish~

Easterners may be a bit more familiar with Polish dishes such as pierogis, but when in Portland check out EuroDish for the "Polish Plate" featuring said pierogis but also bigos, a hunters stew, kielbasa and a big serving of bolabki stuffed cabbage. You will not walk away hungry.

El Taco Yucateco~

You can call it a panucho, or a sopa, or maybe even a tostada, but whatever name you wish to bestow upon it, make sure to try this dish. A thick fried corn tortilla is stuffed with black beans and topped with lettuce, shredded chicken, tomato and avocado. Toss on some hot sauce and order a beer to cool the heat.

808 Grinds~

For those of you not familiar with Hawaiian kalua pig, prepare to be amazed how something so very simple can taste so darn good. Pork butt, cooked slowly with liquid smoke and salt served with macaroni salad and rice. It sounds so boring doesn't it? Our tip, never underestimate simplicity.

DC Vegetarian~

Yep, it's true, a lot of food carts do run toward the meat based, but if you are a veggie than DC Vegetarian or Vegan this is for you. The vegan BLT loaded with vegan-friendly cheese and avocado is fantastic. Even meat eaters may find themselves heading back again and again.

Pastrami Zombie~

Back to the meat. Okay, a pastrami sandwich isn't exactly unique, but this food cart is the bomb. Brined for days, smoked with oak, and layered with Swiss cheese, slaw, dressing and mustard between a couple of slices of rye, this is not a sandwich for the faint hearted. Or for those wearing their Sunday best. Grab lots of napkins and prepare to get dirty.


flickr/jeffreyw

Momo Cart~

Head to the Himalayans for some momos, surely unlike anything you've had before. Momos are steamed dumplings and available throughout Nepal, but most likely never before seen on the back of a bike cart in the US. Chicken, vegan or vegetarian options exist all lovingly plated with a secret chutney base that will haunt your taste buds for years to come. To add to the fun, Momo cart is a roving cart so just tracking them down is half the battle.

Haan Ghin~

Laap Gai anyone? For all of you out there thinking you "know" SE Asian food because you've eaten at a few Thai or Vietnamese restaurants, know that you have only hit the tip of the iceberg. This Laotian food cart is the real deal and the Laap Gai will bring back fond memories for anyone who has visited that tiny country. A DIY lettuce wrap dish that involves perfectly seasoned ground chicken, scallions, mint, cilantro, shallots, chiles, lemongrass, and sticky rice. Pour on some homemade chili sauce to add a bit of bite and dig in to Laotian perfection.

Pupuseria la Flor~

Pupusas in Portland? Yes indeed. This El Salvadorian staple is alive and well in Northeast Portland. Thick corn tortillas, filled with your choice of stuffings, and cooked on a traditional comal are a hearty and tasty snack any time of day. Add a bit of coleslaw on the side and drizzle it all with hot sauce and transport yourself to Central America.


Flickr/ manda-wong

The Frying Scotsman~,

We can hear you now... British food? Well, you haven't had this traditional style fish and chips. Perfectly seasoned, delicately fried, and served with an array of condiments and tarter sauce, this cart may change your mind about British food forever.

El Pilon~

The street food of Columbia comes in many delicious forms such as arepas and empanadas, but for a more unique options check out the Patacones. You may say you don't enjoy plantains but truly, these are so damn good. Patacones are plantains that are fried twice and formed to create a bowl to which a delightful array of toppings such as shredded beef, sliced red pepper, and cheese combine for the sublime.

Babylon Iraqi~

What is Iraqi food exactly? In spite of years of war and upheaval, the food of the Middle East continues to enchant. The falafel here, made with chickpeas for those not in the know, are mind blowingly tender and moist. Add in creamy hummus, cucumber-tomato salad, and some spicy red sauce on a slice of pita and you may have found foodie heaven.


flickr/ young shanahan

Brazilian House~

Odds are you have never heard of Feijoada. Odds are, you will be super happy you have discovered it in this newish food cart offering up this Brazilian specialty. A thick stew made of black beans, bacon, beef, and sausage is served with rice and fresh, bright collard greens. Salty and rich, it satisfies on even the wettest Portland day.

Buki~

Noodle carts are a dime a dozen, so why not try out some amazing Taiwanese/ Japanese food at Buki. The signature dish is Takoyaki, sometimes made with sausage and cheese, but traditionally with octopus. Yes that is right, octopus balls are battered and topped with Takoyaki sauce and a heap of bonito flakes. Don't recognize any of those ingredients? Well, you don't have to. Just dive right in and imagine yourself in late night Tokyo.

Tabor~

For the perfect schnitzel, look no further than Tabor. Now, this is not your run of the mill, find it in every German restaurant, schnitzel. Amazingly tender and breaded, with a choice of chicken or pork, served on a ciabatta roll with a touch of horseradish and a sweet paprika sauce. Add some grilled onions and lettuce and count yourself happy.

Ingrids's Scandanavia Food~

We suspect searching out the food of Norway has never been high on your list. Well, Ingrid's just may change that. The food to try: Lefse. Basically, and not to insult the Scandanavians' out there, but lefse is a type of large tortilla. Often enjoyed in the motherland with butter and sugar, at Ingrid's try it as a wrap for, well, everything. One of the best, the Polse. Filled with smoked sausage and Norwegian coleslaw. You won't be disappointed.

You now see, the food cart scene is unlike anywhere else. Feel free to return to your own neck of the woods and brag that you have seen the best and will never again be the same.

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Rhonda Delameter is a freelance travel writer, long time Portland resident, and blogger at thenextbigadventure.net