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.
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!
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 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.