When you think about street food, you might think of hot dog vendors in New York City, cheesesteak shanties in Philadelphia or taco trucks in Los Angeles. But there’s one city that is challenging foodies to think again: Portland, Ore.[find-an-apartment]
Portland is changing the face of the food cart movement, a culinary coup d’état that shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, there are currently more than 640 licensed food carts in Multnomah County, with new carts popping up nearly every day. At these colorful mobile establishments in Portland, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself consuming unique delights that rival offerings from top restaurant chefs. The only difference is that you might be sitting curbside instead of inside.
The owner of Tabor, Karel Vitek, has a somewhat insane story that involves escaping communist Czechoslovakia in 1985, swimming to Austria and eventually making his way to Portland. Nevertheless, this cart offers up authentic Czech cooking like goulash, chicken paprika and fruit-filled dumplings.
Where: SW 5th Ave. & SW Stark St., Portland, OR 97204
As one of the pioneers of the late-night food cart scene in Portland (the cart is open until 3 a.m.), Potato Champion caters to bar crawlers and insomniacs alike with their fresh-cut, twice-fried Belgian-style frites, complete with an array of gourmet dipping sauces like pesto mayo and rosemary truffle ketchup.
Where: SE Hawthorne Blvd & SE 12th Ave., Portland, OR 97214
With flavors including Pineapple Jalapeno, Maple Bacon and a Passion Fruit Sorbet that shocks the senses with a hint of Szechuan peppers, Fifty Licks takes ice cream to the next level.
Where: 4262 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR 97215
Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack
If you never thought you would find hot chicken outside of the South, think again. Hailing from Asheville (“North Cackalack” is slang for the state of North Carolina), the owners of this soulful shack offer crispy fried chicken in hot, hotter and hottest, served on a piece of white bread with pickle slices and a generous helping of potato salad or slaw.
Where: 43rd and Belmont St., Portland, OR 97515
The Big Egg
Serving breakfast all day, The Big Egg elevates the standard fried egg sandwich into a thing of beauty. Make sure to try the Mississippi Monte Cristo in all its fried, grilled and melted glory. Or, for the brave of heart and stomach, the Ultimate, which features thick-cut, fatty strips of bacon layered over toasted bread slathered with Nutella.
Where: N. Mississippi Ave. & N. Skidmore St., Portland, OR 97217
Portland’s authentic Mexican food cart spices up the scene with sopes and huaraches, made-to-order Mexican flatbreads, as well as tamales wrapped in banana leaves and favorites such as tacos and burritos.
Where: SW 5th Ave. & SW Oak St., Portland, OR 97204
Ever had the cuisine of Guam from a food cart or, well, ever? PDX 671 serves traditional dishes from the Mariana Islands (which includes Guam) like golden fried lumpia, spring rolls filled with ground meat, Kelaguen Mannok, chunks of chicken tossed with a sweet and spicy sauce made with red peppers and coconut and housemade flatbread.
Where: N. Killingsworth St. and Greeley Ave., Portland, OR 97217
Built to Grill
This hugely popular food cart crafts Italian specialties crafted with amore. You’ll find handmade pastas and sauces like penne alla vodka, linguine with clams and gnocchi, as well as great Italian orange and lemon sodas to wash it all down with.
Where: SW 3rd Ave. and SW Washington St., Portland, OR 97204
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Another Believer