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Portland Food Carts
Throughout Portland at any given mealtime, around 500 food carts are dishing up steaming plates of everything from Korean tacos to shawarma to artisan cupcakes. While food carts have seen a rise in popularity throughout the country, the culture is especially strong in Portland.
Brightly colored and mostly stationary, the carts tend to cluster in former parking lots in pods ranging from three to 60 establishments, oftentimes ringing a cluster of picnic tables or a covered awning.
With plate prices averaging $6 to $7, cart fare provides a quick, inexpensive, and delicious alternative to traditional sit-down restaurants if you don't mind sitting outside. Cart dining is also an easy way to sample Portland's many ethnic food offerings.
For up-to-date information on hours and locations, check out the extensive local blog Food Carts Portland (www.foodcartsportland.com), the corresponding iPhone app FoodCartsPDX, and the Twitter thread @pdxfoodcarts.com.
Downtown, SW 9th (and 10th) and Alder: Covering more than an entire city block, this downtown pod, home to more than 50 carts, is the largest in the city. The spot is lively during the workweek but slower on the weekends. We recommend the signature Thai chicken dish at Nong's Khao Man Gai; battered fish-and-chips at The Frying Scotsman; kielbasa and other Polish classics at EuroDish; the porchetta and arugula sandwich at the People's Pig Wood-Fired Grill; and kalua pig at the Hawaiian cart 808 Grinds.
Downtown, SW 3rd and Washington: This pod has an international bent, with some of the city's oldest Mexican carts on site, plus Egyptian, Greek, Indonesian, Lebanese, and Vietnamese establishments. We recommend the muffuletta at Built to Grill; falafel or chicken shawarma at El Masry Egyptian cart; and vegan cheesesteak at DC Vegetarian.
Northeast, Mississippi Marketplace (the corner of N. Mississippi and N. Skidmore): Situated beside the brick-and-mortar German bar Prost! (which allows cart diners to bring over food), this lot of about 15 carts surrounding a cluster of picnic tables is quite busy on weekends. We recommend the decadent breakfast at The Big Egg; bulgogi beef tacos or sliders at the Koi Fusion Korean cart; and Chinese flatbread sandwiches at Prickly Ash.
Southeast, Good Food Here (SE 43rd and Belmont) : With covered seating and Rogue Brewing on site, this is a welcoming pod in quiet Southeast Portland. We recommend: the lamb gyro at the Aybla Grill Mediterranean cart; meatball- or smoked salmon-filled Norwegian lefse wraps at Viking Soul Food; chorizo and chips at Euro Trash.
Southeast, Cartopia (the corner of SE 12th and Hawthorne Blvd.) : The go-to spot for late-night cravings, this pod of six carts stays open until 3 am most nights. We recommend: sweet or savory crepes at Perierre Creperie; fried hand pies at Whiffies; poutine at Potato Champion; and wood-fired margherita pizza at Pyro Pizza.
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