Too much of a good thing? That’s one reaction to Portland’s staggering number of food carts (more than 600 at last count, with an estimated 400 operating at any given time). But rather than being overwhelmed by the options, why not embrace the delicious dilemma? Go whole hog (hm, sounds like a good name for a food cart) and choose a day’s worth of meals from these can’t-miss carts.
Rise and shine any time you please with the all-day breakfast sandwiches available at Fried Egg I’m In Love. This cart on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard features a tasty array of music-pun-themed offerings, like the signature Yolko Ono, the spicy Sriracha Mix-A-Lot or the vegetarian Back in Black Beans.
On culinary destination Southeast Division Street, Smaaken Waffles reinvents the breakfast classic, turning it into a vessel for delightfully diverse fillings. Sandwiches on their thin Dutch waffles include combinations like sausage, egg and cheddar; ham, Swiss, house-made strawberry jam and powdered sugar; and the Smaaken: apple, brie and bacon. (The cart also offers gluten-free waffles and vegan and vegetarian sandwiches.)
With two locations — a downtown cart and a school bus eatery on Alberta Street — Grilled Cheese Grill whips up sandwiches including its Tillamook-cheddar-stuffed, crust-cut-off “Pre-schooler” and “BABS,” a crumbled blue-cheese-marble-rye wonder stacked with bacon and sliced Braeburn apples.
If you’re more in the mood for a slice, Pyro Pizza has managed to cram a brick oven into its cart in the Cartopia pod, where they wood-fire margherita and puttanesca pies that are sized perfectly for sharing or hoarding.
The Frying Scotsman, meanwhile, is your friendly neighborhood “chippy,” transplanted right into downtown’s Alder pod, where they batter, bread and serve up cod, haddock and even mahi mahi. They’ll even deep-fry a Mars bar, if you haven’t had your fill with fish.
To satisfy a range of cravings, head to the Portland Mercado in Southeast Portland’s Foster-Powell neighborhood. Outside of the market is a row of rainbow-colored food carts, each serving up its own traditional recipes infused with Portland flair. Dig into stuffed arepas and friend yucca at Colombian cart Que Bacano, or sample specialties from its neighbors, who are serving up dishes from Mexico, Cuba, Argentina and El Salvador.
Dinner options include an earthy vegan mole, belly-warming pozole, thick and cheesy Salvadorian pupusas or pizza-like Oaxacan tlayudas (14-inch crispy tortillas topped with queso fresco, fresh veggies and pork rinds). In other words, Portland Mercado’s offerings stretch way beyond standard Tex-Mex fare.
Snacks & Treats
A sweet or savory substitute for any meal (or good as a snack), the waffle sandwiches at Flavour Spot will have you wondering why we ever used bread to begin with. These delicious handfuls come in varieties like ham and Gouda, sausage and maple, or even Nutella and raspberry jam. Advice: Ask for extra napkins.