Location: SE 28th Pl. and Division at Tidbit
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30pm-9:30pm
The Story: When discussing the history of Portland’s street food scene, there is a time around 2007 or 2008 where the cuisine offered at the carts shifted. More international, more fusion, chef driven items and gourmet. In downtown, you can no longer find a simple hotdog. Reindeer sausage, yes. But not a cart focusing on a good old fashioned hotdog done well. I’m glad to find Dog Town Food Cart at Tidbit focusing on the dog.
Dog Town starts with a handcrafted hot dog or artisanal sausage and then creates magic. They bake their own buns, make their own pickles and condiments and use only the highest quality, local ingredients. Each bite showcases the care. A hotdog can be simple with a bun, a steamed or grilled dog, ketchup and mustard. I love it. No frills. Yet, sometimes one needs to get a bit crazy and break out of the norm. Dog Town has you covered. The Rocky Balboa, a Philly Cheesesteak Dog. The Memphis, slow cooked bbq pulled pork atop an all beef dog. Farmer’s Daughter – a veggie sausage with romesco sauce, grilled leeks, shaved fennel, arugula and pickled red onions. Something for everyone. I picked up the The Sonoran, a traditional delight out of the state of Sonora in northern Mexico. Bacon wrapped all beef dog with refried beans, salsa verde, avocado cream, grilled onions, and pico de gallo served in made to order fry bread. So beautiful, I didn’t want to eat it. I wanted to preserve it for my mantle. But alas, my cravings took over and I devoured it. Crisp salty bacon, a solid dog. Spicy salsa and the bitterness of cilantro. Every bite, a treat. Made me want to get a second.
Dog Town is located at Tidbit Farm and Food in SE Portland off Division. The lot offers up covered heated seating and a beer garden. Beyond the dogs, Dog Town does offer fried chicken along with house made lemonade. Open for lunch and dinner and weekends, there isn’t a reason for you to not check them out. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Return of the Mac – Mac ‘n Cheese Dog – $5.95
- Sonoran Dog – $5.95
- Rocky Balboa – $5.95
- Farmer’s Daughter – $5.95
- Getz Yourself a Beer – Beer bratwurst, sauerkraut, grilled onions, spicy mustard – $5.95
It’s time to defy winter weather, race around Portland, and fight for honor, glory, and food cart food! Willamette Week’s Cartathlon V [FIVE] is back March 1. Registration for the competition is now open. Teams of five are welcome, and crazy costumes are encouraged. First place team wins a free food cart tour with Food Carts Portland, valued at $200! Sponsored by AMF Bowl, Naked Grape Wine, Pips and Bounce, humm kombucha and more. Visit wweek.com/cartathlonV.
Sunday March 1: Registration at noon; Cartathlon starts at 2pm. After party at 6pm.
Location: SE 43rd and Belmont at Good Food Here
Hours: Mon, 11:30-8pm; Wednesday-Sunday, 11:30-8pm
The Story: We all know about the infamous Philly Cheesesteak. There are documentaries about the sandwich and some have tattoos of their favorites. Crazy right? Well, beyond Philly, the east coast has other amazing treats and Monk’s food cart focuses on the sandwiches out of Delaware.
Andrew Heckcrote hails from the tiny state that is also home to everyone’s favorite vice president. Upon first glance of the menu, I also believed it was “just another cheesesteak cart,” but after chatting with Andrew, I was corrected. Delaware has it’s own take on over the top beef or Italian sandwiches. It’s like seeing all the different apples at the market. Each regional sandwich is unique. While I could have opted for a cheesesteak with Wiz, I needed something with some veggies, albeit – pickled peppers. They are still veggies right? The Italian Hoagie comes with ham, salami, capicola, provolone and pickled peppers. Andrew even poured on a bit of the pickle juice for good measure. Being a hoagie, the toasted bun scrunches down so you can shove the sandwich into your mouth-hole for a satisfying first, second and last bite. Pickle juice and oil drip down your wrists, the price to pay for such a treat. My only wish was for a cold bottle of lager. A great sandwich.
The menu at Monk’s offers up the Delaware version of the cheesesteak, a roast pork Italian sandwich, a pressed Cubano and for the vegetarians, a “Portland Steak” with kale, onion, mushroom and swiss. Monk’s is tucked in the back of Good Food Here in SE Porltand which now has an on site beer perveyor – Scout. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Cheesesteak – $8
- Steak Italian – broccoli rabe, sharp provolone – $9
- Portland Steak – $9.50
- Roast Pork Italian – pork, broccoli rabe, sharp provolone – $8.50
- Italian Hoagie – $8
Location: SW 10th and Alder
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7:30am-2:30pm
The Story: Need some morning nosh? Downtown Portland is rather lacking of breakfast options from the carts, so I was excited to see Spielman Bagels take over the corner cart at SE 10th and Alder. Spielman has made a name for itself offering up some of the city’s best bagels in SE Portland. Now, we can all enjoy a kettle boiled salt bagel with cream cheese and maybe some lox.
Spielman’s food cart is open during the week for breakfast and lunch and also serves coffee.
Location: NE MLK and Jarrett at The Fusion
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11-7; Sun, 12-5
The Story: When you have a dream, sometimes nothing can stop you. Chris had the dream to open a food cart for over 15 years and now Smak Dab’s has launched with their gourmet stuffed burgers.
Chris has a background in the restaurant industry having worked for more than a few large restaurants over the years. The food cart scene just wasn’t as vibrant in the first part of the last decade, so Chris put the plans on hold, but kept the dream alive. The cart, located on NE MLK at The Fusion food cart pod is one of a few who have opened thee in the past six months. That pod has always housed food carts offering a range of cuisines ever since I moved into the neighborhood almost 17 years ago. Now, with a formal name, a covered deck and a quorum of vendors, I think NE MLK has a viable street food scene.
Smak Dab’s focuses on stuffed burgers. Many call them the Juicy Lucy after a famous midwestern chain. Chris has his own twist. The patty includes bread crumbs among other goodies to add some cohesion as he forms it around the ingredients. The surprises are inside. Take The Calzone for example – pepperoni, mozzarela cheese and marinara all grilled inside the patty. Just imagining that first bite elicits a stomach growl. The Tres Hombres was for me – jalapenos, olives, jack cheese inside with quacamole atop. At first site, I thought maybe the burger was a bit burned, yet that first bite countered the visual. The patty, with the extra ingredients comes with caramelization throughout – a sweet, salty and for the Tres Hombres, spicy delight. Fresh lettuce and tomato create a cool tasty friction to the stuffed burger. Overall, a well done sammy.
Smak Dab’s has an impressive menu with six stuffed burger options. The day I visited, Chris also had pulled pork on the menu. Design your own if you want, he’ll make it happen. There is plenty of covered seating on site and they offer vegetarian options and GF buns. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- The Smak Dab – patty stuffed with swiss and served on toasted bun with chimichurri spread and bacon sriracha onion ring – $9
- The Calzone – $8
- The Lisa – vegetarian black bean patty with chimichurri spread – $7
- Lamb of Gouda – lamb mix stuffed with smoked gouda – $10
- Tres Hombres – $9
- Steak Fries – $3
- Cajun Pot Stickers – $6
- Bacon sriracha battered fried pickles – $5
Facebook: Smak Dab’s
Location: SE 13th and Lexington in Sellwood
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-7pm
The Story: Boy meets girl. Girl enters BBQ contest and places. The Hot Box BBQ is born. Located in the Sellwood district, this BBQ food truck requires a visit.
The back story on The Hot Box BBQ is pretty cool. Dan and Abby, the owners and BBQ masters, met on a cruise to Mexico. Abby, born and raised in Hong Kong, decided to join Dan in Humboldt County thereafter and having an adventurous spirit decided she wanted to compete in a local BBQ contest. That first entry garnered her a 3rd place ribbon. Not satisfied, she returned for the next 4 years. The Hot Box BBQ cart was born. After much success in Northern California, the pair uprooted and now call Portland home. The menu has expanded along with weekly specials.
I tell everyone about the mouthwatering BBQ we get at food carts. Since Portland doesn’t have an entrenched BBQ culture like other parts of the country, most of what we enjoy is transplanted. The Hot Box BBQ focuses on pulled pork sandwiches of all different styles. From an original to the Maui Wowie with pickled onion and pineapple, every sandwich screamed goodness. The Volcano, with pulled pork, homemade jalapeno pepper jelly, crisp onion bits and sriracha aioli on a brioche bun rumbled my stomach just reading the description. Dan built one up and I dove in. Heck, while I had plenty of napkins, it was still a glorious mess. The pork, perfectly smoked with just enough fat to keep it moist. The heat from the sriracha aioli and pepper jelly kept a well balanced burn throughout the enjoyment of this beast. And the bun! An excellent choice.
The Hot Box BBQ, slang for a BBQ smoker, is now open to feed ya. Drop on by next time you’re in the area and enjoy some quality pulled pork. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- The Original – smoked pulled pork, homemade coleslaw, mayo, homemade peach BBQ sauce – $8
- The Maui Wowie – $9
- The Volcano – $9
- The Green Meany Salad – smoked pulled pork or marinated smoked tofu, fresh lettuce, pickled onion, carrot, cucumber, tomato, pineapple, Thai peanut dressing – $8
Facebook: The Hot Box BBQ
Location: SW 3rd and Oak
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11:30-6pm; Saturday, 11:30-4 or sell out
The Story: Rotisserie anything is a treat. Rotisserie chicken, slowly cooking and juicing up is crazy good. Polli-Tico opened this past month offering up Peruvian style rotisserie chicken from a food cart in downtown Portland.
Polli-Tico specializes in “pollos a la brasa,” otherwise known as charbroiled chicken. A traditional Peruvian dish of slow cooked whole chickens served with sides. The owners, two Costa Rican brothers that grew up eating Peruvian chicken in Washignton DC decided Portland was missing out on this unique dish. They even imported a rotisserie from Peru for the authenticity. They documented their challenges with customs and sourcing on their site – a good read and I’m thankful for the effort. On any given day, they do up 4-6 chickens and split them out for dishes as quarters or halves. The oven can handle up to 30, so I’m excited to see what summer brings.
While the charcoal rotisserie is truly the star of the show here, the fresh hormone and preservative free chicken can’t be overlooked. Having only enjoyed rotisserie chicken during my travels in both Germany and Mexico, I wanted to get the full meal deal, so ordered a half chicken with sides. Yup! A half chicken. I think I surprised them with the order by taking almost 20% of the chicken for the day, but I had research to do. A GO Box full of chicken with fried Yuca, a separate container held black beans and rice. I hesitated a bit with the first bite, but eventually threw caution to the wind and picked up a quarter and chomped down. Succulent, salty, fatty, but neither flavor or texture overwhelming the rest. Everyone is into chicken wings these days. I think rotisserie chicken is going to take the city by storm once people discover how juicy and flavorful it is. Also, 1/2 a chicken is a ton of food for $11. Brilliant.
Polli-Tico is exactly why I love street food. Something new. Something unique we havn’t tried before. And at the right price. Open daily for lunch and into the dinner hour, but they are still working out how many chickens to roast, so they may sell out early. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook for updates. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Pollo Bowl – sliced Peruvian chicken, white rice, beans, spring mix, tomatoes, cilantro, yellow sauce – lg, $8; sm, $6.50
- Veggie Bowl – lg, $6.50; sm, $5.50
- Chicken Platter – 1/4 chicken and 2 sides – $8.50
- Large Platter – 1/2 chicken and 2 sides – $11
- Whole chickens available
- Sides include beans and rice, yuca, french fries, house salad, cole slaw
Some news from the Cartosphere in Portland.
News broke on Monday morning that the owners of Ren’s Bubble Tea and Chop Chop on SW 10th and Washington were arrested for allegedly purchasing stolen meat. The story has made the rounds on local media including interviews with the owners. KATU has those interviews. The story also details how many other vendors at the Alder pod outright refused to even talk with those trying to sell stolen goods to them. There are always people moving around selling goods that aren’t necessarily on the up and up. It is sad that some vendors felt they needed to save a few bucks while possibly putting their customers at peril.
There are some upcoming cart moves you should know about:
- Big-Ass Sandwiches is moving from their SE location due to upcoming development and have launched a raffle to raise some funds for the move. Good news is they found a new spot at Carts on Foster on SE 52nd and Foster. The move will take place at the end of the month. More details on the raffle and great prizes can be found here.
- Gonzo has called Base Camp Brewing home for the last couple years, but is also moving on. They will move to SE 32nd and Hawthorne alongside Fried Egg I’m in Love. The move will take place March 1.
- Que Sabrosa has moved from N Fremont and Vancouver to 3925 N Williams, just south of Shaver.
Kevin Cavenaugh and Guerilla Development are opening another branch of micro restaurants just down the street from The Ocean which is home to Slowburger, The Sudra and Uno Mas. The idea of a micro restaurant is to bridge the gap between the cost of a food cart ($20-30,000) and the cost of a full restaurant ($200,000+.) At The Zipper, the goal is to have buildout around $50-70,000. The Zipper is located at NE 28th and Sandy and will be home to multiple new options including Rua, Jason Meyers’ cart from the Alder pod downtown. There will be a bar, a nail salon, pizza and a coffee roaster. Watch for an opening date in April. The Oregonian has a great rundown.
New vendors out there to feed ya:
- Hot Box BBQ in Sellwood on SE 13th and Lexington
- El Fogon Mexican Grill at Cartlandia on SE 82nd and Harney
- Jada’s Desserts – sandwiches and desserts – Cartlandia
- Mis Abuelos Barbacoa – Cartlandia
- Monk’s Sandwiches – SE 43rd and Belmont
Enjoy the shortest month of the year with visits to food carts every day.