Ever had a question on how to open a food cart in Portland. More specifically, open a food cart in Multnomah County? Well, our friends at Multnomah County Environmental Health received a grant to publish a playbook for aspiring vendors. I’ve always told vendors who have questions to give Multnomah County a call. They are your resource for those frequently asked questions. Now, they have a manual. And, if you’re looking to open a food cart outside of Portland, the playbook discusses the different types of mobile food units allowed in the state. What is a class 2 food cart? Where do you dump grey water? Do you need a commissary? All answered.
In many cities across the nation, it is a morass of regulations, rules and policy a vendor needs to wade through. Here in Portland, Multnomah County makes it simple and straightforward.
Find the Mobile Food Unit Playbook here or drop on by Multnomah County’s offices for a spiral bound copy. Thank you Multnhomah County Enrironmental Health.
Location: NE 23rd and Alberta
Hours: Tues-Fri, 11-2 and 5-9; Sat/Sun, 12-9pm
The Story: A few months back, I visited a Szechuan restaurant in LA and was shocked at the spice factor in every dish. Yet, it didn’t burn for hours, it simply drifted away after awhile. Ever since that fateful meal, I’ve been craving noshable spicy Chinese and found it at a new food cart named Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen.
Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen is at the 23rd and Alberta Food Cart Lot having taken over the cart that use to house Fijian Indian Curry. They’ve been open now for a couple of months, so have worked out any kinks. At first glance, the menu serves up what one expects from most Chinese restaurants except it offers more variety for vegetarian and gluten free options. They have beef and broccoli, eggplant chicken, ma po tofu, and potstickers. Yet, what caught my eye was chicken gizzards. Where in Portland do you get chicken gizzards? Along with Szechuan Tofu, I had a meal picked out. The gizzards, deep fried, yet with a light coating and then tossed with more than enough spicy peppers were divine. When delivered, I teared up, knowing the spice could wreck me, but I dove in and surprisingly enough, it didn’t melt my face off. It was that quick burn and then it tapered off. Each little morsel, a present from the Chinese gods of deep frying. The tofu dish with sliced celery, chopped peppers, succulent mushrooms and plenty of red chili flake was a treat. Not so spicy I needed milk afterward, but complex flavors that kept me eating.
Uncle Tsang’s is one of those gems you stumble upon and immediately want to return to. Finding a dish so unique like gizzards is the reason I keep going back to the food carts – they keep surprising me. Head on over to Alberta and give it a try. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Broccoli in garlic sauce – $6
- Gizzards – $5
- Curry Chicken – $9
- Szechuan Tofu – $9.50
- Lemon Chicken – $8
- General Chicken – $8
Facebook: Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen
Location: SE Stark and MLK at Central East Side Food Cart Lot
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm
The Story: In a 1965 Grumman Olson step van brought all the way from Long Island, Chefs/Owners Jason and Makoto Cooper are excited to offer traditional Japanese street food and ocean safe sushi. They have brought Wabi Sabi to Portland.
The vintage Grumman Olson van is hard to miss. Shiny silver, simlar to the iconic Airstream, the truck will knock your socks off when you first see it. Jason and Makoto sourced it in NYC where it was built and brought it to Portland on an epic journey they liken to traveling the original Oregon Trail. Somewhere in Indiana, the RV they were towing the truck with died, so Jason sold it for $100 and rented a Uhaul for the remainder of the trip. I know opening a food cart or truck is hard work for anyone. But a story like this? There had to be times when they threw up their hands and almost called it quits. Nope. They powered on and opened earlier this summer in SE Portland. Wabi Sabi’s mission is to offer traditional Japanese street food and ocean safe sushi using sustainable fish, non-gmo soy, organic produce as often as possible and serving in compostable recycled material. They were destined to be part of Portland’s street food scene.
At Wabi Sabi you’ll find Hako Zushi, sushi pressed in a Hinoki wood box layered with ingredients, traditionaly used in old Japan for travel. Albacore tuna, pickled mackerel, tilapia sashimi or a mix of all in the chirashi bowl. They also do vegetarian sushi. My eyes though skipped past the sushi to the non-sushi yummies like ramen, hiyashichuka – a cold egg noodle type salad, and yakisoba. I’ve been a fan of yakisoba since I was a kid, so couldn’t pass up this traditional Japanese festival noodle dish. The noodles are sauteed in in a tangy J-BBQ sauce, mung bean and cabbage then tossed with bonito flakes, Kewpie mayo and pickled ginger. I added in spicy kimchee for fun. The first thing you see is the mountain of bonita flakes, but diving into the noodles, you find treasures hidden in every bite. The kimchee added a depth of spice, but didn’t overpower the yakisoba which was some of the best noodles I’ve eaten in awhile. Salty, spicy, a generous amount of ginger and sweetness. A dish I’ll recommend to anyone who asks.
Wabi Sabi is a great addition to our ever evolving street food scene. We have other vendors tackling Japanese street food which is awesome and to see Jason and Makoto bring in their style is even more exciting. Head on down to the Central East Side Food Cart Lot and check out not only the coolest vintage van in town, but some tasty Japanese street food. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Hako Zushi – different styles with tuna, tilapia or mackerel – $8
- Combo of Hako Zushi – $10
- Vegetarian Sushi – $7
- Yakisoba – $7. add kimchee for $1
- Shoyu Ramen - $8
- Hiyashichuka – $8
Here is some Food Cart News and Events for this weekend:
Portland’s newest food cart pod – Tidbit – is quickly gathering steam and opening. Numerous vendors have already moved in including Hapa Ramen, Namu, Dragonfly and Lodekka. They can’t wait to have you come and visit and are open even though construction is still in progress. Head on down to SE 28th and Division and welcome them to the neighborhood.
Pips and Bounce, a ping pong project, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a Ping Pong location in Portland. Pips and Bounce has done a few events in the Pearl over the last year and loves to bring in food trucks for the crowd. If you’re a player, consider donating.
The People’s Pig has opened their brick and mortar location in N Portland. Located on N Williams, just north of Fargo, Cliff Allen took over the former Tropicana BBQ space and opened last week. At the restaurant, enjoy his famous pork sandwich along with smoked ribs and a few salads. I’ve been now a couple of times and that vintage smoker is back to work. Open daily from 11-11. The cart downtown is still open at SW 10th and Washington.
Pepper Box, the wonderful New Mexican cart that shuttered last year after their lot went up for development, announced they are opening a brick and mortar cafe. With hatch chile season upon us, everyone and anyone craving Pepper Box treats will have to wait just a bit longer. Pepper Box Cafe will open soon on SE Morrison.
Kim Jong Grillin‘ has reopened. You may remember them from a few years back having a cart on SE Division. Sadly they had to close after a devastating fire. But, out of the ashes they have a cool new food truck parked down on SE 46th and Division. Welcome back Han.
Narumol “Nong” Poonsukwattana of Nong’s Khao Man Gai will compete in a Food Truck challenge of Chopped. The episode will air August 19th at 7pm on the Food Network. Good luck to Nong.
Events this weekend:
- MusicFestNW will take over Washington Park with two stages and live music all weekend. The following vendors will be onsite to feed the crowd – Bro-Dogs and Burgers, Grilled Cheese Grill, Slick’s Big Tim BBQ, Fried Egg I’m In Love; Mama Chow’s; La Merced; Fuego Burritos; Freshii; Bunk Sandwiches; Ramy’s Lamb Shack; So Cold. This is going to be an amazing event.
- Toyota City Championships event of the Dew Tour takes place in downtown Portland all weekend. The event is taking over Broadway between Jefferson and Salmon for skateboard and BMX competition. This is a Free event and food trucks Home Plate Sliders, Fishbox, and Churros Locos will be out on Saturday. On Sunday, find Retrolicious and Churros Locos there. So cool.
Saturday, August 16:
- The 23rd and Alberta Food Cart Lot is hosting a Superhero Party at the lot. Boasting four awesome food carts and the Hoppy Camper, a beer purveyor, the event calls out all you Superheroes to don your costumes and have some fun. There will be prizes for Best Kids, Most “Portland”, and more. Such a fun event for young and old. More details.
- The Adult Soap Box Derby is Saturday and this year they are bringing in food trucks and vendors at the end of the race on Mt. Tabor.
- Carts on Foster is hosting a Chalk Art Contest all day Saturday. Unleash your inner artist. They have over $150 in prizes for the best art.
- Also at Carts on Foster, a fundraiser is happening from 12-4 for J Mo’s Sandwich Shack. The owner, Jason, suffered a tragic injury last year and has only recently returned to the cart. Local food cart author Steven Shomler will be there selling J Mo’s specialty sandwich for $20 to raise funds. More details.
Sunday, August 17:
- The Hawthorne Street Fair happens between 30th and 38th. Head on down for some community fun, vendors and food carts like Fried Egg I’m In Love, Holy Mole, Umai, Carte Blanche and more.
Wow, a busy weekend. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer with your favorite street food vendor.
Location: SE 33rd and Hawthorne down the alleyway
Hours: Wed-Sat, 12-10pm; Sun, 12-6pm
The Story: Holy Mole defines authentic when it comes to Mexican mole. With influences from Puebla, Mexico, this food cart is dishing out items you can’t usually find in our fair city.
Fernando, the owner, hails from the city of Puebla, in the state of Puebla, Mexico, a hub of food culture. Puebla was founded in 1531 as a Spanish city and played a pivotal role in the history of New Spain. Located southwest of Mexico City, it became an agricultural hub for the capitol over the years. Famous for its cuisines like mole pablano, chiles en nodaga and chilupas, it has grown to become the fourth largest city in the nation and a hub for eastern central Mexico.
The signature dish at Holy Mole is mole pablano. My first thought was a dish with pablano chiles, but no, I was wrong. Mole pablano is mole from Puebla, the city. Fernando spent much of the last 10+ years as a chef at the Great Vow Zen Monastary in Claskanie, so has tailored his foods for both vegetarian and gluten free needs. A mole is a mix of some 30+ ingredients including peppers, spices, herbs and even chocolate. And all made from scratch. Some moles take hours to craft just right. I enjoyed the house special with chicken – truly an amazing dish. Each bite, the mole came through with a different more vibrant flavor- anise, smoke, cacao, salt, pepper. I hadn’t planned on eating the entire dish, yet couldn’t help myself. The scents from the cart and the dish waft through the alleyway drawing people in.
Fernando’s goal is to introduce Portlanders to dishes they haven’t tried before. While Mexican, Holy Mole is different than most every other Mexican place I’ve enjoyed and that brought a smile ear to ear. On the weekends, he dishes out enchilada specials. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the future. Holy Mole is located on SE 33rd and Hawthorne down the alleyway. Open Wednesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner. A food cart that will make more than a few top 10 lists this year. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Mole Pablano – Chicken or Tempeh – $10.75
- Pozole Blanco – chicken with organic yellow corn, white cabbage, onions, salsa – $8.75
- Pozole Blanco – tempeh with organic blue corn, red cabbage, onions, salsa – $9.75
- Enchiladas on the weekend vary – $9-10
Ever wonder where the awesomeness is in your own city? Or, are you visiting and want to find the hidden gems? Liz Crain has put together an amazing book of all things food for our fair city. Food Lover’s Guide to Portland is a road map for finding anything you’re interested in whether it be cheese, charcuterie, restaurants, breakfast joints and even food carts. In the second edition of the book, readers get 30+ new full listings and 150+ new businesses. I wrote a section on food carts highlighting pods and specific vendors who one can’t miss. Nick Zukin of Mi Mero Mole put together a Hispanic Market section. Just flicking through the book opened my eyes to cheese shops I haven’t visited, new pickling operations I need to try and a huge list of distilleries.
So much changes in this wonderful city from week to week, so even if you call yourself a foodie, the book will open your eyes to something new to check out the next time you’re up for an adventure. The book is out next month and Liz would love to have you at the launch party at Reverend Nat’s Cider House on September 1. There will also be other events where you can meet and chat with Liz throughout the month of September. More details on the book and Liz Crain here.
Today is opening day of MLS All Star week which will culminate in the MLS All Star Match on Wednesday, August 6 at Providence Park. A huge week for Portland, showcasing our beautiful city to a national and international crowd. The MLS All Star team will take on FC Bayern Munich, one of the best teams in the world. Here are some activities this weekend and next week where you can find food carts/trucks.
Friday August 1
- MLS Flick’s on the Bricks. The MLS will take over Pioneer Courthouse Square the entire week for the MLS Experience presented by Adidas. Friday night launches with the classic soccer film Sixty Six. 9-11pm. Food trucks and other vendors will be onsite to feed ya.
Saturday, August 2
- The MLS Experience at Pioneer Courthouse Square will be live from 12-9pm with a Timber vs. LA Galaxy viewing party. Food trucks and carts will be there in force to feed ya.
- There will be an MLS Food Truck up on N Mississippi and Skidmore in the late afternoon slinging MLS Team sliders for free.
Sunday, August 3
- Waterfront Park is where the action is Sunday. The Grilled Cheese Throwdown takes place at the MLS Experience at Waterfront Park in the bowl starting at 3pm. Retrolicious, The Grilled Cheese Grill, MooPing, Bro-Dogs and Burgers and Pressed will all be there to show off their best grilled cheese. And you’ll get to try each. The event will culminate in a live concert by The Flaming Lips.
- If you’re interested in meeting some players, head on over to PROST! on N Mississippi and Skidmore. There will be a meet and greet with Claudio Pizarro and Rafinha of FC Bayern. Arrive early and enjoy lunch at the food carts at Mississippi Marketplace. Event is at 3:30pm.
Tuesday, August 5
- MLS All Star Graham Zusi will be at Tursi Soccer Store in SW Portland from 4-6pm for a signing. Bro-Dogs and Burgers will be in residence to feed hungry soccer players.
Wednesday, August 6
- The All Star Game is at Providence Park 6:30-9pm. Big-Ass Sandwiches will be the vendor of choice for the Food Cart Alliance and is taking over the concession stand above section 95.
- Koi Fusion will be fully stocked at their location on SW 20th and Burnside outside the park.
- Other trucks and vendors will be posted up around the park including Churros Locos on 19th for before and after treats.
The city is gonna go soccer bonkers for the next six days. Welcome the MLS visitors with open arms and direct them to the best food carts you know.
Location: NE 52nd and Sandy, Rose City Food Park
Hours: Tues-Sat, 9am-8pm; Sun, 9am-2pm
The Story: Bacon. We’ve seen bacon vodka, bacon toothpaste, bacon band-aids, bacon ice cream and more. Bacon over the last decade became as integrated in our culinary diet as corn and wheat. Now, Portland has a food cart dedicated to Bacon. I give you Bacon PDX at Rose City Food Park.
David Elkin opened the bacon focused cart in May and has been crisping up the pork ever since. Sourcing from Carlton Farms, the bacon can be had by the slice or in a sandwich or other tasty concoction. You even chose regular, thick or premium. David knows bacon. Menu offerings include bacon wrapped sweets, bacon and veggies, frittata cups made fresh daily and the kalua double pig sandwich. Two strips of bacon, a pile of kalua pig, bbq sauce, pineapple slaw served open face on a hoagie roll, this is a pork lover’s delight. Every bite is pork. I enjoyed the mix of pineapple juice with the salt of the pork. Add in the fresh cilantro with every bite and BANG!, joy. I tried to pick it up and enjoy it as a sandwich, yet it overwhelmed me and a fork and knife were required.
David has been expanding the menu and offering specials over the last month. I saw one with smoked salmon, bacon, spinach and tomato on a ciabatta roll that just rocked my world. Bacon is the focus of this cart, so drop on by, dive in and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.
- Bacon by the strip – $1-2/item
- Kalua Double Pig Sandwich – $9
- Bacon & Sautéed Veggies: bacon apple kale, bacon cabbage pineapple, etc – $5
- Frittata Cups – denver style, pipey jack, swiss guard – $4.50
- Bacon Sweets – $1.50