Garden State (Closed)

Jonathan Amato

Garden_State_1.JPGCLOSED 10/2011 – Location: N Mississippi and Skidmore. South of SE 13th and Lexington, in the heart of Sellwood’s “antique row.” (Located in the 7900 address range, kitty corner to the Sellwood Library, and a few blocks north of Tacoma Street)

[Updated 1/2011 – Garden State is now open at Mississippi Marketplace. You can read our other review of this cart here.]

Description: “Italian Street Food from the Willamette Valley.” This shiny new wagon is Portland’s only cart offering Sicilian street snacks. They also sell soups, grilled chicken, salads and one sandwich offering – grilled peppers and sausage on a ciabatta roll. Garden State uses organic and local ingredients as much as possible with most of their produce and all of their chicken coming from Gaining Ground Farm located in Yamhill, Oregon.


As for the Sicilian part, the Arancine here are the best I’ve had in Portland. An order ($4.00 or $6.00 with a side salad) includes four tender larger than golf-ball sized balls of tender risotto rice liberally seasoned with saffron and stuffed with your choice of either cheese or a meat based marinara sauce. Dusted with super fine bread crumbs, you order and wait while they are fried in front of you to dark golden perfection in fresh tasting oil, and they come out crispy and still warm without being the least bit greasy. Pure comfort food. The creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside Sicilian fried potato fritters known as Cazilli (also $4.00), are just as good . Both are served with lemon wedges and a light tomato sauce on the side. This is the epitomy of good cart food; simple, fresh, quick, reasonably priced, and highly addictive.

Garden State has only been open for less than a month, and they warned me that they are still tweaking with their menu to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and that it will change frequently depending on the seasons. In the meantime I can highly recommend their textbook Pollo alla Diavola (aka Devil’s Chicken), a traditional Tuscan spicy grilled chicken that is rubbed with crushed black peppercorns and dried red spicy peppers, and cooked under a weight making it slightly charred on the outside but remaining juicy and succulent within. Served with grilled bread and a large salad it is meant for two diners although one person with a very giant appetite could probably cope. ($12.00). I didn’t try the grilled pepper and sausage sandwich ($6.00), but I did take a peek at somebody else’s, and trust me I will be back soon to try it. Garden_State_Chicken.JPG

There are a couple of things you need to know about Garden State. There is no seating (yet), so you’ll need to plan accordingly. This could be a bit of an issue as things like Arancine are best eaten right out of the fryer. I ended up gobbling mine down standing right there in front of the cart, but then again it wasn’t raining. In addition, Garden State is located in an emerging “food cart court” parking lot (kitty corner to the Sellwood Library) and there is some construction going on around it as the owner puts in a seating area and patio, and as other carts settle in (there is a taco truck and Asian type cart opening soon as well) making it a little chaotic.

Regardless and despite these issues, those Arancine are pure poetry and although this isn’t your typical cheapie Portland street food, the quality of ingredients and careful approach to cooking make Garden State worth the money and the drive to Sellwood. This is a terrific new addition to Portland’s food cart scene and I’m certain it will soon be a popular favorite.


Sample Menu: Arancine (option of cheese or meat ragu) – $4.00 (or $6.00 with a salad).

Cazilli – $4.00 (or $6.00 with a salad).

Grilled Sausage and Peppers on a Cibatta roll – $6.00

1/2 chicken grilled devil’s style with salad and grilled bread (for 2) – $12.00

Soup of the day – $5.00 with bread

Salad Specials (rotate) – $4.00 – $6.00 range (approximately)

Soft Drinks, Coffee, Juices, etc…. – vary in price

Hours: Lunch 7 days a week: 11:30 to 3:30.

Phone: 503-705-5273

E-mail: Unknown




  1. Mostly Running. says

    Did you get an idea as to whether the owner/s had done any time in Portland restaurants? Just curious.

    Great write up by the way.


  2. I heard that he has worked as a cook in some of Portland’s more well known restaurants, just not sure where. In addition, I was too busy shoving his awesome food in my mouth to ask.

    If you find out let us know!


  3. I can also attest to the quality of the Arancine. I found them light and crisp, with a wonderful saffron flavor and no greasiness at all. Basically just the way you always hope they’ll be made, but rarely are. Quite frankly the Arancine at Garden State are better than most of the versions I’ve had at well-known restaurants in town.

    The light dipping sauce with fresh herbal flavors that accompanied it might be better suited to the summer than fall, but that’s being nitpicky. And for $4 it’s a no-brainer. If I lived in Sellwood I would take an order home for dinner on a regular basis.

    The Cazilli didn’t impress me quite as much, but they were certainly fine for what they were. No complaints.

    And the chicken was surprisingly well prepared given the fact that the man works out of a cart smaller than my bathroom. At $12 the chicken is a bit pricey for cart food. But it was probably enough for two people, and again I’ve had chicken at a number of well-known restaurants around town that was not as good.

    Once they get their seating set up, this will be a great place to stop for an inexpensive, tasty lunch or early dinner. In the meantime, a number of coffee houses on the street (such as the Ugly Mug) are cool with bringing the food into their place.

    This is a solid addition to the Portland food cart scene, and a nice add for the Sellwood area as well.

  4. I tried Garden State last week, and it was wonderful. I split an order of cheese arancine and a meatball sub ($5, new addition to the menu?) with a friend, which was quite a lot of food for 9 bucks. Excellent comfort food for cold rainy days, and worth traveling across town for!

  5. Just tried Garden State for the first time. WOW!! I had the chickpea sandwich with grilled butternut squash. The greens were a great variety and very fresh. A wonderful sauce compleminted the grilled squash and perfectly fried chickpea patty. Plus it had shredded carrot and radish. “Delicious” doesn’t even touch this one! I am left here thinking of when I am going back and hoping to get it again. Might make it hard for me to try anything else.

  6. Holden Pike says

    Yes, I second those fantastic chickpea sandwiches. Though I’ll warn you: I fear they may be addictive! When they very first opened the cart in Sellwood last year he didn’t have much to offer for vegetarians, but with the large, impossibly-fresh salad and best of all those chickpea sandwiches, for me it has quickly become a favored stop along SE 13th Avenue. You’re a great addition to the neighborhood, Kevin!

  7. Shirley Weishaar says

    On a trip to visit my friend who had just moved to Sellwood from California she took me across the street from her condo on a drizzly day for Kevin’s food. It was absolutely delicious, beautifully served and reasonably priced. I can’t wait for my next trip to Portland and Kevin’s will be the first place I’ll go for food.

  8. I can attest that Kevin does the quality thing ALL THE TIME

    Good boy from Good Italian (don’t let the name Kevin fool ya) stock.

    Give him a kiss from his mom when you stop in

  9. Finally made it to Garden State – and kind of chickened out and order the standard meatball sub instead of some of the other items on the menu. I wasn’t disappointed though. I had that sucker at 1 pm today and at almost 9 pm I’m still pretty full. Next time I’m trying the Porchetta.

  10. Hey! I saw them downtown last Friday, I think on SW 3rd (not completely positive on the exact location). So, they’ve either added a cart or moved. They don’t have an address on their site.

  11. Intimately, the post is in reality the greatest on this worthy topic. I fit in with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your forthcoming updates. Saying thanks will not just be enough, for the great lucidity in your writing. I will right away grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. Authentic work and much success in your business endeavors!

  12. MEATBALL SUB!!!!

  13. Just at at the Mississippi Marketplace location and it was fantastic. Had the cured honey lemon chicken sandwich and the alaskain cod sandwich and it there were both great. Also really enjoyed the cicpea fries. Go check it out!!!

  14. As much as I love Garden State, this write up needs an update (or links to others praises) – since they’re no longer in Sellwood at all at this point and serving a different tweak on the same menu.

    For example, Arancine are still available, but cheese option only and a la carte at $1/each.

    Had the burger, which was written up in WWeek by Kenny Zuke in the summer – I must say it was well worth it. Yum! Came with pickled cauliflower, which was delightfully unexpected.


  1. […] he’s been to 23, so I foresee success. I met up with John over beers and a meatball sub from Garden State to chat about his […]

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