Potato Champion

Potato Champion

Potato Champion

Location: SE 12th and Hawthorne
Hours: Tues-Fri, 4pm-3am; Sat/Sun, 12pm-3am

Description: Ahh, 2am and you’ve had a couple of beers. Now what? You could stop on by any one of the late night 24hr fast food joints for “4th meal” and pay for it in the morning, or you could head on down to SE 12th and Hawthorne and get some Belgian style fries. Potato Champion has been slingin’ them with poutine since 2008 and is going strong.

Potato Champion is Portland’s only late night fry cart and from my experience, the only cart in town specializing in Belgian style frites. Belgian style frites are peeled, cut, washed, then blanched with a first fry before frying again. This creates a crispy outside while staying fluffy inside. I don’t know about all that techno mumbo jumbo, I just know that they are what the doctor ordered at 2am.

Palak Paneer Fries from Potato Champion

Palak Paneer Fries from Potato Champion

Mike McKinnon opened Potato Champion back in 2008 on the corner of SE 12th and Hawthorne. Every night, he would sit there and wait for customers. There were quiet, rainy, cold nights, but Mike stuck it out and defined his cart as one of Portland’s premier late night food carts. The lot blossomed with vendors and is known beyond the city as a place to nosh after 2am. Mike has tinkered with expansion, opening a second cart a few years ago, yet for now, the cart at Cartopia is his focus. The menu has changed to with the addition of such treats as Chili Cheese Fries, PB and J Fries, Pulled Pork and Fries and a new favorite of mine, Palak Paneer Fries with curried spinach and paneer cheese served over fries and toped with a cilantro chutney. Wow! Brilliant.

Mike was a pioneer when the street food scene was changing and is still plugging away. Open now for evening and late night along with lunch on the weekends, you don’t have a reason to not visit and check out some of Portland’s best fries. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

[This article was originally published in October of 2008. Updated May, 2014]

Sample Menu:

  • Fries – Small: $3; Large: $7.00
  • Choice of sauces: Horseradish Ketchup; Rosemary Truffle Ketchup; Mayonnaise; Pesto Mayo; Tarragon Anchovy Mayo; Remoulade; Dijon Mustard; “Harder” Hot Mustard, etc.
  • Poutine: Small: $5; Large: $10 (Vegan and Vegetarian available)
  • PB and J Fries – fries topped with satay sauce and smokey chipotle raspberry jam – sm, $5; lg, $10
  • Pulled Pork Fries – sm, $6; lg, $12.50

Website: PotatoChampion.com
Twitter: @PotatoChampion
Facebook: Potato Champion


  1. Glad to see one of my favorite carts here, definitely try the anchovy mayo! the salty fish flavor + (wonderfully) greasy fries is a magical combo.

  2. Jeremy from Yarp?! says

    The Frites are as close to a spiritual catharsis I’ve had in awhile, but that could be saying more about me than the spuds. However, having watched Mike and his potato mill pump out thousands of pounds of fries, he’s definitely doing something right…

    The stumps are kewl too….

  3. Had the poutine a while ago. Divine. In a really artery-clogging sort of way. Plus, it is the food of my people, those suspicious French Canadians.

  4. Great frites and poutin! We also had the remoulade, which is just terrific. I wish they were open all day (though my arteries are grateful they are only open late). Rumor has it they are looking for a store with a heavy emphasis on all things Belgium (frites, waffles, beer…)

    So good.

  5. The Poutine is wonderful, and I like the Low Countries so it’s great to have someone kicking it frite style in Portland. Nice people, too.

  6. its disgusting the way they just pile the pre cooked fries against the wall not very sanitary

  7. I’m certain they clean those first-cooked fries – at 300 degrees, in oil.

  8. POUTINE, baby!! I didn’t ‘get’ what the cheese curds were trying to add to the deal, so will skip them next time, but the fries were great and the gravy on top was perfection. YUM!

  9. When friends asked if I wanted to go get fried pies at Whiffies, I was all for it. I was immediately sidetracked upon walking into the cart area by the Poutine sign. I was not at all disappointed, and have told every Canadian ex-pat I know about this place!

    (I also caved in and went to Whiffies too! Poutine and a BBQ meat pie: Heaven!)

  10. I have ordered the poutine twice now as originally from Canada. The cheese curds are supposed to be slightly melted but have been cold on both occasions. The fries and gravy aare good though!

  11. Dinner was obtained at the Hawthorne pod this weekend. I’ve been to this pod before to try Whiffies, which I liked. For dinner I chose Perierra Creperie, but with my family along for this visit, they looked around to pick and choose. My sister decided on Potato Champion and tried her first poutine. All of us tried one another’s food, so I also got to try the poutine.

    Let me say first that my sister has loved French fries and gravy for as long as I can remember. On Oahu, there’s a restaurant out in the country called Makaha Drive-In, and it’s generally the spot where residents and surfers will come in for decent comfort food. Their gravy & fries are winner.

    Verdict on Potato Champion’s poutine: awesome. I’ll also say that while most people who order it will eat it on the spot, the quality of the poutine reheated after being in a fridge overnight is good too. Now trying doing that with lower quality fries from the golden arches or any fast food place. Not going to happen.

    On a last note: my nephew was the one who ordered the poutine from Potato Champion, and apparently when the lady asked what his name was so that he could be called to pick up his order, he said “I am Antoine”. He was joking, but I’m sure he isn’t the only one who comes up with fake names at food carts. Maybe next time, I’ll be Bumpy.

  12. Foodcartmasteroftheworld says

    The best food cart I have been too by far ! Buttermilk Ranch and Harder Hot Mustard are best ! I’m also partial on the rosemary truffle ketchup, and poutine is great !

  13. good fries
    but not belgian


  1. […] the real wild card: our quirky tastes. Someone bright eyed and better organized than me will open a french fry cart or vegan donut shop or gourmet salt store and suddenly an overlooked neighborhood will be wildly […]

  2. […] Potato Champion Located at the NE corner of SE 12th and Hawthorne Blvd wed – sat > 8pm – 3am – LATE NIGHT POUTINE YOU GUYS sun/mon/tues > closed […]

  3. […] pm – A handful of us end our evening with fried pies and frites at the food cart cluster at 12th & Hawthorne. I eat the BBQ brisket pie, and it is excellent; I […]

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