Built to Grill


Built to Grill, Portland


SW 3rd and Washington


When I walked by Built to Grill the other day, something caught my nose, intriguing me. I had already eaten lunch, so vowed to return the next day. Luckily, my lunch buddies wanted to head in that direction for a new Italian cart. We were headed in the exact same direction. I guess I had missed the big Italian flag on the side of the cart.

Built to Grill is new on the scene, having opened just two weeks ago. The owners, Brooke and Aisha, had the cart built special for them in Florida and then shipped up – hence the name. Oh, and such a beautiful cart with everything they need to product a great meal. Built to Grill specializes in Italian sandwiches and pasta dishes. Looking over the sandwich choices makes one’s mouth water. There aren’t many places in Portland where one can find a grilled muffuletta. I sometimes need to hit up the local charcuterie and make it myself. I’ve been on a sandwich kick of late, so discovering that Built to Grill is more than pasta encourages me that the food cart gods are listening to my pleas.

I opted for the grilled muffuletta while my partners chose the Italian hero and the penne with basil pesto. All three meals were top notch. While I was noshing on the first half of my sandwich, my friend offered up a trade for half of his grilled hero. Who could pass that up? The chance to try two different sandwiches in one sitting was great.

Italian Hero courtesy of @Mondofresh

Italian Hero courtesy of @Mondofresh

Grilled Muffuletta

Grilled Muffuletta

The muffuletta was a perfect layering of thinly sliced salami, mortadella, roasted red pepper and provolone, topped with green olive tapenade. All that between artisan bread and thrown on the grill and pressed. The hero was a mix of prosciutto, salami, mortadella, spinach, arugula, peperoncini, provolone and red wine vinaigrette. Both sandwiches were the perfect size and tasted amazing. I’ve tried different olive tapenade both from stores and restaurants and Brooke’s was at the top. Reminded me of the first time I ate a muffuletta in New Orleans. I asked him about it and he informed me that he makes both his tapenade and pesto from scratch. Further, he gets all of his cheeses and meats direct from Italy. Now that’s authentic.

Built to Grill is probably going to become a go to cart for me. I’m a huge fan of paninis and Italian meats. I think I could eat salami and prosciutto for every meal if it were considered a health food. When your out looking for something new, go give Built to Grill a try. Tell them Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Bowtie primavera – $5
  • Penne w/ basil pesto – $5
  • Portabella Panini: grilled portabella mushroom, caramelized onions, mozzarella w/ basil pesto – $6
  • Hot muffuletta: salami, mortadella, roasted red peppers, provolone w/green olive tapenade – $6
  • Meltdown: prosciutto, roasted red peppers, artichokes, provolone w/basil pesto – $6
  • Italian Hero: prosciutto, salami, mortadella, spinach, arugula, pepperoncini, provolone w/red wine vinaigrette – $6
  • Soups, Salads and drinks available

Hours: Monday through Friday 11am-3pm or sell out.
Contact: unknown at this time.




  1. Steve Ferrero says

    Found this place a week or two ago and have had the pesto penne twice. I vowed to do a panini last time but went with the pesto again. One of the best carts I’ve been to in a long time. Give it a shot-you won’t be disappointed!

  2. Mondofresh says

    This place is a wonderful addition to the 3rd ave lineup. I think the panini are the best in PDX. Really hope to try the pasta one day but seemingly I can’t pass up the great sandwiches…

  3. Dropped by again today for the grilled chicken panini w/Mondo. Outstanding food.

  4. Ate here today. The tuna special was the bomb. I’ll be back.

  5. These guys caught my eye yesterday (after a disappointing search for fish tacos), and I came back today with with husband. I went for the pesto pasta which was AMAZING. My husband had the muffaletta, which apparently was also great (although he didn’t share any…).

    The cart itself really is lovely as well. Big, airy, and obviously very clean. Thanks for the Sunday cleaning!

    I can’t wait to go back.

  6. this is a real find. fabulous food at cart prices. seriously–you’d pay twice as much in a nice restaurant and it might not be this good. also, really nice people.

  7. incredible.

    cheap, friendly, clean and delicious.
    brooke + aisha have a good thing going.
    i’ll stop by whenever i’m downtown.

  8. A superb indian summer mid-day downtown with brilliant skies, “It’s the change in the weather,” says Brooke. That’s why I am craving fried food, opting for the fried calamari with roasted red pepper citrus mayo. “It’s really good,” says Aisha, turns a knowing glance, it is decided, then – the Mediterranean Meltdown will wait until another day – I am not a glutton and cannot have both. But perhaps it won’t be enough food. How can they afford to sell it for $5? The lunch hour rambla on 3rd & Foodcart teems with texters and fleece, the sun of the neighborhood snow an orderly district above and below a prominent grid, the degree carved from an existing context of fields, orchards and forests. A chattilyphoned Dave Allen strolls by, headed towards his desk. I’m up. The brood of pink and white tentaclettes fill its wax-card house, the generous portion of mayo a chimney into which to plunge Santa-like into the hearth of the old continent, obliterated from memory by the savory herbs, the delicate breading, the soft chewiness almost unnoticeable – what cracked peppercorn so playfully lurks between crust and casting director’s dream cephalopods! I was a changed man, I smiled, uttered, regardless, iridescent, “Miss Quigley,” I began, half-closing one eye, “I have had to make some very detailed explanations. Substantial reparations have been demanded. In this instance, the value of your unique capacities to our research program has persuaded the Chancellor to pay them in full. Any repetition of this incident will not be tolerated. Captain, if you would be so kind?” I was soon stumbling in a southerly direction along 3rd Avenue, past the haunts of eateries I’d once known, now seeming abandoned, dusted over windows, sundown guest flannel hand-me-ups from a by-gone world, but their loneliness stirred nothing within me. I was content, happy even, as can seldom be said in this endeavor. Thank you, Aisha and Brooke, frigga me tutto tuttavia i giorni per trasparire!

  9. I stopped by Built To Grill for the first time today. The food was a pure comfort on a beautiful, if a bit chilly, day. I ordered the Gnocchi, which was really flavorful with sundried tomatoes and cheese, and cooked to the exactly right texture. It’s hard to find good Gnocchi in Portland. It’s always either overcooked or bland. This was neither–and cheap–at $5!! While I was enjoying lunch, the owner Brooke, gave me a whole cup of pasta fagioli ham soup to try. It was the perfect thing to warm up to on a cool autumn day. Bonus: these folks are nice!!

  10. This place rocks!!! Super cool owners, yummy food, and unbeatable price. I will be back – no doubt.

    Don’t think this is just another food cart. You must try!!

  11. Are these guys still open? Or maybe on winter holiday?

    I haven’t been by today (12/22) or yesterday (12/21), but every time I’ve tried since the cold weather a few weeks back, they’ve been closed… I hope it’s just temporary!

  12. Cart Whisperer says

    Happy to report they are back in business. I swung by yesterday (12/30) and got a much needed pesto fix. I heard them say they would be open for lunch.

    Never been so happy to see an open cart in my life!

  13. Went by today and the cart was “closed until further notice”. I sure hope they come back. I need my Italian food!

  14. They had some family issue’s back home, please hang in there for them and give them your best…They will be back…

  15. Korean twist says

    Would you rather go to a fancy, overpriced restaurant, or a amazing and delious food chart called Bulit To Grill? Um… BUILT TO GRILL of COURSE! There food has amazing taste’s and apperance with the great costumer service.

  16. Food cart food can definately be deceiving. However, I was completely blown away by the quality sandwiches that we ordered. I had the Italian Hero, my girlfriend had the Chicken. All freshly made. There is even a sign that states that they are NOT a fast food c…art. Good food is worth the wait, and it definately rang true in this case.

    The service was extremely friendly and the conversation flowed as I watched them work. No fancy panini presses here; just a grill and a brick wrapped in aluminum foil. This made for a grilled sandwich that was even crunchier and flavorful.

    3rd and Washington is the location of this amazing find. But remember, this isn’t fast food. It’s all made to order. So sit back, enjoy some complimentary candy, and chat it up with these good people and spread the word!

  17. On this day I was really craving Italian food. More specifically the delicious gnocchi. Based on my previous experiences I know that they give you a ton of food so I was planning on eating half for lunch and half for dinner. The food here is always great, but I did notice this last time I went I got less than half as much gnocchi as I did the time before. It would be nice if they were a little more consistent with the food portions. All in all I still love this place since they have the best gnocchi. Thanks for the great food.

  18. I continue to absolutely adore Built to Grill.

    I am addicted to their pesto pasta, but the alla vodka is pretty amazing, closely followed by the arrabbiatta and so is the puttanesca. I had the gnocchi that a friend ordered for the first time that also rocked. And my entire office periodically craves the panini sandwiches.


  19. These guys make my lunch almost everyday. Great food Great people and they always seem to be playing great tunes.

  20. May I add that this fabulous cart is also open Saturdays 12pm-9pm? Yeah!

  21. The guy who worked there accidently charged me an extra dollar, and I didn’t realize it. He was really honest and later realized his mistake and returned that dollar! DELICIOUS capellini pomodoro!

  22. The Native Sun says

    I had to try out Built to Grill today partly because of the reviews, partly because of the Italian twist, and partly because of the name (best rock band in Boise!). Well, Built to Grill lived up to my expectations in all three areas.
    I was stuck between the muffuletta and the Italian hero. Thanks to the guy serving, I went with the muff because yes, it is fun to say “muff”.
    Rockin’ sandwich man. Eating it now. Delicious cuts thinly sliced but stacked high, salty good olive tapenade, coming together with the cheese and the ciabatta. Now if only I could have a glass of red wine at work. Grazie!

  23. For those who are wondering about the status of the cart in 2011, I can say that it has reopened again as of Friday, March 11th. I didn’t try it, but I am writing this on behalf of my mom.

    Now, my parents raised us on some of the best food in Honolulu, including a good amount of food carts, or what we grew up knowing as “lunch wagons”. Tsukenjo was an incredible wagon on Ward, that was bold and orange and had some of the best plate lunches on Oahu, period. My favorite was the hamburger steak & rice with macaroni salad, my dad always had the mixed plate because he loved the roast beef. Tsukenjo was my dad’s favorite place, and while the food cart is no longer around, the restaurant it originates from is about two blocks from the location of where the cart used to me. Also as a kid, I loved both the chili wagon and the hamburger & fries wagons at a park I used to go to “summer fun” for. But that was years ago.

    I live in Washington and I have to do a significant amount of driving (3 1/2 hours) to get to Portland and back. I love the city, and hope to make the city (or the area) home someday. This trip was a “family trip”, something cousin/wedding related and my mom was needed for that. For lunch, my nephew had a Big Ass Sandwich, which I introduced him to last year. For me, I made my first visit to Happy Grillmore (which I’ll review on their page) and a few carts down, my mom (and sister) decided on Built To Grill.

    They both asked me “why do they call it Built To Grill, it doesn’t seem like they grill anything” and I told them maybe they were named after the Idaho band Built To Spill. My mom has no idea who Doug Martsch is nor cares, but the main attraction for her was the linguine with clams. As they were eating lunch in the lot, they were quite. In my family, that means “shut up, this food is good, we’ll talk later.” Here are some of the comments my mom wanted to pass along.

    There were fat pieces of clams, which she says is rare in regular restaurants. Portions were very nice, especially for the price, it was able to feed two people for lunch and then some. The taste, texture, everything was great about it, no complaints. Okay, only one. On a scale of 1 to 10, she says she would give it a 9, *only* because it didn’t come with bread to soak up the leftover sauce at the bottom of the box. As for that sauce/soup/broth, there was a bit of heat that was welcome, a nice kick to it.

    My mom loves the fact Portland has a healthy food cart scene, I’ve told her about places that I like and Built To Grill is her first “food cart spot” that she will be returning to when she makes it back down.

  24. We love this cart. We are from Seattle and have driven down twice for the gnocchi it is awesome add sausage and go to heaven. Keep it up guys we will be back

  25. Brooke Howes says

    Thanks Adam. Always nice to see you both.Brooke from B2G

  26. SilverWings says

    Built to Grill’s pasta is delicious! Next time I’m going for the Italian Beef sandwich. IMO, this cart is one of the top ten food carts in Portland.


  1. […] Built to Grill (vegan pesto gnocchi) […]

  2. […] now become an inseparable part of Portland’s food culture. Nong’s Khao Man Gai, Brunch Box, Built to Grill, Bombay Chaat House, to name a few, are all a must try. These establishments are always surrounded […]

  3. […] lunch, we went to the best food cart known to man. Built to grill. There are tons of foodtrucks there, and I am sure everyone thinks their favorite is the best, but […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.