Location: SW 3rd and Stark
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, 6pm-10pm. Sat 12pm-2am. Sun 4pm-8pm
The Story: A quaint little Japanese food cart in downtown Portland. Some carts shout, other carts whisper. Some carts have big glossy signs and fancy decor to stand out from the pack. Others have elaborate websites and Facebook pages and are all in your face with their logos and menus, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yet, some carts are so demur, so humble, so focused on making the best food possible and nothing else that they appear to be hiding in plain sight. These carts are often very worth the hunt.
Okinoshima is one such cart plunked in the middle of the bustling cart row on SW 3rd near Stark. There’s no sign to let you know where you are. Look closely though and you’ll see this is no typical Thai, Burrito or “rice bowl” cart. Okinoshima serves traditional Japanese street food fare. No, not sushi. No, not Americanized, “teriyaki chicken Bentos”. Sure, this cart serves the typical menu item, Yakisoba, but just better – fresher, more balanced flavors, and ingredients that may include Octopus (in the seafood mix Yakisoba) as well as bonito (dried shaved bonito fish) toppings. Other dishes include homemade Japanese style curry, udon soups, and that cult craved dish known as the “Japanese Pizza-Pancake” – Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き, o-konomi-yaki). You’ve never had Okonomiyaki? Well, get over there and try some, pronto. Imagine a thick, moist, savory pancake stuffed with cabbage and other veggies, your choice of meats or seafood, egg or tofu if you wish, and topped with a lip-smacking sauce of mayonnaise, seasoned thin nori strips, a sweet thick soy sauce, and bonito flakes. This dish alone is worth hunting to find this little cart for.
Be warned, it’s a one man shop at Okinoshima though. Expect a bit of a wait during lunch rush hours which can lead to grumbling bellies and anxious feet. But, food this good is worth waiting for. After all, aren’t all the best things in life?
- Okonomiyaki – Japanese Pizza Pancake – Hashimaki (snack size): $3.00, Regular size $5-$7. Choices of fried egg, tofu, chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, seafood, or all (mix).
- Yakisoba – stir fried noodles: $5-$7. Choice of tofu, egg, chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, seafood, or all (mix).
- Japanese Curry – served with rice and pickles: $6-$7: tofu, chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, seafood, or all (mix).
- Udon- thick wheat noodles in a soy-fish broth: served with kamaboko (fish loaf), inari (fried tofu skin), shrimp tempura, scallion, & wakame seaweed – $7.00