A PRACTICAL GUIDE
This site is an ode to Portland’s food carts, and a practical guide on where to find them and what to eat once you get there. It contains a listing of carts, a map, a search feature, and categories by cuisine types and specific locations. It also contains photos and menus if we can get them. We tend to write in the positive about these carts, although we will always be honest in our findings. Restated, this isn’t a “review” site. We would rather our readers make up their own minds as to what they like and don’t like, and don’t really think it is fair to really put a $5- 7 dollar meal at a small independently owned local business under a microscope like that.
If you have any tips, updates, or your own opinions, feel free to leave comments or drop us a line!
Warning: Food cart information is especially vulnerable to change (the carts are on wheels after all). Although we will do our best to keep this site updated, any news you send our way will be especially appreciated.
PORTLAND HEARTS FOOD CARTS
Portland has a proliferation of Food Carts and they seem to be growing in numbers and locations. Some might call them lunch wagons, taco trucks or even snack shacks, but whatever you call them, they are truly a phenomenon in Portland. Set up in parking lots, sidewalks, and even parks (sometimes in large groups and sometimes solo), one might nosh on a fresh tortilla Baja fish taco one day, a rib-sticking bowl of traditional goulash the next, have a coffee and pastry for an afternoon snack, and then take home a giant Indian combo box for dinner.
Locals from various places and committed food-loving tourists from all over know that some of the best food to be had in any city from Bangkok to Baja is to be had at small street stands, carts, and other non-restaurant restaurants. New York City, for example, a city with some great street food, holds the annual “Vendy Awards” to express their love for mobile dining. There is even a website dedicated to street food around the world, although oddly, no U.S. cities are represented. In fact, many cities in the U.S. strictly limit or outlaw food carts completely, making Portland more akin to cities in Europe than in the U.S.
Food carts are also about supporting small, locally-owned businesses and small start-ups that might not have the capital or credit to open up their own full-fledged restaurants. That said, food carts are not restaurants! With limited hours, lack of indoor (and sometimes lack of any) seating, and small menus, they complement rather than compete with full-scale restaurants. Food carts help create a vibrant downtown and central city by bringing what planning geeks call a “social fabric on the street” which is great in cultural terms, but in economic terms also attracts other spenders, retail outlets, and restaurants and cafes. Food carts also often illustrate the delicious benefits to a growing ethnically diverse community, as many immigrants own and operate them and make and serve some pretty tasty ethnic specialties.
Plus, food carts can be a fantastic bargain for office workers, students, budget travelers, and anyone looking for a cheap, quick, but delicious bargain lunch.
Regardless, food carts are part of the culinary fabric of our wonderful city and dining in Portland wouldn’t be the same without them.