Portland Food Carts Year in Review – 2014

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food carts portland

Takoyaki from Buki

As the year comes to a close, we reflect back on 2014 and Portland’s food carts. The year was crazy with the threat of pods closing to numerous vendors opening brick and mortar establishments to a growth in truly mobile food trucks. Every year, I’m amazed at the delightful new cuisines being offered up from these rolling boxes parked throughout the city. Here’s my year in review:

Numbers:

  • Multnomah County reports there are approximately 829 mobile food units operating. That includes all of the food carts in pods throughout the city, food trucks and a myriad of other vehicles used for food service (i.e. catering trucks)
  • By our count, there are 525 food carts operating in the pods on a day to day basis in all quadrants of the city.
  • 2014 saw the growth of food trucks in Portland who drive around to catering events or post up a corporate and business campuses. An estimated 45 trucks operate in the city at any given time.
  • Portland now has 40 food cart pods located from east to west, north to south. The pod at SW 10th and Alder is by far the largest with over 55 vendors open daily. Cartlandia on SE 82nd has grown to become the largest pod outside of downtown Portland with 31 carts along with an onsite bar and music venue. Pod Map.
  • Beer/Wine – 12 food cart pods now serve beer or wine with a few – Q19, Mississippi Marketplace, The Fixin’ To and Cartlandia which offer onsite bars with indoor seating.
  • Portland added approximately 100 new vendors in 2014 with almost the same amount of vendors closing.

Top News of 2014:

  • In spring, it seemed the sky was falling with news outlets reporting the end of Portland’s street food scene as we know it. What caused this? The announcements that four pods would close in 2014 – Good Food Here, Cartopia, North Station and SW 6th and Columbia. As of this writing, only SW 6th and Columbia officially closed. While there are currently no carts at North Station, the onsite Pizza place is still going strong. Cartopia vendors were offered up an extended 2 year lease and Good Food Here on Belmont is going strong and adding new vendors each month.
  • As stated in the number section, 2014 was year for beer. Many pods expanded their offerings by bringing in a vendor to serve beer, cider and wine. Let us all give thanks to the owners of Artigiano for breaking through the OLCC a few years ago.
  • Tidbit Farm and Food Launched in August at the opening of SE Division’s restaurant row. With space for 18 food carts including retail establishments, a large seating area and beer, the owners took the best of every other pod and combined them into one amazing eating destination.
  • Portland International Airport embraced street food by bringing in 9 food carts and soliciting key vendors throughout the city to take on a spot. Located in the food court area pre-TSA screening, vendors include Love & Whiskey, Koi Fusion and Pok Pok.
  • Pizza scored high with eaters at the carts with numerous openings. For Wood Fired, Pyro Pizza expanded to Tidbit, Ash Wood Fired, along with Pi Squared and Pi Wood Fired also opened. Chicago Deep Dish lovers have two options – Thick and Midwest Pizza Co.
  • Going Brick & Mortar was key in 2014 – Koi Fusion Dstreet, Pepper Box, The People’s Pig, Cheese and Crack Snack Shop, Tamale Boy, Cultured Caveman, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, Gigi’s Cafe from Gaufre Gourmet and more.
  • Multnomah County received a federal grant to write and publish the Mobile Unit Handbook which details the steps to open a food cart or truck in Portland and beyond. An invaluable resource.
  • Vendors throughout the city had a challenging year with vandalism in the form of cut power cords and theft. This hobbled more than a few carts, shutting them down for days while they regrouped and restocked after a power failure.
  • Tabor on SW 5th and Stark celebrated their 10th year in 2014. Congratulations!

Vendors we’re sad to see go:

  • Give Pizza A Chance was one of the first pizza carts in town. After six years, they closed and the cart reopened as Chez Dodo.
  • Burrasca, the Tuscan cart at Pod 28, is closing at the end of 2014, but fear not, they will be opening a restaurant in 2015.
  • Samurai Bento, one of the oldest carts and vendors at SW 9th and Alder, shuttered in the fall. A sad loss for the downtown crowd.

Key eats of 2014:

I eat at so many carts throughout the year, it is difficult to pick out one or two dishes that stuck out in my mind, yet the following were some of my best eats of 2014:

  • Buki, along with other Japanese street food vendors, made a splash in Portland in 2014. Love them all. The Takoyaki (pictured above) topped my list of treats. Fried balls with octopus paired with a local microbrew is bliss.
food carts portland

Flank Steak and Fries from Steak Frites PDX

  • Steak and Frites from… Steak Frites PDX at Pod 28. Pairing seared flank steak with salty crisp fries is genius. Two of my favorite foods and well executed.
food carts portland

Currywurst from Deutschland Curry

  • Currywurst from Deutchland Curry – Everything about this dish is flavorful from the locally sourced brat to the curry sauce. But for me, it is the history of the dish that intrigued me. Berlin’s top street food.
  • Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen on NE 23rd and Albeta quiety opened this summer and brought Szechuan delights to the street. While I enjoyed the Szechuan Tofu dish, it was the Chicken Gizzards that make this list. Covered in hot chili peppers, this is not for the faint of heart, but worth it.
  • Güero Tortaría expanded downtown focusing specifically on tortas and these are some of the best made tortas I’ve enjoyed. Spicy, savory, fresh – pretty much any superlative I can think of to describe one of my favorite sandwiches.
food carts portland

Italian sandwich from Lower East Side Deli

  • A Big Fat Deli Sandwich from Lower East Side Deli in downtown. The owner’s from NYC where deli sandwiches are the size of your head and at the cart he’s no slouch. Layer upon layer of meat and cheese.

What’s next?

2015 is here. Back in 2009, I made some erroneous predictions about the street food scene being a bit oversaturated. Hah! I don’t predict anymore. Yet, 2015 will see the scene evolve and change as with every year. Carts will open and carts will close and more budding entrepreneurs will try their hand a mobile vending. Cartathlon, Eat Mobile and the Summer Food Cart Festival will keep everyone eating. The Great Food Truck Race may make a return visit to the Rose City. I’ve heard rumors of a new pod being built down off SE Powell around 30th in an area devoid of street food. 2015 will bring the legalization of Marijuana in Oregon. Colorado and Washington have mobile marijuana dispensaries in the form of a truck. Will Portland get one? With a building boom occurring throughout the city, will we see the threat of pod closures? Possibly. But that won’t deter mobile vendors from finding other opportunities.

Thank you, the vendors, the eaters and everyone involve in Portland’s street food scene. The vibrancy wouldn’t be here without you. Here’s to 2015!
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Gifts for Food Cart Fans – Books

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Ever wonder what to get for that someone in your life who can’t get enough food carts or trucks? Here are some literary recommendations. All books available locally from Powell’s Books in Portland, OR.

food cart booksFor the Cartivore who wants to learn the back story on the street food:

For the Cartivore who wants to replicate their favorite street food dish – Cookbooks:

For the entreprenuer who wants to start a mobile business:

There are many more, so hit up your local bookstore and keep on supporting the carts.

ROAM Mobile Food Conference Nov. 8-9

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roam mobile food conferenceThe ROAM Mobile Food Conference is November 8-9 in San Antonio. Only a few weeks away. If you’re an aspiring mobile food vendor or want to take your existing mobile food business to the next level, this conference is for you. The only professional conference specifically for the mobile food industry. A Food Truck Academy for newcomers will feature national experts focusing on topics including business planning, permitting, equipment, branding, sales and marketing. There will be hands-on activities and plenty of opportunity to ask seasoned veterans questions. The Owner’s Summit the same weekend will feature speakers who have experience growing mobile food businesses whether it is expanding to multiple food trucks or figuring out how to hire the right employees.

Featured Speakers:

  • Keith Hill – owner of KHILL BBQ and Executive Directory of San Antonio Food Truck Association
  • Warren Hansen – Street Vending Coordinator, City of Madison, WI
  • Jennifer Lewis – Small Food Business
  • Richard Myrick – Owner, Mobile-Cuisine.com
  • Ross Resnick – Founder, Roaming Hunger
  • Matthew Geller – CEO, SoCal Mobile Food Vendors’ Association
  • Matt Breslow – Owner, The Grilled Cheese Grill

The ROAM Mobile Food Conference may be the single best investment of your year. This week, the conference is offering 50% off registration. Register here and use the code 1/2offRoam.

ROAM Mobile Food Conference
November 8-9, San Antonio, Texas

All Roads Lead To Roam

Power Cord Thefts and Food Cart News

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It seems food cart power cord thefts are on the rise. Just in the past couple of weeks, carts located at Carts On Foster, Mississippi Marketplace and Tidbit have been hit. Thieves or vandals are cutting and stealing the cords. Some vendors have been forced to close for multiple days due to the damage. Cord thefts and vandalism has been an issue for a few years now, yet it seems the past two weeks has seen an increase in activity. The Portland Police are involved in investigating, so if you have seen anything untoward at any of the food cart lots at night, please give them a call. When power is cut, fridges shut down and that is a huge cost to these small businesses. As an food cart fan, head on out to one of these pods and support the vendors when you can.

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food cart newsThe Gaufre Gourmet announced this week they are opening a cafe in Hillsdale. GiGi’s will feature a soda fountain and breakfast and lunch options along with their signature Liege style Belgian waffles. So excited for Charlene and Michael. The cart downtown will remain open.

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Portland International Airport is getting food carts. Over the past year, the Port of Portland has been reviewing food options at the airport, bringing in new fresh ideas including food carts. The carts will be located in the food court area pre-security and have already been placed. They aren’t open just yet, but so far, Koi Fusion and Pok Pok have their signs up. Watch for more details soon.

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Jerry Seinfeld came to Portland this last weekend filming an interview with Fred Armisen of Portlandia and SNL fame. As part of the show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, they visited Coava Coffee and enjoyed lunch from Wolf and Bear’s at Pod 28 at 28th and Ankeny in southeast. So cool.

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The holidays are just around the corner. If you’re looking to have your event catered by a food cart or truck, drop us a line. We work with a number of Portland’s best food trucks who are fully mobile and can come to your location and feed your guests. Email
Events@FoodCartsPortland.com
or call 503 896 2771.

Welcome Feast

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Feast is upon us. An entire weekend of activities featuring Oregon’s Bounty. I call it a weekend of indulgence and joy. So many events featuring the amazing food of Oregon and Portland with top chefs and competitions and opportunities to eat your heart out. If you’re visiting, take a moment to check out Portland’s amazing street food scene while you’re here.

Portland’s Food Carts are congregated in pods throughout the city. These are surface area parking lots with food carts parked and vending out to the public.

feast portland

SW 10th and Alder Food Cart Pod

Downtown Pods:

  • SW 3rd and Stark – 20+ vendors. Many open late night
  • SW 5th and Stark – 20+ vendors, mostly lunch – check out Tabor Czech and Real Taste of India, two venerable vendors who have been around 10+ years
  • SW 10th and Alder – 60+ vendors – lunch and dinner all weekend – an entire city block of food carts. Check out Nong’s Khao Man Gai, The Dump Truck, Rua, Kargi Gogo (Georgian), The People’s Pig, Grilled Cheese Grill, Sawasdee Thai, Delicious (Romanian) and more. Haggis dinner from The Frying Scotsman may be poignant.
  • SW 4th and Hall – 20+ vendors

East side pods and neighborhood pods close in and accessible by public transportation:

  • Mississippi Marketplace – N Mississippi and Skidmore in the Mississippi Historical District. Features covered seating and 9 vendors including The Big Egg (breakfast), Minizo (ramen), Native Bowl (vegan), Home Grown Smoker Vegan BBQ, Koi Fusion and Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen. Bring your food into PROST!, the German pub on site.
  • Tidbit – SE 28th Pl. and Division – Portland’s newest pod with 18 vendors including Love Belizean, Timber’s Dog House, Hapa PDX (Ramen), Lodekka (Vintage clothing), Smaaken Waffles and an onsite beer cart. Great for evening relaxation.
  • 23rd and Alberta Pod – NE 23rd and Alberta in the Alberta Arts District – 5 vendors including Uncle Tsang’s Szechuan, The Cheese Plate, Garden Monsters and The Sugar Shop. Covered seating, live music on the weekends and beer from the Hoppy Camper.
  • Pod 28 – SE 28th and Ankeny. A great little pod featuring beer by Captured by Porches and vendors including Burrasca (Tuscan), Grilled Cheese Grill, Wolf & Bears (falafel and Iraqi street food), Guero and Steak Frites PDX. Covered seating available
  • Cartopia – SE 12th and Hawthorne. Portland’s original late night pod stays open until 4am. Vendors include Pyro Pizza, Potato Champion (Begian Fries and Poutine), Whiffies Fried Pies, PBJ’s Grilled and Perierra Creperie.
feast portland

Captured by Porches Beer Bus

The east side has over 20 food cart pods to explore with over 200 vendors.

Porltand’s street food scene continues to evolve, so even if you’ve explored in prior years, more than likely, there are new exiting vendors to eat from.

Feast is an amazing event for Portland. For a full list of Feast events, visit FeastPortland.com.

 

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