Sea Verdes

Lizzy Caston



Location: N Vancouver and Fremont
Hours: Tue, Thu-Fri 11:30 am – 9:00 pm, Wed 11:30 am – 7 pm, Sat 1 pm – 9 pm, Sun 1 pm – 7 pm

The Story: For seafood lovers, there’s a saying, “If it’s from the sea, then it’s for me!”  Mussels, Tilapia, Catfish, Shrimp and Oysters make up the foundation for Sea Verdes’ menu, with a healthy dose of entree type salads, smoothies, and specials such as grilled cheese sandwiches, pastas and other delights.

Sea Verdes reminds me of those little beach side food shacks found in coastal communities such as New England, Florida, or Hawaii. They serve locals as much as visitors, and are usually a come-as-you-are affair for those picking up a nutritious dinner for their families, or hungry beachcombers who need some substance between hitting the waves (or the beach blanket).

Crispy seafood (choice of  comes dredged in cornmeal and unbleached flour and is flash fried – crispy, not at all greasy and the fresh seafood shines through. We tried the Oysters on our first visit: Plump and fresh, they were magically crispy on the outside and tender within – it’s all the richness and mineral brininess oyster fans crave.  For those looking for something not fried, there’s mussels and shrimp in a white wine broth,  an Italianate inspired shrimp pasta, and a Tilapia with vegetables and rice.  They’ve also recently added gumbo (in this case crab, shrimp, beef sausage, chicken and mussels to the menu specials mix, something  that might not be a traditional gumbo recipe, but has what my New Orleans friends call, “Da Flavor!”. Yeah, you rite, Sea Verdes.

Salads can make for a whole meal in generous portions – a textbook classic Caesar, or a Thai Beef blow anything from the local salad bar out of the water (pun intended). Yet for those in a salad bar kind of mood, there’s a mix and match choice of toppers such as Shrimp, salmon.


Sea Verdes in N. Portland. Photo from

Smoothies round out the offerings. Located on the popular N Williams/Vancouver bike corridor – a smoothie would be a perfect pick-me-up on the way home from when you’ve just spent 1000 calories battling traffic and hills from work. I felt downright healthy AND decadent at the same time after finishing Sea Verdes’ Mixed Berry Smoothie – made with almond milk, dark cherries, bananas and mixed berries.

Owned and operated by lifetime Portlander Elsya Watkins, this talented chef, Portland State Alumni (Go Vikings!), and mother’s positive energy and commitment to nutrition is infectious. In Ms. Watkin’s own words:

I opened Sea Verdes because of North and North-East Portland’s food dessert. The lack of healthy and affordable places to go eat-out is a prevailing inconvenience for Portlanders. I serve fresh seafood, crisp salad greens an I make healthy and tasty protein green smoothies. My food serves vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and offers selections for the paleo diet.

Oh, yes.  A little bit of soul, a bunch of health, and a whole lotta love: Sea Verdes. Another great addition to Portland’s mighty food cart sea.


Sample Menu:

  • Fried seafood (served with rice). Choice of Oysters, Tilapia, Catfish in small or large platters  - $5.50 – $13.00
  • Talapia (broiled -2 pieces), served with rice and made with basil, tomatoes, garlic and lemon- $9.50
  • Thai Beef Salad with lettuce and kale, tomato, red onion, yellow onion, cucumber, basil  -  $8.50
  • Salad Plain or with Salad  toppers (shrimp, salmon, Tilapia) or  choice of dressing  - $2.50 – $6.50
  • Tropical Sunrise Smoothie – Almond milk, pineapple, banana, oranges, grapefruit juice – $4.75
  • Kya’s House Cherry Lemonade – $2.50

Facebook: Sea Verdes
Twitter: @SeaVerdesPDX

Phone: 503-933-5251


Tacos Pa’ella

Lizzy Caston
photo by Adam Wickham

photo by Adam Wickham


Location: NE 15th and Alberta, East of 15th
Hours: Daily 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

The Story: “Tortillas Hechas a Mano”. Handmade Tortillas. So simple, but so much better than even the day-old store bought kinds. It’s like the difference between eating week old Wonderbread from the outlet shop, and a freshly made Baguette from a quality artisan baker. NO COMPARISON. “Tortillas Hechas a Mano” is a sign that a taco truck or cart might be a cut above the norm. Quite literally, a sign. Usually hand scribbled and stuck to a taco cart, it’s what taco hounds often look for when assessing the quality and how autentica an establishment might be.

Tacos Pa’ella is an honorable, authentic taco truck with a little sign on the side that says in English and Spanish, “Handmade Tortillas”. But, this basic yet colorful cart also provides a very deep commitment to what I like to call THE ART OF THE TACO. It’s a simple cuisine, but the simplicity is the art: Handmade food, quality, made fresh.

photo by Adam Wickham

photo by Adam Wickham

Specializing in foods from the Jalisco region of Mexico, an area legendary for it’s outstanding chefs, Tacos Pa’ella’s owner takes his craft seriously. How seriously? The cart’s tortillas aren’t just handmade, they are made using a wooden press without lard or oil. This isn’t just traditional, it’s mucho traditional.

I’m a fiend for good chile rellanos – an Anaheim or similar pepper, stuffed with ingredients such as mild white cheese, dipped in a whipped egg batter, pan fried, then sometimes doused with a flash saute tomato sauce. Served with rice, beans, and tortillas on the side, it’s just one of those “food of the gods” foods for me, sadly it’s often very hard to find in Portland. Tacos Pa’ella however, makes a terrific version – can stand up to any fancy Mexican restaurants anywhere.

photo from Cartlandia www.cartandia/

photo from Cartlandia

Other items at Tacos Pa’ella are similarly deceiving. Sure, the menu might be a mirror of what you can find at most taco trucks and carts, but it’s the quality of ingredients, careful preparation, and overall care that matters. Tacos Pa’ella dishes up all three with an additional serving of friendliness.


Sample Menu:

Meat/Veg options: asada, pastor, tripa, carnitas,  chorizo, pollo, or lingua

  • Tacos – $1.25
  • Burritos – $4.25
  • Tortas – Mexican sandwich – $4.99
  • Enchiladas – $6.95
  • Asada Plate – $7.99
  • Chile Rellenos Milanesas – $6.25

Phone: 503 729 9614

El Cubano

El Cubano

El Cubano


Location: SW 3rd and Washington
Hours: Weekdays, lunchtime

The Story: I have always been fascinated by Cuba. Ever since history class in the 8th grade, I’ve wanted to visit. Alas, I haven’t, yet, through street food, I’ve been able to engage with some great people from Cuba and enjoy their cuisine. El Cubano is a new vendor on SW 3rd serving up traditional Cuban dishes and sandwiches.

Arabella and Alain opened El Cubano in August. So far, after a month, they are happy with the customers they are attracting, especially those who are return eaters. Arabella is from Nicaragua and Alain from Cuba. Both were living in Florida before coming to Portland this year. The actual idea for the food cart came from a relative who just didn’t have the time to execute it, but lucky for us, Arabella and Alain did.

Lechon Plate from El Cubano

Lechon Plate from El Cubano

El Cubano brings a large menu of Cuban dishes to downtown Portland. We used to have a couple of other carts offering this cuisine, yet they have since closed as the owners opened a restaurant. What is one to do when you can’t get your tostones or maduros? I was happy to come across El Cubano and picked up a lechon plate with seasoned rice, tostones and a green salad. Lechon is slow roasted pork which, when served, is so full of salty fatty flavor, it is difficult to not just eat it all and ignore the rest. I filled a fork full and layered atop the salty tostones for mouthwatering bliss. The green salad was fresh and a great way to cleanse my palate after enjoying so much pork. Arabella and Aline, don’t just have pork on the menu. If you’re a vegetarian or gluten free, you too can enjoy a dish here.

I’m always happy to see new vendors open and succeed. El Cubano has already garnered a following and with the quality of their food and prices, they will be feeding Portland for awhile. Drop on by SW Washington, just east of 3rd and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Lechon Plate – $6,99
  • Ropa Vieja – $6.99
  • Chicken Tropichop – $6.99
  • Lechon Loco – fried yuca, pork and cabbage – $5.99
  • Vegan Tropichop – $4.99
  • Yuca Frita with Mojo – $3.50
  • Tostones – $3.50
  • Maduros – $2.50
  • Sandwich Cubano – $6.99
  • Pan Con Bistec sandwich – $6.99







Location: N Vancouver and Fremont
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11:30am-8pm

The Story: I had the pleasure of attending the World Street Food Congress this past June in Singapore. While there, I enjoyed so many different types of street food, it was difficult to keep track of what was what. One specific item I kept returning for was satay. Beautifully marinated meat on sticks straight from the grill. Stix, a new cart in North Portland has both satay and roots in Singapore. And they are down the street from where I live.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Stix owner Issa who was born and raised in Oregon, yet has a grandmother in Singapore and has visited regularly. Growing up with such rich food traditions, she doesn’t necessarily peg her satay as just Singaporean. She sees her menu as Asian fusion. An example of that is the creamy avocado chimichurri which has Malaysian roots. She recently added an pulled pork dish and plans to add curries and weekly specials. I asked about the famous Singaporean chili crab and she smiled, stating she would be featuring it sometime soon.

If you see photos of Asian street food vendors, there is usually a long wood fired or coal fired grill with hundreds of short skewers of meat roasting away. At Stix, Issa grills them to order, no open coals here. You can get chicken marinated in coriander and spices, beef cooked with coconut milk, garlic, shallots and sweet soy sauce or tofu glazed with sesame teriyaki and kecap manis, a sweet soy sauce. A Bento Box, the cart’s signature, comes with four skewers over basmati rice or a spring mix salad and served with cucumber salad or wasabi slaw. I opted for a mini bento with two beef skewers atop the spring mix. The garlic and shallots accented the seared beef well with a bite of cool cucumber salad mixed in to break up  the salty and savory flavors. The salad bed soaked up the meat juices from the satay to provide an indirect dressing. Issa provided a vinaigrette, yet it wasn’t needed. A small size, but enough to satisfy an eater like me.

Beef Satay bento box from Stix

Beef Satay bento box from Stix

I’m excited to see new vendors come to my neighborhood and see the lot at Fremont and Vancouver continue to evolve and diversify. Having expereinced the rich flavors of Singapore, I’m even more excited to have Stix close to home. Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

Bento Box comes with 4 skewers over basmati rice or spring mix salad with sauces and cucumber salad or wasabi slaw. A mini Bento comes with 2 skewers.

  • Chicken – $8
  • Beef – $9
  • Tofu  - $7

Phone: (541) 292-3911
Facebook: Stix Food Cart

Barbeque The Blues

Barbeque The Blues

Barbeque The Blues

Location: NE 52nd and Sandy, Rose City Food Park
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30am-late night

The Story: I never grew up with barbecue culture. Yeah, we grilled, yet what came off the grill was nothing like ribs or brisket or pulled pork I enjoy when I travel to the south or beyond. Whole regions of this country have barbecue in their blood dating back centuries and people will fight to defend their recipe. Here in Portland, we have some wonderful options for que and a newcomer in Barbeque The Blues is here to show you a Texas/Alabama style.

TJ McNabb opened his food truck at the Rose City Food Park earlier this year, yet it hasn’t been till this summer that he’s been able to hit his stride and feed the masses. The truck, a fully outfitted 24 footer is simply beautiful. One of the best looking and best outfitted trucks I have seen. He also has a tow-behind trailer with his grill and smoker, so if you’re looking for barbecue at your next event, he may become your new best friend. TJ has done his time in kitchens for most of his life having classically trained under an amazing chef in France. When he did finally return to the states, he built and opened a few restaurants in southern Oregon. But it was time spent with friends from Texas and Alabama that inspired him to take on the challenge that is barbecue. His meat mentor asked him if he wanted to learn the trade. TJ jumped at the opportunity and after more than a few years, now has his own successful business. TJ put together a nice plate of items for me and we sat around that evening discussing food, the city, history and, well, ribs and brisket.

Ribs, Mac and Cheese and Beans

Ribs, Mac and Cheese and Beans

The menu at Barbeque The Blues is what you would expect with pulled chicken or pork, tri-tip and plenty of sides including mac ‘n cheese, beans and slaw. On Friday and Saturday, TJ rolls out the ribs. Everything is made fresh daily with the meats cooking for hours to perfect the tenderness. Being a rib fan, I dove into the tray of bone in pork ribs. Homemade sauce was provided, yet just pulling off a bit of meat was enough for me to experience TJ’s craft. A bit of caramelizing met my tongue with every bite. TJ smokes the ribs for 4 hours before placing them in foil with some cane sugar and water which creates that simple sweet crust. A side of Sonora sauce is provided for dipping. The sauce is inspired by the Sonoran dessert- evocative of southwestern flavors. Four different heat sources – black pepper, habanero, red pepper flake and cayenne – mixed with the organic apple juice and other spices creates a heat profile that is present, yet not overpowering with a hint of sweetness on the edges. You can enjoy the ribs with or without the sauce and you’ll be a happy eater. Finish off the meal with cornbread with green peppers.

So happy to find a new sheriff in town for barbecue. On Friday and Saturday nights, they do rib dinners and the evening I visited, TJ had leg of lamb on the board. This is a meat lovers’ cart. If you’re in search of some great ribs or brisket or pulled chicken, drop on by Rose City Food Park and try some Barbeque The Blues. Let TJ know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample menu:

Full menu listed on their website.

  • Slow Hand – BBQ Pulled Pork 1/3rd lb sandwich with slaw and pickle – $6
  • Chickin’ Pickin’ – BBQ Pulled Chicken 1/3rd lb sandwich with slaw and pickle  - $5
  • Texas Twang – BBQ thinly sliced tri-tip - 1/3rd lb sandwich with slaw and pickle – $7
  • Power Trio – all three smoked meats – $10
  • Combo Plates – one, two or three meats with sides – range from $7-13
  • Sides: Mac & Cheese, BBQ Beans – $2.50

Facebook: Barbeque the Blues