Umai

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Ramen Food Cart

Umai Ramen Food Cart Portland

Location: SE 33rd and Hawthorne behind the Hazel Room
Hours: Wed-Sat, 12-8pm, Sun, 12-3pm

The Story: Good Food, Good Music and Community. That comes from Umai’s Facebook page and in my opinion defines food carts here in Portland. Umai is one of the latest vendors to open offering up ramen and more.

Umai is the work of Austin Moore and Forest Carter, a couple of bluegrass musicians who decided to explore the wide world of Japanese ramen and open a cart. Located in an alleyway just off 33rd north of Hawthorne, the pod sports four different vendors, seating and the day I visited, live World Cup action. The guys offer up ramen along with sandwiches and sides. For ramen, they focus on three styles – shio which is sea-salt broth; shoyu which is soy sauce based; and miso. Everything is made in the cart, even the house noodles.

Ramen Food Cart

Shio Ramen from Umai

Being a fan of shio, that was my first choice. The bowl, full of noodles with the thick broth comes topped with steamed greens, pork shoulder, marinated egg, pickled shiitake and scallions. The broth is steaming hot, so I picked at it for awhile to allow it to cool. Delicate tongue here. That picking allowed me to taste the different items individually. The shiitakes are amazing offering a cloying sweetness that when mixed with the broth or a piece of pork just took my breath away. Crisp edges of pork shoulder and the egg’s still runny yolk and the greens, cooked, but still crunchy. All these items made up a superb bowl of ramen.

Umai is open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. Lunch only on Sundays. Due to limited space, they do have a sign stating they can only do so much, so my recommendation is to get there early. I’m so looking forward to returning for some other great flavors. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu: (Full menu available on their website.)

  • Ramen – $10
  • Vegetarian Ramen – $10
  • Brothless Ramen: warm house noodles tossed in miso tare and topped with ginger, fried chicken or eggplant, pickled veggies, steamed greens and marinated egg – $9
  • Chicken Karaage sandwich with bacon chutney – $8
  • Eggplant Karaage sandwich with yuzu kosho aioli – $7

Website: UmaiPDX.com
Facebook: Umai PDX

Zeek’s Cheese Grill

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Zeek's Cheese Grill

Zeek’s Cheese Grill

Location: SE 82nd and Harney at Cartlandia
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11:30-7; Fri/Sat, 11:30-9

The Story: Who doesn’t like grilled cheese? There are some extremely successful food trucks and food carts around the nation who have succeeded with putting cheese between two slices of bread, grilling it to perfection and selling it to the masses. Zeek’s Cheese Grill at Cartlandia is the latest to offer up that childhood delight.

Zeek’s Cheese Grill offers up an array of appetizing delights. Not just grilled cheese sandwiches, although that is what I enjoyed. The menu offers soups, sides like roasted jalapeño fondue, a few types of Mac and Cheese and some fresh cart made salads. Just the other day they posted photos of pickles made fresh that morning. Sandwiches range from the classic with American cheese all the way to the Ciao with fresh mozzarella, basil, semi dried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic reduction and black pepper. The Canard caught my attention with duck confit, brie and bacon caramelized onion jam. Whew! Writing that made my tummy rumble. Crisp buttered bread sandwiched in the unctuous and delightfully salty duck confit. The caramelized onion jam with a hint of bacon added sweetness to balance it all out. Dip an edge in the tomato soup and dive in. An excellent sandwich.

Zeek's Cheese Grill

Canard from Zeek’s Cheese Grill

Zeek’s is open daily for lunch and dinner with extended hours on the weekend. Beyond the cheese grill, they have daily specials, numerous flavors of lemonade and assorted teas. At Cartlandia, there is covered seating along with The Blue Room bar so you can relax and enjoy your meal. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Soups – Tomato Basil Cream, Tomato Gorgonzola, Spicy Tomato – $3 cup or $5 bowl
  • Roasted Jalapeno Fondue – $5.80
  • Four Cheese Mac & Cheese – $7
  • Caramelized onion, Gorgonzola and bacon Mac & Cheese – $8
  • Julienne Kale and Romaine Salad – $6
  • The Classic Grilled Cheese – $4
  • Oregon Grilled Sandwich – Brie, Oregon pears, gorgonzola, caramelized onion bacon – $7.80
  • Canard – $9.80
  • Ciao – $7.80

Facebook: Zeek’s Cheese Grill
Twitter: @ZeeksCheeseGrill

Slick’s Big Time BBQ

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Location: Varies – check website
Hours: Varies – check website

The Story: Portland’s BBQ scene is ever changing with new blood launching restaurants and food carts seemingly weekly. Slick’s Big Time BBQ has been around for awhile and their food truck is now roaming the streets of Portland.

Dan and Barbi Slick started their BBQ business with a sauce product line which took off and allowed them to grow their business into catering and events and a BBQ drive-through in Newberg. Over the years, they have had the pleasure of traveling the states with their award winning BBQ and sauce line. Slick’s Big Time BBQ Truck came about as they saw the need to expand into other areas and it is gorgeous. Menu offerings from the truck include pulled pork, smoked turkey and brisket sandwiches, a Texas slaw dog or a rib plate. Brisket is my crutch, so Gene, the pit-master in the truck, set me up with a good size portion on a stadium bun along with house made coleslaw and macaroni salad. The brisket was moist and flavorful with just the right smoke ring. A great amount of food for only $9.

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Gene, the pit-master on the truck visits weekly locations around the Nike campus or you can find them at wineries and events throughout the year. Next time you’re out looking for BBQ, check them out and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Pulled Pork sandwich – $8
  • Smoked Turkey sandwich – $8
  • Beef Brisket sandwich – $9
  • Rib Plate – $12

Website: SlicksBigTimeBBQ.com
Facebook: Slick’s Big Time BBQ

JuJu

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JuJu Food Cart

JuJu Food Cart

Location: SW 10th and Washington
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11-3:30pm

The Story: Ever wonder how one cart competes against another when ostensibly they have similar menu items? I personally thing it comes down to the quality of what is served and a smile. A JuJu, a new food cart in the Alder Pod, they have both in abundance.

Ever since they opened a couple of months ago, every time I walk by, smiling faces are leaning out the window. Even on those wet spring days when the crowds were thin - smiles. Initially, the cart launched doing different styles of tacos, but as it has gained a following, they have expanded the menu to include quesadillas, hot dogs and salads. Yes, hot dogs. Just six months ago, one couldn’t find a simple hot dog downtown, but now, JuJu has you covered. Kids love ‘em. The tacos are where I’m at. 1 taco can sate me all day during the summer months. While I’m a fan of tradition, I’m open to new flavors and styles. JuJu offers chicken, beef and tofu, yet also ventures out with fish, chicken katsu and shrimp tempura. I’ve tried both the fish and shrimp tempura and both delighted my taste buds. The crunch of the shrimp tempura mixed with coolness of fresh chopped cabbage, onion, tomato and carrot all mixed with their special sauce – a tasty treat.

Shrimp Tempura Taco from JuJu

Shrimp Tempura Taco from JuJu

JuJu is the bright red cart located on Washington St just west of 10th. Drop on by next time you’re looking for something refreshing and new and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Tacos – chicken, beef, tofu, $3; fish, chicken katsu or shrimp tempura – $3.50
  • JuJu 1/4 lb dog – $5.50
  • Quesadillas with your choice of fillings and protein – $6-7
  • Create your own salad – $5.50-7

GO Cart

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GO Cart Food Cart

GO Cart Food Cart

Location: SE MLK and Stark at Central Eastside Food Carts
Hours: weekdays, lunch

The Story: A few years ago, I took a couple of weeks and sampled salad rolls at the different vendors downtown to discover the differences in how they were prepared. I hatched an idea – why not make salad rolls with steak or pepperoni or even ham and eggs. I crafted them at home for fun and enjoyed them immensely. The owners of GO Cart were reading my mind as they have opened offering up American Salad Rolls. Just my style.

I’m surprised that salad rolls from many carts weren’t just salad. Pork and shrimp were added. At GO Cart, that’s the norm, not the exception. At GO Cart, you get a traditional styled salad roll with rice paper and Napa cabbage, yet the menu offers up pulled pork, chicken, bacon, avocado and more as additions. Truly, savory, scrumpous salad rolls. The Blue Cheese and Cucumber with celery, radish, cashews and green onions exploded with cold and crunchy flavors. I sat there, truly enjoying the dry blue cheese notes wondering why I hadn’t ordered the pulled pork with dried cherries and pumpkin seeds. Oh well, there will be a return visit for sure.

Blue Cheese and Cucumber Salad Roll from GO Cart

Blue Cheese and Cucumber Salad Roll from GO Cart

GO Cart not only does the twist on the salad roll, they offer whole fruit smoothies as well. The list is chalk full of apples and oranges and strawberries and mangos. Salad rolls and smoothies. A great pair. GO Cart is located at the Central Eastside Food Carts on SE MLK and Stark. There are a number of great vendors there along with picnic tables and tenting to keep out of the elements. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Pulled Pork Salad Roll: cheddar, bacon, dried cherries, red bell pepper, green onions, pumpkin seeds – 2 for $5.99
  • Bacon Apple Spinach: carrot, manghego cheese, red bell pepper, smoked almonds – 2 for $5.49
  • Blue Cheese and Cucumber – $4.99
  • Chicken Bacon Avocado: red bell pepper, radish, green onions, blue cheese – 2 for $5.99
  • Roasted Tofu – spinach, radish, green onions, cashews, celery, cilantro – 2 for $5.59
  • Smoothies are $4.50
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