La Camel

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Moroccan food cart Portland

La Camel

Location: SE 82nd at Cartlandia
Hours: Check Facebook for updates

The Story: Ever eaten at a Moroccan restaurant? Sitting on pillows on the floor with friends and a huge spread of deliciousness. Now Portlanders can experience that from a food cart – La Camel.

La Camel opened last year in a cart that had seen many vendors over the years. Karim Baziou grew up in Morocco working in the family catering business and coffee shop. He continued to call the culinary industry his home when he came to the U.S. with roles ranging from chef to manager to caterer. His memories of the diverse North African influence that makes Moroccan cuisine so famous and delicious drove him to launch the cart.

La Camel offers an impressive menu and if you don’t necessarily know what a dish is, Karim has photos. Moroccan Couscous –  vegetarian or with marinated chicken. A Moroccan lamb sandwich with roasted peppers on a french roll. Seafood Paella and even a Casablanca Cheese Steak Sandwich with lamb. So many options, how does one chose. I lucked out. While trying to decide, a fellow eater definitively ordered the Moroccan Kefta Tajine. Sold! When someone else is laser focused on a dish, it must be good. Moroccan seasoned kefta (seasoned beef meatballs) in a rich tomato sauce with fresh chopped white onion, olives and topped with two fried eggs, cheese crumbles and chopped parsley. The dish is served with a fresh baked garlic french roll. Each bite blew me away. I don’t have the words to describe the breadth of flavors – salty, crisp, garlicky, creamy. Mixing in the egg with a bit of garlic bread and sauce sent me over the edge. One of the best meals from a food cart I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy.

Moroccan food cart Portland

Moroccan Kefta Tagine

When I look over the menu, I begin to crave each dish and can’t wait for the opportunity to return and try each and every one. La Camel is located on SW 9th between Alder and Washington and Karim opens daily for lunch. Next time you’re in a rut and want to experience some great new dishes, check them out and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu (full menu on website)

  • Vegetarian Spanish Paella – saffron rice, smoked paprika, green beans, white beans and peas in a white wine sauce – $8
  • Chicken Spanish Paella – $9
  • Moroccan Couscous Beet Salad – $7.75
  • Moroccan Kefta Tajine – $8.75
  • Moroccan Lamb Sandwich – $8.75
  • Warm Chicken Salad – $8.75

Website: LaCamel.com

Garden Monsters at The Lot at Scout

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salad food cart portland

Garden Monsters at Tidbit

Location: SE 50th and Division – The Lot at Scout
Hours: Check Facebook for updated hours

The Story: Garden Monsters has opened The Lot at Scout in SE Portland offering up their signature salads and more.

Website: Gardenmonsters.net
Facebook: Garden Monsters

Mama Chow’s Kitchen

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Mama Chow's Kitchen

Mama Chow’s Kitchen

Location: SW 2nd and Stark
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-3pm

The Story: Great food comes from mom. That’s my takeaway from Mama Chow’s Kitchen, a new food cart serving up Mama’s wonton soup and more on SW 2nd and Oak.

Mama Chow’s opened earlier this year in a cedar festooned food cart built locally by PDX Cart Builders. Probably one of the more beautiful carts I’ve seen in the many years I’ve been tracking the scene. Mama Chow’s is the work of Jeff Chow with a little help from his mama Lalie. Jeff is a trained chef having worked in restaurants in Oakland, yet became a bit burned out and came to Portland to try something new. It was when he sat down to enjoy has mother’s wontons that he hatched the idea of opening a wonton cart. Portland doesn’t have one, so Jeff is the first. His mother’s wontons are the toast of the neighborhood, so he worked with her to figure out how to translate her signature recipe into a dish he could replicate daily. A pinch of this and dash of that was transformed into an amazing dish and has garnered Mama Chow’s a solid following.

Wonton Soup from Mama Chow's Kitchen

Wonton Soup from Mama Chow’s Kitchen

At Mama Chow’s Kitchen, Jeff offers up wonton soup with house made broth, baby bok choi and your choice of either chicken or pork and shrimp wontons. I found the wontons to be flavorful and paired nicely with the par-cooked bok choi and broth. Jeff offered up some of his personal spicy sauce which amped up the soup superbly. Beyond wontons, Jeff also throws down lollipop chicken, chicken legs prepared like lollipops. Having never had them, I was intrigued to discover a new delight. Jeff pushes the meat down the bone of the leg and then fries and marinates it. The bone acts as a handle. Oh, and with the marinade and sauce and a dash of sesame seeds and chives, I may have found a new favorite go-to cart.

Lollipop Chicken from Mama Chow's Kitchen

Lollipop Chicken from Mama Chow’s Kitchen

Jeff is keeping it simple with only a few items. He doesn’t want you, the eater, to have to wait to enjoy your dish. Located down off SW 2nd and Stark, Mama Chow’s Kitchen is open Monday through Friday, 11-3. He’s even working on some specials, so visit often for a treat. For wontons and lollipop chicken, this is the cart to visit. Drop on by and let him know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Wonton Soup with baby bok choi and choice of chicken wonton or pork and shrimp wonton – $7
  • Wonton Soup with noodles – $7
  • Lollipop chicken with baby bok choi on a bed of rice – $6

Facebook: Mama Chow’s Kitchen
Twitter:
@MamaCsKitchen

Hapa Ramen

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ramen food cart portland

Hapa Ramen Portland

Location: SE 28th Pl. and Division – Tidbit
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11am-2:30 and 5-8pm

The Story: A couple of years ago, Japanese Ramen took the nation by storm. I’m not taking the ramen we ate in college, I’m talking rich creamy, fatty pork broth with noodles and thinly sliced green onions. Portland jumped right in, launching numerous restaurants and even attracting a Japanese firm to open a food cart. Now that we’ve all been able to enjoy this velvety dish, we may have our favorites. I would like to add someone new to the list – Hapa Ramen.

Hapa Ramen opened in October and has been working out the kinks of preparing and serving the hot dish from a food cart. The owners, Michael and Sara grew up on ramen in Hawaii, yet couldn’t find similar dishes here in Portland, so decided to make their own. You may know Michael as he has been a fixture at 808 Grinds for a few years before venturing off on this new project. Sarah though is who gets the credit for the recipes according to Michael. They both have visited numerous ramen shops throughout the city and beyond to taste the different styles and interpretations. Sarah trained up with a ramen chef and has been experimenting with different broths and styles to get the offerings just right. In Japan, there are more than 14 different styles and each chef puts their twist on the traditional recipe. Sarah and Michael have done just that at Hapa Ramen.

ramen food cart portland

Shaka Bowl from Hapa Ramen Portland

Hapa offers Shoyu Ramen, a classic; Miso Ramen, a sweet option that can be done vegetarian; and Curry Ramen which is spicy – each with their own unique flavors. It is the Shaka Bowl which caught my eye and Michael recommended. The bowl comes from a traditional Tsukemen Ramen style, yet Michael and Sarah thought that may be too much for customers to say, so they shortened it to Shaka! “Eat this blazing hot,” Michael said. With the pork belly broth served in one bowl and fresh egg noodles, shiitake and egg in another, chopstick the noodles into the flaming broth and slurp. Yep, slurp. The broth is fatty, creamy, almost thick, but not. Made over the course of 8-10 hours to break down the pork, it leaves a fantastically lovely lardy film on your lips. The egg noodles were amazing, a brand used by most if not all the ramen houses out there. Michael and Sarah, while putting their own little love into each dish, don’t stray too far from tradition.

I’m excited to have another ramen cart open in Portland, yet wish it were closer to my house. I’m selfish that way. Hapa Ramen is open daily except for Mondays and serves up lunch and dinner. They take an afternoon break to prep for the dinner hour. As winter arrives, their hours may change, so check their website or Facebook or give them a call to make sure they are open. Hapa Ramen does ramen right. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Shoyu Ramen – classic-  topped with cha shu pork, spinach, egg, fishcake and nori – $8
  • Miso Ramen – sweet – topped with cha shu pork, bamboo shoots, egg; vegetarian option – $8
  • Curry Ramen – spicy – topped with cha shu pork or ginger fried chicken, spinach, shiitake – $8
  • Shaka Bowl – $7.50
  • Keiki Bowk – kid size – $5

Website: HapaPdx.com
Facebook: Hapa Ramen PDX
Twitter: @HapaPdx
Phone: 503.560.0393

The Whole Bowl – NE Sandy

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Nourishment

Nourishment

Location: NE Sandy Blvd between 46th and 47th and the Hollywood Farmers Market
Hours: Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m

The Story: The Whole Bowl, one of Portland’s oldest street vendors has expanded to NE Sandy with their 4th location. Taking over the Nourishment cart, The Whole Bowl brings their signature beans and rice bowl to the street.

More details about The Whole Bowl at TheWholeBowl.com

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