Smak Dab’s

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Burger Food Cart Portland

Smak Dab’s

Location: NE MLK and Jarrett at The Fusion
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11-7; Sun, 12-5

The Story: When you have a dream, sometimes nothing can stop you. Chris had the dream to open a food cart for over 15 years and now Smak Dab’s has launched with their gourmet stuffed burgers.

Chris has a background in the restaurant industry having worked for more than a few large restaurants over the years. The food cart scene just wasn’t as vibrant in the first part of the last decade, so Chris put the plans on hold, but kept the dream alive. The cart, located on NE MLK at The Fusion food cart pod is one of a few who have opened thee in the past six months. That pod has always housed food carts offering a range of cuisines ever since I moved into the neighborhood almost 17 years ago. Now, with a formal name, a covered deck and a quorum of vendors, I think NE MLK has a viable street food scene.

Burger Food Cart Portland

Tres Hombres from Smak Dab’s

Smak Dab’s focuses on stuffed burgers. Many call them the Juicy Lucy after a famous midwestern chain. Chris has his own twist. The patty includes bread crumbs among other goodies to add some cohesion as he forms it around the ingredients. The surprises are inside. Take The Calzone for example – pepperoni, mozzarela cheese and marinara all grilled inside the patty. Just imagining that first bite elicits a stomach growl. The Tres Hombres was for me – jalapenos, olives, jack cheese inside with quacamole atop. At first site, I thought maybe the burger was a bit burned, yet that first bite countered the visual. The patty, with the extra ingredients comes with caramelization throughout – a sweet, salty and for the Tres Hombres, spicy delight. Fresh lettuce and tomato create a cool tasty friction to the stuffed burger. Overall, a well done sammy.

Smak Dab’s has an impressive menu with six stuffed burger options. The day I visited, Chris also had pulled pork on the menu. Design your own if you want, he’ll make it happen. There is plenty of covered seating on site and they offer vegetarian options and GF buns. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • The Smak Dab – patty stuffed with swiss and served on toasted bun with chimichurri spread and bacon sriracha onion ring – $9
  • The Calzone – $8
  • The Lisa – vegetarian black bean patty with chimichurri spread – $7
  • Lamb of Gouda – lamb mix stuffed with smoked gouda – $10
  • Tres Hombres – $9
  • Steak Fries – $3
  • Cajun Pot Stickers – $6
  • Bacon sriracha battered fried pickles – $5

Facebook: Smak Dab’s

Fry Guy

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fries food cart Portland

Fry Guy

Location: SE 13th and Lexington in Sellwood
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 12=6pm

The Story: Fries. I haven’t head the term French Fries for years. In the 21st century, we call them fries! One of Portland’s most famous cart does fries and now they have competition. Fry Guy in Sellwood does fries, poutine and more.

We all grew up on fries didn’t we? Heck, I worked at McDonald’s in the 80’s and got paid in fries. The only potato dish that may rival the ubiquitous fry is the tater tot, but we won’t go there today. Alex McGillivray, aka the Fry Guy, has worked for some of Portland’s favorite chefs doing gigs at Ping and Lardo West. At Lardo, he’s responsible for The Beet Generation sandwich. Nice! As with many culinary professionals, opening your own place is the goal and Alex chased the dream and opened his Fry Guy truck in Sellwood focusing not just on the Canadian classic poutine, but other treats as well.

fries food cart Portland

Portland Poutine from Fry Guy

Fry Guy offers everything from hand cut fries with sauces all the way to loaded fries with beef or mushroom gravy. They do have a reuben on the menu, but we’re here for hand cut fries right? Loaded fries come with traditional (meat) or vegetarian gravy and you can add items like cheese curds or pastrami. I opted for the Portland Poutine with house sausage gravy and an over easy fried egg. Put an egg on it! The sausage gravy covered the fries with plenty of fresh ground black pepper and bits of sausage throughout. Adding the fried egg? Genius! Letting the yolk waterfall through the fries and mix with the sausage made a mess, but a tasty, bold mess.

Fry Guy is now open down in Sellwood at the food cart lot smack dab in the middle of Antique Row. The lot offers covered seating, so you don’t have to wait until spring or summer to visit. Hop on down for a treat and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu (full menu on website)

  • Hand Cut Russet Potatoes – half order, $2; full order $3.50
  • Sauces – Fry Sauce, Tomato Bacon Jam, Sriracha Mayo, Buttermilk Ranch, Bacon Scallion Sour Cream
  • Poutine – $6
  • Portland Poutine – $6
  • Tiger Style – $5
  • Pan Roasted Cauliflower tossed in chimichurri – $4.50

Website: FryGuyTruck.com
Twitter: @FryGuyOregon

SissyMama’s

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gluten free food cart portland

SissyMama’s Food Cart, Welches, OR

Location: 67886 E Highway 26, Welches, Oregon
Hours: Daily, 11-6, yet check Facebook for updates

The Story: Amber, the owner of SissyMama’s, emailed a few weeks ago informing me that Mt. Hood does indeed have food carts – and her’s offers up a Gluten Free menu. I’m aware of summer vendors in Gov’t Camp, but Welches, nope. So, a field trip was in order.

Remember field trips as kids? There was always food whether it be a meal at a topical restaurant or a bag lunch made by mom. I enjoy field trips and get out of the city to visit food carts whenever I get the opportunity. Welches is a cute little village on HWY 26 on the way up Mt. Hood. Just before you get to the single stoplight, Amber has set up her red and white camper trailer – SissyMama’s. With snow blanketing the ground, I pulled up for lunch. Amber trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school and offers up a menu of Gluten Free and Paleo options. She uses the cart as a means to explore food and create amazing dishes for everyone. Being on the mountain in winter, hot soup is daily treat.

gluten free food cart Portland

Cabbage Roll in a Bowl

The menu is ever changing both with the seasons and at Amber’s whim, yet after trying three dishes, I trust there will always be something on the menu that is delicious. The day I visited offered up roasted cauliflower and potato soup, a vegetarian hand pie and a paleo dish of red cabbage, green pepper and Italian sausage. The hot soup, served in a 16oz cup with no spoon was delightful. Standing in the snow, sipping at the soup while chatting food made my day. Also, it fit perfect in the cup holder for the drive home. The hand pie, a newcomer to the menu and one of Amber’s first melted in my mouth. Gluten free and full of goodies, I even dipped it in the soup. The cabbage roll in a bowl offered up Asian flavors with a dash of sesame seeds. All around, three different items with three distinct flavors and all rather delectable.

SussyMama’s is open daily and offers indoor and outdoor seating. I can only imagine how magical a bowl of Amber’s soup would be on a snowy winter afternoon or a sunny summer afternoon. Either way, next time I’m headed up the mountain, I know I’ll stop. Do check her Facebook page for updates on hours. Next time you’re on the mountain, drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

See SissyMama’s website for menu options and visit Facebook for daily specials.

gluten free food cart Portland

Hand pie from SissyMama’s

Facebook: SissyMama’s
Twitter: @SissyMamas

Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

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Chinese food cart

Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

Location: NE 23rd and Alberta
Hours: Tues-Fri, 11-2 and 5-9; Sat/Sun, 12-9pm

The Story: A few months back, I visited a Szechuan restaurant in LA and was shocked at the spice factor in every dish. Yet, it didn’t burn for hours, it simply drifted away after awhile. Ever since that fateful meal, I’ve been craving noshable spicy Chinese and found it at a new food cart named Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen.

Chinese food cart

Szechuan Tofu from Uncle Tsang’s

Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen is at the 23rd and Alberta Food Cart Lot having taken over the cart that use to house Fijian Indian Curry. They’ve been open now for a couple of months, so have worked out any kinks. At first glance, the menu serves up what one expects from most Chinese restaurants except it offers more variety for vegetarian and gluten free options. They have beef and broccoli, eggplant chicken, ma po tofu, and potstickers. Yet, what caught my eye was chicken gizzards. Where in Portland do you get chicken gizzards? Along with Szechuan Tofu, I had a meal picked out. The gizzards, deep fried, yet with a light coating and then tossed with more than enough spicy peppers were divine. When delivered, I teared up, knowing the spice could wreck me, but I dove in and surprisingly enough, it didn’t melt my face off. It was that quick burn and then it tapered off. Each little morsel, a present from the Chinese gods of deep frying. The tofu dish with sliced celery, chopped peppers, succulent mushrooms and plenty of red chili flake was a treat. Not so spicy I needed milk afterward, but complex flavors that kept me eating.

Uncle Tsang’s is one of those gems you stumble upon and immediately want to return to. Finding a dish so unique like gizzards is the reason I keep going back to the food carts – they keep surprising me. Head on over to Alberta and give it a try. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Broccoli in garlic sauce – $6
  • Gizzards – $5
  • Curry Chicken – $9
  • Szechuan Tofu – $9.50
  • Lemon Chicken – $8
  • General Chicken – $8
Chinese food cart

Gizzards from Uncle Tsang’s

Facebook: Uncle Tsang’s Kitchen

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

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