Chen’s Express

Food Carts Portland

Location: NE Sandy Blvd and 52nd. Rose City Food Park 
Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-8pm

The Story: A Chinese food cart. Ah, I could wax poetic about my love of “New York Take Out” Chinese Food. Aka “Old School” or “Chinatown” Chinese.  It’s pure comfort food and as American as well, Kung Pao Chicken. Which is to say Chinese-American food is pretty darn American. You know the kind of food I’m talking about, it’s available all over our great country, but especially featured on many an episode of Seinfield, Friends, Sex & the City, and pretty much any show that take place in the Big Apple. When in NYC (and other big East Coast cities), you’ll see menu flyers piled up in apartment lobbies, and hoards of bicycle delivery folk speeding through traffic to get bags of Potstickers, Hot & Sour Soup, and other well known “Chinese American Classics” to their customers. Who hasn’t had a craving at one time or another for this type of saucy, salty, stir-fried, deep fried, steamed cuisine? I know I have.

Chen’s Express reminds me so much of those little storefronts found in New York – in cart form. It’s simple, it’s straight to the point, it’s freshly prepared fast, and it offers all your favorite Chinatown Chinese Food classics at affordable prices: Don’t expect anything CRAZY here, just decent generous portions of fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, chow mein, and a few Szechuan dishes, such as spicy tofu. They even have crab puffs and spring rolls alongside egg drop and hot and sour soup. At entrees that also include a side of your choosing for $6, you really can’t go wrong. No MSG, and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available.

Chen's Express

Chen’s Express

Sample Menu:

  • Entrees plus one side – $6.00 or Two Entrees and a side – $8.00. Choices include, but are not limited to Sauteed string beans, lemon tofu, lemon chicken, Kung Pao tofu, Kung Pao chicken, Mongolian Beef, Tofu and vegetables, General Tsao’s tofu, General Tsao’s chicken,
  • Sides – $1.00 – $6.00 depending on dish and size: Crispy spring rolls, crab puffs, steamed buns, fried rice, chow mein
  • Soups – Small $1.00, Large $3.00 – Hot and Sour Soup, Eggdrop Soup

Phone: (503) 334-7040
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChensExpress

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Garden Monsters

Food Carts Portland
Garden Monsters

Garden Monsters

Location: SE 50th and Division, Scout
Hours: See Facebook for updated hours

The Story: Maybe it’s this spring weather tease, but I’ve found myself craving fresh, full meal salads lately. Not some lettuce thrown on a plate with some ranch dressing many restaurants pass off as “salads”. No, we’re talking the kind of salads that will fill you up for the afternoon, but unlike say, eating a Double Royale with Cheese burger, don’t make you feel too heavy afterwards.

The concept of Garden Monsters is simple, fun, and makes for an interesting menu. You can pick from one of their signature salads such as the Paul Bunyon with grilled chicken or steak, lettuces, a ton of veggies, garlic croutons and choice of dressing. Or, the Loc Ness Monster – Grilled Salmon or Grilled Shrimp,  Lettuces, Water Chestnuts, Dried Cranberries, Red Onion, Grape Tomatoes, Lemon Wedge,  Garlic Black Pepper Almonds. WOWZA!

There’s also their “Build Your Own Monster”:  pick a base salad, add on toppings, and one of their many housemade dressings. Salads can be made vegetarian, vegan, almost all are Gluten Free.  You can choose a bowl salad, or if you’d like turn it into a giant wrap sandwich. Offerings are wide and varied and made to order. Genius! Garden Monsters tells their story so well in their own words on their website, I’ll just let them do the talking:

My name is Kyle Hulings, Founder of Garden Monsters. For years I have been turning salad into a meal, loading my bowl with a vast array of meats, veggies, cheeses and dressings.  All to often I felt that the only way to really get my money’s worth was to make it at home, as time and time again I found myself overpaying for a tiny, bland, three-day-old and all-around weak salad.

I am also often faced with the challenge of coordinating meals and eating out with several of my close friends and family members, as many if not most have dietary needs. Some are sensitive to gluten, others dairy, countless varieties of low carb and low calorie diets, vegetarians, vegans, Celiacs and the list goes on. I dreamt of a place where anyone could eat at, without sacrificing taste, and with the body’s needs kept in mind. These experiences helped me develop Garden Monsters’ core values.

We wish to inspire healthier eating in the fast service food industry, to prove that taste doesn’t have to come deep fried, to grow and strengthen ties with the local community, and to epitomize the eco-friendly revolution. You wont find a deep fryer, microwave or freezer in our carts. We use organic and 100% natural ingredients from local resources whenever possible. All of our to go containers are completely recyclable and we compost nearly all of our waste setting a new standard for quick service food destinations. Guilt free never tasted so good.

Right on, Garden Monsters! Crunch-Crunch. Munch-Munch!

[Garden Monsters moved to The Gantry in summer 2015]

Sample Menu:
  • The Colossal Cobb – Roasted Turkey, Roasted Ham, Bacon Chunks, Romaine & Iceberg Lettuce, Bleu Crumbles, Cage-Free Hard Boiled Eggs, Black Olives, Grape Tomatoes, Garlic Croutons and your choice of dressing. We recommend our Signature Avocado Ranch – $8. No Meat- $5.50
  • The Sumo – Grilled Chicken, Romaine Lettuce & Green Cabbage, Mandarin Wedges, Shaved Carrots, our Signature Garlic Black Pepper Almonds, Asian Noodles, Sliced Water Chestnuts, Green Onion, and your choice of dressing. We recommend our Signature Sesame Ginger – $7.25 . No Meat- $5.25
  • Build Your Own Monster (prices vary): Bowl or all-flour white or spinach “wrap” – Choice of Lettuces and greens, 4 free toppings from a variety of: veggies, fruits, “crunches” (croutons, Asian Noodles, Sunflower seeds, and more), cheeses, meats, and other additions such as black beans, water chestnuts. chopped egg, avocado, roasted baby red potatoes, and more. Vegan toppings: vegan chicken, vegan steak, vegan cheeses, tofu.
  • Homemade Dressings:  Blue Cheese, Buttermilk Ranch, Avocado Ranch, Creamy Italian, Light Italian (v,df), Sante Fe Ranch, 10,000 Island, Sesame Ginger (v,df), Honey Mustard, Caesar,  Creamy Balsamic, Balsamic Vinaigrette (v,df), Oil and Vinegar (v,df), Sweet’n’Spicy Sesame Ginger Balsamic (v,df). – v= vegan, df = dairy free.

Website: www.gardenmonsters.net

Babylon Iraqi

Food Carts Portland

Babylon IraqiLocation: SW 5th and Oak Pod
Hours: Mon-Fri 11 am – 6 pm

The Story: I think there’s a tendency to lump all Middle Eastern food together.  Generally, many do all have common dishes (often with the same name) Hummus, Pita Bread, Shawarma, Falafel and the like. Yet like Europe, the Middle East is a vast place with some distinct variations and dishes found country by country and region by region.

Take Falafel for example. Sure, it’s usually ground chickpeas with some spices and fillings then rolled into balls and fried. But have you ever had Israeli Falafel with it’s all you can eat buffet of topping choices? Or what about Egyptian Falafel, generally made with bright green Fava Beans and not just Chickpeas? Some are balls, some are patties, some are golf ball sized and others much larger. Seasonings vary from country to country too from mild to spicy to herbal to garlicky.

Enter Babylon Iraqi. This nicely decorated cart, nestled into the bustling SW 5th and Oak pod downtown, offers menu items you might be familiar with through “Middle Eastern” cuisine, but here things are just a bit different. They are also very, very good. It’s the quality, care and freshness of the ingredients that matters, and Babylon Iraqi has all three.

b iraqi 2The tender, and really, I mean melt in your mouth moist Falafels at Babylon Iraqi come with herbal notes and a bit of spicy heat, also drizzled with bright red hot sauce, have become my top Falafel in Portland – Chickpea based, in case you are wondering. At $5.00 for a sandwich, or $6.00 for a heaping plate that includes salad, saffron rice, and hummus, they are a BARGAIN.  Don’t just stop at the Falafels though. Rice Burianey is enough for 2-3 meals with my appetite, and comes heaping with aromatic rice, and falafel, chicken, or lamb as you wish. Chicken Shawarma, hummus, and my favorite garlicky, smokey, creamy eggplant dip known as Baba Ganouj are also available. Hey, you can even get a Halal  hot dog or burger if you’d like to try some Western/Iraqi fusion cuisine. Come to think of it, a burger with hummus on it sounds pretty good right about now…

Sample Menu: 

  • Hummus with Pita Bread – $3.00
  • Rice Burianey (Falafel, Chicken, or lamb) – $6.00 – $8.00
  • Shawarma chicken  – $6.00 for a plate, $5.00 for a wrap
  • Falafel Plate (with salad, rice, hummus) – $6.00
  • Falafel Wrap – $5.00
  • Iraqi Tea – $2.00

Phone:  Coming Soon

Tandem Treats

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Location: PSU Park Blocks
Hours: Weekdays, lunchtime

Hot dogs, sandwiches, chili, salads. More details coming soon.

Facebook: Tandem Treats

The Mighty Bowl

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The Mighty Bowl

The Mighty Bowl

Location: Vancouver, WA – check TheMightyBowl.com for current location
Hours: lunchtime, Mon-Fri

The Story:

Took a field trip north to visit a new food truck roaming the streets of Vancouver. Serving up tasty rice and bean bowls, The Mighty Bowl has captured the eater’s hearts as displayed by the line at 1pm.

The Mighty Bowl is the first food truck to roam the streets of Vancouver, a city that has not followed Portland’s model of food carts and is known for some challenging regulations. Owner Steve Valenta, his wife, Sherilee, and their longtime friend, Kevin DeGraw banded together to design and build one good looking truck and work through the city’s regulations. With the simple idea of healthy rice and bean bowls, they’ve been serving regularly at multiple locations since spring.

Rice bowls for me date back a decade or more. Over the years, I’ve eaten my share of bowls and keep coming back. At The Mighty Bowl, there are different options to add dynamic flavor, but the dish is simply brown rice, black beans, cheddar cheese, olives, salsa, avocado, sour cream, cilantro and sauce. If you do all those single ingredients well with a killer sauce, you create an awesomely healthy dish. The Kiggins bowl comes with spicy chipotle sauce generously distributed throughout so you don’t spill trying to mix it all together. While there was spice to the sauce, the smokiness of the chipotle was the most memorable. Every bite, every spoonful included at least four of the ingredients making the entire meal an enjoyable eating event. All dishes are gluten free and some are nut and egg free in addition.

The Mighty Bowl is one of those food trucks you see on TV with an amazing wrap presenting their logo. Downtown Vancouver isn’t that large, so if you’re driving around, you may happen upon them one day. Or, if you want to seek them out, they post their daily schedule on their website – TheMightyBowl.com. If you live and work in Vancouver, you should venture out and enjoy one of their bowls or wraps. If you’re in Portland, take a field trip north, it isn’t too far away. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

Regular bowl, $6; Large, $6.50 and all bowls can be made into wraps for $7.25

  • Mighty Bowl – brown rice, black beans, avocado, cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, olives, salsa with a tangy house sauce
  • Kiggins Bowl – spicy chipotle sauce
  • Peanut Bowl – peanut sauce

Website: TheMightyBowl.com
Twitter: @Mightybowl
Facebook: The Mighty Bowl

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