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

Russian Horse

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Russian Horse Portland

Russian Horse Portland

Location: SE 13th and Lexington in Sellwood
Hours: Wed, 11-3, Thurs-Sat, 11-6, Sun, 12-3

The Story: When asked what we’re missing in the Portland street food scene, I realize we don’t have a good presence of eastern European or Russian cuisine. That has changed in the last year with a couple of vendors opening and now the Sellwood district has the Russian Horse food cart to sate their pierogie needs.

Russian Horse opened early this spring offering a menu inspired by the simple peasant foods of Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Carmel and John Theesfeld, came to Portland chasing a dream of opening a food cart. After some discussion on cuisine, they  came up with the idea of pierogies, a traditional staple of that region. John’s family is the inspiration behind the pierogi, so they obtained the recipe and a cart and launched. Initially, it was just pierogies and borscht, but the menu quickly expanded to salads and dessert. 

Pierogies from Russian Horse

Pierogies from Russian Horse

Pierogies are a type of dumplings made of unleavened dough. First boiled, then baked or fried usually in butter with onions. Traditionally, they are stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit. At Russian Horse, they have traditional pirogies with a potato filling served with caramelized sautéed onions or you can enjoy their tater tot or garlic mash pierogie. Such ingenuity from the food carts. I love it. Pierogies are a simple wholesome dish to enjoy with a bit of sour cream and pickle. Nothing spicy or eccentric, just good filling food. I enjoy that. I reminds me of an earlier part of my life when I was able to enjoy home cooking from the region. 

Russian Horse is now open in the Sellwood district Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and Wednesday through Saturday into the dinner hour. They offer more than pierogies, so check out their menu and enjoy. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu: (see website for updated menu and prices)

  • Vinegret: mix of beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, pickles and kraut in a sunflower oil dressing – $4.50
  • Borscht: beet and cabbage soup – sm, $2.50; lg, $3.50
  • Chicken Wings Kiev – 4 chicken wing drumsticks deep fried and tossed in Kiev butter sauce – $7.50
  • Pierogies – 3 for $5
  • Dark Chocolate Pierogies – 3 for $5

Website: RussianHorse.com
Facebook: Russian Horse

Ash Wood Fired Pizza

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Ash Wood Fired Pizza

Ash Wood Fired Pizza

Location: SE 13th and Lexington in Sellwood
Hours: Tues, 11:30-3pm; Wed-Sat, 11:30-3 and 5-8pm; Sun, 11:30-3

The Story: A few years ago, a food truck the size of a shipping container debuted with a wood fired pizza oven. Huge! Yet, you don’t have to go big to create a quality product. Ash Wood Fired Pizza has a wood fired pizza oven inside their diminutive food truck and still have room for two people to craft the magic.

Ash Wood Fired Pizza opened last month in the Sellwood district at one of Portland’s oldest east side food cart pods. The owners, Ted and Alexandra Scharpnick traveled as far as B.C. to pick up the truck already outfitted with the yellow tiled wood fired pizza oven. The truck is eye catching-  smaller than the behemoths that roam the streets of many cities with a flat black finish and their welcoming logo. I see a lot of trucks and Ash Wood Fired is one of the best. Ted let me in on how they make their dough. Using grapes, water and flour, he created a starter. The yeast is all wild and the starter continues to grow to create a unique and changing flavor in the dough. Pretty cool. I’ve heard of using vodka in pasta, but not grapes in dough.

Margherita from Ash Wood Fired Pizza

Margherita from Ash Wood Fired Pizza

Ash Wood Fired has a great list of pizza options and offers up specials daily. On my visit, the ubiquitous and always amazing Margherita topped the menu. Other options included mushroom and garlic with pesto and maitake mushrooms or mustard greens and zucchini with a house made marinara. I’m a sucker for the Margherita, a clean, uncomplicated pizza with fresh lively flavors and at this time of the year, fresh basil. A single pizza is great for one person, so get two and share with a friend. I hadn’t planned on finishing it, but suddenly and surprisingly, I was devouring the fourth slice. Excellent crust.

The pod in Sellwood has five different vendors with Ash Wood Fired right on the corner. They have covered seating and a welcoming atmosphere. If you’re down on antique row, drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu: menu changes daily, so check their Facebook page

  • Margherita – house made marinara, fresh mozzarella and basil – $8
  • Peppers and Tomatoes – cilantro pesto, padron peppers, sungold tomatoes, ovoline Mozzarella
  • Asparagus and Fennel – house made marinara, Viridian Farms asparagus, shaved fennel, scallions, Ovoline Mozzarella

Phone: 503 941 0196
Website: Ashwoodfired.com
Facebook: Ash Wood Fired Pizza

El Local

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Location: SE MLK and Stark at Central Eastside Food Carts

Hours: breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

Mexican cuisine.

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