La Camel

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Moroccan food cart Portland

La Camel

Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11am-4:30pm

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 Tagine. 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 Tagine – $8.75
  • Moroccan Lamb Sandwich – $8.75
  • Warm Chicken Salad – $8.75

Website: LaCamel.com

Chop Chop

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chinese food cart portland

Chop Chop Portland

Location: SW 10th and Washington
Hours: Monday-Sunday, lunch and dinner

The Story: Growing up in Portland, there use to be a number of great Chinese restaurants in Old Town/Chinatown. Sadly, many have moved on. With the growth of food carts in the last ten years, one would assume Chinese would be a golden ticket, yet we only have a few. Chop Chop is the latest bringing brilliant Chinese dishes to the Alder pod.

Eating Chinese has always been an enigma for me. Having grown up on pre-packaged Chow Mein or visiting Chinese restaurants in the suburbs, it wasn’t until adulthood I discovered there was more to the menu than Kung Pao Chicken. Portland has seen a resurgence in appreciation for all things Asian cuisine. Szechuan seems to be the new darling for the food writer community. Yet, coming back to those dishes we all grew up on, what if they were just done better or more flavorful? At Chop Chop, the chef, Mr. Lee, is accomplishing that.

chinese food cart portland

General’s Chicken from Chop Chop

I got an email from a fellow cart lover extolling his love for the General’s Chicken at Chop Chop, so I beelined to the cart the other day. General’s Chicken, aka, General Tso’s Chicken, is found on every Chinese menu. Sweet, spicy and sticky deep fried chicken is mixed with chile peppers and served over rice. No veggies, no noodles – just simple, gluttonous deep fried chicken chunks over rice. Love it! At Chop Chop, they asked if I wanted it spicy or not. I did and was presented with one of the most beauteous spicy Chinese dishes I’ve seen to date. Not only was there a Sasquatch’s handful of ground chiles mixed into the sauce, no less than 30 whole chiles were added to the mix. My eyes watered even before taking that first bite. I dove in. Each bite was what I expected and appreciated about this dish – sweet and spicy. The batter on the chicken –  light and crisp. While it looked like it would burn my face off, it didn’t. The heat was there, yet tempered by the sauce and rice. A fine dish.

Chop Chop is located in the Alder pod on the corner of SW 10th and Alder. A repurposed short school bus with a vast menu. Reading through the 28 5-star reviews on Yelp has me convinced I’m not the only Portlander who has enjoyed Mr. Lee’s creations. Drop on by next time you’re craving Chinese and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu – (menu to large to list)

  • Family Bean Curd with Vegetables – $6
  • Ma Po’s Tofu – $6
  • Hot and Spicy Chicken – $6.50
  • Orange Chicken – $6.50
  • Cantonese Steak – $7
  • Special Lo Mein – $6.50
  • General’s Chicken – $6.50
  • House Special Fried Rice – $6.25

Haan Ghin

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Laotian food cart portland

Haan Ghin

Location: SW Park and Harrison at PSU Park Blocks
Hours: M-F, lunch

The Story: Most every Portlander I speak with comment on the number of Thai eateries we have throughout the city. Yet I rarely hear about other cuisines from Southeast Asia and have been wanting to explore. Then I learned of Haan Ghin, a new Laotian cart at Portland State University and paid a visit.

Historically, downtown Portland was divided by what we now refer to as the north and south park blocks. City founders designated the land as a division between commerce and housing and the industry that was further west. Those long city blocks of mature trees and rose bushes and public art are still enjoyed daily by many. By Portland State University, the park blocks are an integral part of the campus and since I can remember, there have been food carts there to feed the students. At Park and Harrison, a mini-pod has anchored with five vendors allowed to keep their little carts there overnight during the week. Haan Ghin is one of those, along with a soup vendor, BBQ and a noodle shop.

Laotian food cart portland

Laap Gai from Haan Ghin

Haan Ghin owners Anthony Manivanh and Ann Derryberry put together an adorable wood shingled cart with handmade signs and everything. The menu is small, but I honestly love that. The fewer items, the dedication to each is that much greater. The Laap Gai, a chicken DIY lettuce wrap dish is plated with ground chicken tossed with scallions, mint, cilantro, shallots, chiles and lemongrass, sticky rice and a hunk of lettuce. Yep, make your own lettuce wrap and the work involved is worth it. Lettuce is cold and crisp, whereas the spicy chicken along with a bit of their housemade chili sauce is savory and spicy with a bit of citrus on the back end. Each little nibble is a delight. I love the little touches here at Haan Ghin. The Portland street food scene was born on DIY, so why not have a dish on the menu the customer has to engage with.

Haan Ghin is a great addition to Portland’s street food scene and while it is over by PSU, a bit of a walk for some who normally call the other downtown pods home, it is worth it. Sit among the towering fir trees enjoying your meal and watch college students scurry about. If you’re ever nervous about how to pronounce a dish, they have a pho-net-ic menu posted also. Next time you’re down that way or if you’re up for a special treat, drop on by Haan Ghin Eatshop and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Laap Gai – Chicken DIY lettuce wraps – $7
  • Mii Gai – egg noodles w/chicken, Ong Choy and crispy toppings – $7
  • Specials daily

Facebook: Haan Ghin
Twitter: @HaanGhin
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Lower East Side Deli

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sandwich food cart portland

Lower East Side Deli

Location: SW 3rd and Washington
Hours: Daily for breakfast and lunch and late night on weekends

The Story: Have you enjoyed New York style deli? A sandwich overflowing with thin sliced meats or pressed to perfection? I have, and now can find such treats at a food cart in downtown – Lower East Side Deli.

Lower East Side Deli opened this past summer with a vast menu of sandwich options. The owner, Abdellah, lived in NYC and worked at delis there, so knows how to put together something brilliant. The sign says it all – Italian Sandwiches, Reubens, Big Chicken Wraps. And Abdullah took a page out of a Chinese menu and posted photos of the monstrosities. I truly believe, a picture sells a dish more than a description. Heck, each visit I pick a different sandwich based on the photo. How does the Chicago Beef sound? Thin sliced Angus beef straight off the grill, horseradish dijon, lettuce and tomato on a garlic baguette. Or the Mad Sicilian with tuna, provolone, hot peppers, lettuce, tomato and a little olive oil on an Italian sub. Abdellah crafts both of those and about 20 more.

sandwich food cart portland

The Bostonian

Craving a big sandwich after some holiday shopping I decided on Lower East Side Deli. The first sandwich that caught my eye was the Bostonian. First question was whether I wanted it hot or cold. Hot please. A thick layer of beef, then ham, hot capicola, provolone, mayo, a bit of the veggies and then thrown on the flattop to heat up. A beauty. Maybe 3 inches of sandwich joy. Normally served with turkey, they were out, so I subbed in the capicola – a great choice. Gorgeable. Great quality meats, a quality bun (a must!) and fresh veggies. I can’t wait to return for more.

Lower East Side Deli is located on SW 3rd and Washington on the Washington side of the lot. Abdellah opens for breakfast and lunch and then later into the evening on the weekends. If you have a hankering for a New York style deli sandwich, check them out and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu (There are over 20 sandwich options):

  • Boneless Buffalo Chicken Wrap – $6
  • Tex Mex BLT Rancher Wrap – $6
  • Honey Dripper ‘Q Chicken Wrap – $6
  • Bostonian – $6
  • Chicago Beef – $6
  • Big Reuben Dog – with pastrami, sauerkraut, swiss and russian dressing on a dog – $6
  • Fenway Melt – hot Capicolla, baked Virginia ham, provolone, pressed on sourdough – $6
  • Spicy Italian – salami, hot Capicolla, ham and provolone, hots, lettuice and condiments on Italian sub -$6

Whole Time Chicken

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fried chicken food cart portland

Whole Time Chicken

Location: SW 3rd and Washington
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11am-8pm; Friday/Saturday, 11am-2am

The Story: Fried Chicken. Quick, what is your first thought? I think of buckets of KFC and cringe. Fried chicken, when done right is moist, flavorful and almost sinful. Whole Time Chicken, a food cart in downtown Portland, has it dialed in.

fried chicken food cart portland

Whole Time Chicken

Whole Time Chicken opened this past fall on the Washington side of the 3rd avenue food cart lot. Portland has seen an increase in southern fare being offered up with chicken and biscuit restaurants and even some new carts showcasing cuisine various southern states. So exciting to see the newcomers. Whole Time Chicken focuses on both deep fried and pan fried chicken served up in sandwiches or over rice or a salad. Upon arrival, you’re offered up a small sample of what they have cooking inside. Just that little nibble of seared moist chicken solidified my decision to enjoy lunch from them that day. Trying to mix the healthy with the sinful, I picked up fried chicken over rice and a mixed green salad. I pretty much asked him to make me something special and he did. I love a good fried chicken and with the right crust and seasoning, it becomes a memorable meal. This dish, with spicy chicken, greens and rice was fully enjoyable down to the last bite. No dry chicken here.

Whole Time Chicken is now open daily for lunch through the dinner hour and even late night on the weekends. Craving some fried chicken after a few visits to the downtown clubs? Whole Time will hook you up. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Chicken Sandwich – $6
  • Chicken and Rice – fried or pan seared – $6
  • Chicken and Salad – $7.50
  • Chicken, rice and salad – $8

Facebook: Whole Time Chicken

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