Holy Mole

Mexican mole

Holy Mole

Location: SE 33rd and Hawthorne down the alleyway
Hours: Wed-Sat, 12-10pm; Sun, 12-6pm

The Story: Holy Mole defines authentic when it comes to Mexican mole. With influences from Puebla, Mexico, this food cart is dishing out items you can’t usually find in our fair city.

Fernando, the owner, hails from the city of Puebla, in the state of Puebla, Mexico, a hub of food culture. Puebla was founded in 1531 as a Spanish city and played a pivotal role in the history of New Spain. Located southwest of Mexico City, it became an agricultural hub for the capitol over the years. Famous for its cuisines like mole pablano, chiles en nodaga and chilupas, it has grown to become the fourth largest city in the nation and a hub for eastern central Mexico.

The signature dish at Holy Mole is mole pablano. My first thought was a dish with pablano chiles, but no, I was wrong. Mole pablano is mole from Puebla, the city. Fernando spent much of the last 10+ years as a chef at the Great Vow Zen Monastary in Claskanie, so has tailored his foods for both vegetarian and gluten free needs. A mole is a mix of some 30+ ingredients including peppers, spices, herbs and even chocolate. And all made from scratch. Some moles take hours to craft just right. I enjoyed the house special with chicken – truly an amazing dish. Each bite, the mole came through with a different more vibrant flavor- anise, smoke, cacao, salt, pepper. I hadn’t planned on eating the entire dish, yet couldn’t help myself. The scents from the cart and the dish waft through the alleyway drawing people in.

mexican mole

Mole Pablano from Holy Mole

Fernando’s goal is to introduce Portlanders to dishes they haven’t tried before. While Mexican, Holy Mole is different than most every other Mexican place I’ve enjoyed and that brought a smile ear to ear. On the weekends, he dishes out enchilada specials. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the future. Holy Mole is located on SE 33rd and Hawthorne down the alleyway. Open Wednesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner. A food cart that will make more than a few top 10 lists this year. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Mole Pablano – Chicken or Tempeh – $10.75
  • Pozole Blanco – chicken with organic yellow corn, white cabbage, onions, salsa – $8.75
  • Pozole Blanco – tempeh with organic blue corn, red cabbage, onions, salsa – $9.75
  • Enchiladas on the weekend vary – $9-10

Twitter: @HolyMolePDX
Facebook: Holy Mole PDX


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

Cheese & Crack

Brett Burmeister
Cheese & Crack

Cheese & Crack

Location: SE 33rd and Hawthorne (in the Alleyway)
Hours: Tues-Thurs, 11am-3pm; Fri/Sat, 11am-9pm

The Story:

On the way to a day hike, William and his friend stopped for some snacks. While perusing the options at the local market, they saw lunchables and in a fit of nostalgia picked them up. Later that day, they were reminded that lunchables are not that good, yet the concept of offering meats, cheeses, crackers and other goodies was born and Cheese & Crack was launched.

William Steuernagel launched his dream with a Kickstarter campaign, asking family, friends and others on the internet to help him raise $2500. Over the course of the campaign, he raised $4176 proving that people love their cheese, crackers and charcuterie. William has nine years of experience in the restaurant industry including owning his own catering company and running a small cupcake operation with delivery. Cheese & Crack is the next step in a culinary life adventure.

Cheese & Crack Plate

Cheese & Crack Plate

At least once a week we do cheese night. I visit the local specialty market, order chunks of “stinky” cheese and get a baguette or crackers and maybe an apple if in season. At home, the cheese is laid out on a board with homemade fig jam and some pickled things. That’s dinner. When I see cheese plates offered at restaurants, I order them to see what the chef has to offer. While eying the offerings at Cheese & Crack, I questioned whether William had been monitoring my eating habits because he was offering everything I dream of for a simple yet satisfying treat. To put together your $8 plate, choose between two different cart-made crackers then two items from the main category which includes cheese and meats like salami or coppa. Lastly, you pick two from the last grouping which includes olives, fruit or pickled things. William sets out to create your one of a kind dish and serves it all in a small pizza box. There’s nothing better than stacking Molinari on top of a seedy cracker and placing blue cheese atop. Bite in and enjoy the saltiness of the cracker and salami contrasting the dry, pungent cheese. With the selections available, you can create a hundred different combinations. If you just want to eat salami without anything else, you can! I did.

Menu at Cheese & Crack

Menu at Cheese & Crack

Cheese & Crack is bringing something new and unique to the cart scene. Along with the cheese and charcuterie, William also makes bitters and soda drinks with a large selection of bitters. Located in the alleyway on SE 33rd avenue north of Hawthorne, the cart offers seating in a quiet, secluded location off the busy street. Drop on by, grab some goodies and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu: menu changes often to offer choices.

Meals are $8.

  • Crackers: seedy or butter – choose 1
  • Cheeses/Charcuterie: Tillamook White Cheddar, Rogue Oregon Blue, Fromage Blanc, Coppa, Salami, Oven-Roasted Turkey – choose 2
  • Pickles and other: seasonal fruit, cornichons, pickled things, dried fruit, olives – choose 2

Hours: Tues-Thurs, 11am-3pm; Fri/Sat, 11am-9pm
Phone: 503 847 9553
Website: CheeseandCrack.com
Facebook: Cheese & Crack


Neza Taqueria


Location: SE 33rd and Hawthorne

The Story:

One may think we have too many taco trucks. By last count, 15% of carts are Mexican Taquerias. But is that bad? I don’t think so because each one provides something different whether it is better service, better chorizo, handmade tortillas or an item not on everyone else’s menu. For Neza, I think they provide SE Hawthorne something new – Mexican.

Neza Taqueria has been open now on SE 33rd and Hawthorne in front of House of Vintage or a few months now. In the same lot as Namu and around the corner from a few other carts, creating some stiff competition. Neza offers up a traditional Mexican menu with tacos, burritos, tortas, taco salads and horchata. They focus on their burrito options, offering up a few vegetarian options, including a spinach burrito with eggs, onions, rice, beans and sour cream. Lately, eggs and fresh spinach have been a treat for breakfast at our house. Put that in a burrito? Tasty.

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