The 9 Food & Drink

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Indian food cart portland

The 9

Location: SE MLK and Stark, Central Eastside Food Cart Lot
Hours: Monday-Friday, 10:30am-7:30pm; Saturday, noon-5

The Story: Portland has a number of Indian food carts – Taste of India, Real Taste of India, Indian Taste, Best Taste of India, yet when someone new comes along, with a catchy new name, they make the news. The 9, which serves a mix of Indian and Southeast Asian, has been making the rounds of everyone’s top food cart, so I decided to check it out.

Indian Food Cart Portland

Biryani from The 9

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Singapore. The farthest west (or east depending on how you perceive it) from home I’ve reached. Singapore boasts an culturally diverse food scene, which includes a large population of Indians. In Little India, I discovered cuisines, flavors and aromas I hadn’t seen before. Sitting at a Hawker market (their version of street food centers,) I spotted a young man devouring a pile of rice with chicken and veggies served atop a banana leaf with his hands. Biriyani. It became a go to dish for me when wandering the city. Fast forward to July in Portland and I’ve tried some of the biriyani offered at the carts, yet none have impressed me as what The 9 offered. The owners describe the cart as a mix of Indian and Asian, which bodes well for my first visit. The chicken biryani, a bed of moist stir fried rice topped with succulent chicken and fried scallions. On the side, a sweet chicken stock influenced by Thai and Burmese flavors. While offered a fork, I old-schooled it and ate freestyle, tearing off bits of chicken between my fingers and mixing them with the rice and filling my mouth. Simply the best. The broth. What can I say about the broth? I wish I could eat that every day – an elixir of spices and herbs. This is the biryani you’ve been waiting for in Portland.

The 9 is a gem. The Oregonian put them on their top 10 list for 2015 and I can’t agree more. Matthew Korfhage of the Willamette Week, one of my new favorite food writers in the city, jumped for joy after taking his first bite. I’m so glad to see them getting the press. As Matthew stated, go to this cart and spend money. Keep them here! Drop on by next time you’re in SE Portland and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Chicken Biryani – $7 for small, $10 for large
  • Vegetable Biryani – $7 for small, $10 for large
  • Roti and Curry – 2 pieces of wheat flour pan-fried bread with house made curry and choice of chicken or tofu – $7
  • Plain Roti – $1.50

Facebook: The 9

Chop Chop

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chinese food cart portland

Chop Chop Portland

Location: SE MLK and Start at Central Eastside Food Cart Pod

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

GO Cart

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GO Cart Food Cart

GO Cart Food Cart

Location: SE MLK and Stark at Central Eastside Food Carts
Hours: weekdays, lunch

The Story: A few years ago, I took a couple of weeks and sampled salad rolls at the different vendors downtown to discover the differences in how they were prepared. I hatched an idea – why not make salad rolls with steak or pepperoni or even ham and eggs. I crafted them at home for fun and enjoyed them immensely. The owners of GO Cart were reading my mind as they have opened offering up American Salad Rolls. Just my style.

I’m surprised that salad rolls from many carts weren’t just salad. Pork and shrimp were added. At GO Cart, that’s the norm, not the exception. At GO Cart, you get a traditional styled salad roll with rice paper and Napa cabbage, yet the menu offers up pulled pork, chicken, bacon, avocado and more as additions. Truly, savory, scrumpous salad rolls. The Blue Cheese and Cucumber with celery, radish, cashews and green onions exploded with cold and crunchy flavors. I sat there, truly enjoying the dry blue cheese notes wondering why I hadn’t ordered the pulled pork with dried cherries and pumpkin seeds. Oh well, there will be a return visit for sure.

Blue Cheese and Cucumber Salad Roll from GO Cart

Blue Cheese and Cucumber Salad Roll from GO Cart

GO Cart not only does the twist on the salad roll, they offer whole fruit smoothies as well. The list is chalk full of apples and oranges and strawberries and mangos. Salad rolls and smoothies. A great pair. GO Cart is located at the Central Eastside Food Carts on SE MLK and Stark. There are a number of great vendors there along with picnic tables and tenting to keep out of the elements. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Pulled Pork Salad Roll: cheddar, bacon, dried cherries, red bell pepper, green onions, pumpkin seeds – 2 for $5.99
  • Bacon Apple Spinach: carrot, manghego cheese, red bell pepper, smoked almonds – 2 for $5.49
  • Blue Cheese and Cucumber – $4.99
  • Chicken Bacon Avocado: red bell pepper, radish, green onions, blue cheese – 2 for $5.99
  • Roasted Tofu – spinach, radish, green onions, cashews, celery, cilantro – 2 for $5.59
  • Smoothies are $4.50

Casablanca Express

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Casablanca Express

Casablanca Express

Location: SE MLK and Stark at Central Eastside Food Carts
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm

The Story: Portland has plenty of options for Mediterranean cuisine, but at Casablanca Express, it comes with a taste of Morocco. From shawarma on the spit to lamb to Mezza salad plates, this vendor has it all. Open for lunch daily in SE Portland.

Facebook: Casablanca Express
Website: CasablancaExpressPDX.com

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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