RUA

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RUA

RUA

Location: SW 9th and Washington
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11:30-6pm; Sun, 11:30-4pm

The Story: Jason Myers is back with some mouthwatering Vietnamese cuisine at his new food cart Rùa.

Jason Myers first arrived in the food cart scene a couple of years ago with his Sideshow cart serving up beignets, Belgian fries and poutine, sandwiches and his famous fancy burger. Yet, it wasn’t enough for him and one night, the idea of doing Vietnamese inspired cuisine came to him in a dream. He took a couple of weeks last fall and visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to explore and take culinary classes. Upon his return, he closed Sideshow, bought a new cart and in March, launched Rùa. Rùa means turtle.

Saigon Fried Chicken Banh Mi from Rua

Saigon Fried Chicken Banh Mi from Rua

At Rùa, you find Vietnamese and South East Asian inspired food with Jason’s approach.  I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying both the pork meatball and the Saigon Fried Chicken banh mi sandwiches. With a crisp and crunchy baguette from Pearl Bakery, they layer pickled carrots, jicama, cucumber, cilantro and sriracha mayo along with good sized chunks of the Saigon fried chicken which comes out crisp with a sweet and spicy tang. The detail for the sandwich was astounding – the carrots are hand shaved and each leaf of cilantro picked off the stem. The veggies along with the chicken melded together brilliantly with every bite. Oh, and that baguette? A work of art. You can also get the Saigon Fried Chicken as it’s own meal.

Rùa is one of the newest vendors on the block and brings us yet another new taste to the ever evolving street food landscape that is the Alder pod. I’m glad to see Jason’s new concept is gaining followers. Keep an eye out for specials as they tweak the menu and try new things. Drop on by, they’re open every day and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Banh Mi sandwiches – Pork Belly, $8; Saigon Fried Chicken, $7; Pork Meatball, $7; Tofu, $6
  • Saigon Fried Chicken – a la carte, $6; with spicy arugula and cucumber salad, $8
  • Green Papaya Salad – $6

Website: RuaPDX.com
Twitter: @RuaPDX
Facebook
Rua PDX

El Pilon Colombian Food

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El Pilon Columbian Food

El Pilon Colombian Food

Location: SW 2nd and Oak
Hours: Weekdays, lunchtime

The Story: As an eater and street food fan, I’ve eaten at more than 500 different carts throughout the city. There are few who truly surprise me, force me to stop and find a place to sit down, maybe a curb or park bench. El Pilon Colombian Food did just that. They served a dish that gave me pause, a pause to enjoy every bite.

El Pilon Colombian Food has been around for a couple of years. The owner, Fernando Montagut, came to America with years of experience in architectural design, yet was unable to find employment in the field. Knowing he needed to provide for his family, he pursued his passion – cooking -and launched his business as a food stand at a local farmers market. Fernando knew he wanted to grow beyond the stand, so secured a food cart on SW 2nd and Oak and with the help of Kiva.Org who provided a micro-loan, was able to upgrade equipment and produce his menus and marketing materials. The menu is unique telling the eater about each dish and its place in Colombian culture. The descriptions alone will make your mouth water.

Patacones from El Pilon Columbian Food

Patacones from El Pilon Colombian Food

El Pilon offers traditional Colombian street food in the form of empanadas, arepas, pan de yuca and their signature dish, patacones (pa-ta-con.) Patacones are traditional side dishes served in South America and Colombia. Fernando uses plantains to create a bowl that is fried twice before the goodies are added. Imagine a flower with cheese at the bottom topped with shredded beef and a thin slice of red pepper. For one, a beautiful presentation and two, it tastes sublime. The plantain is semi-sweet, so with the savory meat and cheese, he creates a memorable combination. Truly one of the most unique dishes I have found in awhile.

El Pilon brings Colombian food to Portland, a city with only a few South American street food options. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying the empanadas and patacones and look forward to the arepas and salpicon, a fruit cocktail. If you’re a food cart fan, this is the cart you need to put on your bucket list. A special find. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Arepas – meat, chicken, cheese, egg, vegetables – $3.99-$4.60 depending on ingredient
  • Empanadas – chicken, cheese or meat – $2
  • Patacones – chicken, cheese, meat or hogao, a tomato and onion sauce – $4.60
  • Salpicon – fruit cocktail – $2.50

Maine Street Lobster Company

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Maine Street Lobster Company Portland

Maine Street Lobster Company Portland

Location: SE 82nd and Harney, Cartlandia
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11:30-7:30; Sun, 12-5

The Story: The Pacific Northwest has some amazing seafood – salmon, fresh lake trout, dungeness crab, oysters, geoduck – you name it, we got it and we love it. What we don’t have is lobster, one of the most famous seafood dishes in the nation. When people spy it on a menu, they pounce. Others ship it in from afar for special dinners. Now, from the glory of a food cart, you can get Maine lobster prepared a few different ways. I give you Maine Street Lobster Company.

Maine Street Lobster Company is located at Cartlandia in SE Portland along with a number of other vendors and a beer garden. Owners Cathy and David came to Portland this summer from Georgia which explains the po’ boys on the menu. They knew they wanted to open a food cart in Portland, so packed up their gear and headed west. It was along the route they brainstormed and came up with the lobster concept and menu. Trained chefs who know their way around a kitchen, they wanted to do something no one else was doing. Seafood isn’t that well represented throughout the city, especially the storied lobster, so here we are. Maine Street Lobster Company was born and brings in lobster overnight on a regular basis. David joked, “UPS is pretty awesome for that.”

Lobster Roll from Maine Street Lobster

Lobster Roll from Maine Street Lobster

At the cart, you can enjoy lobster bisque or clam chowder to warm you up or go right for the lobster in the form of hot or chilled roll or po’ boy style. I chose traditional – Maine Lobster Roll – hot and buttery with lobster sauteed in butter, lemon and herbs atop a buttery toasted New England style split top bun. Buttah! Such a beautiful presentation and lousy with flavor. Lobster is one of those seafoods you feel guilty enjoying. The bacon of the seas. I wanted to save part of the sandwich to share, but couldn’t put it down. It is best enjoyed hot.

Maine Street Lobster joins a small group of vendors in town serving an item no one else has. If you’re a lobster fan, you need to visit Cathy and David and drench yourself in butter. Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner. Let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Maine Street Lobster Roll – $14
  • Down East Lobster Roll – lobster chilled in light mayo and herb dressing served on New England split top bun – $14
  • Lobster Slider – hot or chilled – $5
  • Po’ Boy – with our without lobster – $10-14
  • New England Clam Chowder – $5-7
  • Lobster Bisque – $6-8

Website: MaineStreetLobsterCompany.com
Facebook: Maine Street Lobster Company
Twitter: @MaineStLobster

Hapa Ramen

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Hapa Ramen Portland

Hapa Ramen Portland

Location: SE 50th and Division, A la Carts Food Pavilion
Hours: Tues-Sun, 11am-2:30 and 5-8pm

The Story: A couple of years ago, Japanese Ramen took the nation by storm. I’m not taking the ramen we ate in college, I’m talking rich creamy, fatty pork broth with noodles and thinly sliced green onions. Portland jumped right in, launching numerous restaurants and even attracting a Japanese firm to open a food cart. Now that we’ve all been able to enjoy this velvety dish, we may have our favorites. I would like to add someone new to the list – Hapa Ramen.

Hapa Ramen opened in October and has been working out the kinks of preparing and serving the hot dish from a food cart. The owners, Michael and Sara grew up on ramen in Hawaii, yet couldn’t find similar dishes here in Portland, so decided to make their own. You may know Michael as he has been a fixture at 808 Grinds for a few years before venturing off on this new project. Sarah though is who gets the credit for the recipes according to Michael. They both have visited numerous ramen shops throughout the city and beyond to taste the different styles and interpretations. Sarah trained up with a ramen chef and has been experimenting with different broths and styles to get the offerings just right. In Japan, there are more than 14 different styles and each chef puts their twist on the traditional recipe. Sarah and Michael have done just that at Hapa Ramen.

Shaka Bowl from Hapa Ramen Portland

Shaka Bowl from Hapa Ramen Portland

Hapa offers Shoyu Ramen, a classic; Miso Ramen, a sweet option that can be done vegetarian; and Curry Ramen which is spicy – each with their own unique flavors. It is the Shaka Bowl which caught my eye and Michael recommended. The bowl comes from a traditional Tsukemen Ramen style, yet Michael and Sarah thought that may be too much for customers to say, so they shortened it to Shaka! “Eat this blazing hot,” Michael said. With the pork belly broth served in one bowl and fresh egg noodles, shiitake and egg in another, chopstick the noodles into the flaming broth and slurp. Yep, slurp. The broth is fatty, creamy, almost thick, but not. Made over the course of 8-10 hours to break down the pork, it leaves a fantastically lovely lardy film on your lips. The egg noodles were amazing, a brand used by most if not all the ramen houses out there. Michael and Sarah, while putting their own little love into each dish, don’t stray too far from tradition.

I’m excited to have another ramen cart open in Portland, yet wish it were closer to my house. I’m selfish that way. Hapa Ramen is open daily except for Mondays and serves up lunch and dinner. They take an afternoon break to prep for the dinner hour. As winter arrives, their hours may change, so check their website or Facebook or give them a call to make sure they are open. Hapa Ramen does ramen right. Drop on by and let them know Food Carts Portland sent ya.

Sample Menu:

  • Shoyu Ramen – classic-  topped with cha shu pork, spinach, egg, fishcake and nori – $8
  • Miso Ramen – sweet – topped with cha shu pork, bamboo shoots, egg; vegetarian option – $8
  • Curry Ramen – spicy – topped with cha shu pork or ginger fried chicken, spinach, shiitake – $8
  • Shaka Bowl – $7.50
  • Keiki Bowk – kid size – $5

Website: HapaPdx.com
Facebook: Hapa Ramen PDX
Twitter: @HapaPdx
Phone: 503.560.0393

Sea Verdes

Lizzy Caston

Seaverdes1

Location: N Vancouver and Fremont
Hours: Tue, Thu-Fri 11:30 am – 9:00 pm, Wed 11:30 am – 7 pm, Sat 1 pm – 9 pm, Sun 1 pm – 7 pm

The Story: For seafood lovers, there’s a saying, “If it’s from the sea, then it’s for me!”  Mussels, Tilapia, Catfish, Shrimp and Oysters make up the foundation for Sea Verdes’ menu, with a healthy dose of entree type salads, smoothies, and specials such as grilled cheese sandwiches, pastas and other delights.

Sea Verdes reminds me of those little beach side food shacks found in coastal communities such as New England, Florida, or Hawaii. They serve locals as much as visitors, and are usually a come-as-you-are affair for those picking up a nutritious dinner for their families, or hungry beachcombers who need some substance between hitting the waves (or the beach blanket).

Crispy seafood (choice of  comes dredged in cornmeal and unbleached flour and is flash fried – crispy, not at all greasy and the fresh seafood shines through. We tried the Oysters on our first visit: Plump and fresh, they were magically crispy on the outside and tender within – it’s all the richness and mineral brininess oyster fans crave.  For those looking for something not fried, there’s mussels and shrimp in a white wine broth,  an Italianate inspired shrimp pasta, and a Tilapia with vegetables and rice.  They’ve also recently added gumbo (in this case crab, shrimp, beef sausage, chicken and mussels to the menu specials mix, something  that might not be a traditional gumbo recipe, but has what my New Orleans friends call, “Da Flavor!”. Yeah, you rite, Sea Verdes.

Salads can make for a whole meal in generous portions – a textbook classic Caesar, or a Thai Beef blow anything from the local salad bar out of the water (pun intended). Yet for those in a salad bar kind of mood, there’s a mix and match choice of toppers such as Shrimp, salmon.

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Sea Verdes in N. Portland. Photo from www.seaverdes.blogspot.com

Smoothies round out the offerings. Located on the popular N Williams/Vancouver bike corridor – a smoothie would be a perfect pick-me-up on the way home from when you’ve just spent 1000 calories battling traffic and hills from work. I felt downright healthy AND decadent at the same time after finishing Sea Verdes’ Mixed Berry Smoothie – made with almond milk, dark cherries, bananas and mixed berries.

Owned and operated by lifetime Portlander Elsya Watkins, this talented chef, Portland State Alumni (Go Vikings!), and mother’s positive energy and commitment to nutrition is infectious. In Ms. Watkin’s own words:

I opened Sea Verdes because of North and North-East Portland’s food dessert. The lack of healthy and affordable places to go eat-out is a prevailing inconvenience for Portlanders. I serve fresh seafood, crisp salad greens an I make healthy and tasty protein green smoothies. My food serves vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and offers selections for the paleo diet.

Oh, yes.  A little bit of soul, a bunch of health, and a whole lotta love: Sea Verdes. Another great addition to Portland’s mighty food cart sea.

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Sample Menu:

  • Fried seafood (served with rice). Choice of Oysters, Tilapia, Catfish in small or large platters  - $5.50 – $13.00
  • Talapia (broiled -2 pieces), served with rice and made with basil, tomatoes, garlic and lemon- $9.50
  • Thai Beef Salad with lettuce and kale, tomato, red onion, yellow onion, cucumber, basil  -  $8.50
  • Salad Plain or with Salad  toppers (shrimp, salmon, Tilapia) or  choice of dressing  - $2.50 – $6.50
  • Tropical Sunrise Smoothie – Almond milk, pineapple, banana, oranges, grapefruit juice – $4.75
  • Kya’s House Cherry Lemonade – $2.50

Website: Seaverdes.blogspot.com
Facebook: Sea Verdes
Twitter: @SeaVerdesPDX

Phone: 503-933-5251

Email: seaverdesllc@yahoo.com

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