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Portland Is Food Cart City, 3 Portland Food Carts Not To Miss

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A food cart is around every corner you turn in In Portland.

Do you like food? Do you like to eat good food? In Portland there are no shortages of options for you to choose from and what makes it even more awesome is that the options range from established bricks and mortar restaurants with table side service to 100 square feet sized food carts parked anywhere there is a rentable space available. The food cart scene is off the hook exciting. If you thought that Vancouver’s growing Food Truck scene was amazing wait until you experience Portland food carts, it will leave your mouth open in awe. During my time in Portland I made it my personal mission to try out as many food carts as possible and I’ve narrowed it down to 3 of my favourites that I know you wouldn’t want to miss out on. 30 Days In Portland dives into the food cart scene and comes out full!

Marc eating a Hawaiian breakfast sandwich from Bruch Box food cart in Portland

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The food cart scene in Portland is slightly different than what you’d expect and what we have here in Vancouver. In Vancouver we have food trucks that are mobile and rent metered parking spaces from the city by the hour and generally visit the same location Monday through Friday, while on the weekends they roam and set up at various other locations where the crowds of people are. In Portland the food carts rent a permanent space in parking lots and don’t move. I’m sure there are food trucks that do roam around but I never saw one in my entire time in the city. The food carts occupy the space they are in and most of them operate 6 days a week at that location, I guess 1 day off a week for the owner is need to rest up. Come rain or shine the food carts are open for business and diners flock to eat at them.

Food carts in Portland

Portland food carts set up shop in parking lots and don't move

lunch time dining at the Portland food carts

Of all the food carts I saw 80% of them were open mainly for the 10am to 3pm lunch rush. A few open early for breakfast and a handful stay open late for the dinner and late night crowds. Portland is a lunch time food cart city and if you are downtown you have almost 100 food carts to choose within walking distance of each other. My favourite food cart location has to be the Alder Street Food Carts which has over 50 carts spread out over 2 city blocks. Located between SW 9th and SW 11th Ave on one side and Alder & Washington on the other this is food cart mecca in Portland and home to my 2 of my 3 must visit food carts.

Bruch Box

Brunch Box is located at SW 5th Ave & Stark St, however they have also opened up a bricks and mortar restaurant at SW 9th & Alder just a couple of steps away from the Alder Street Food Carts. For this post though it’s all about the food cart at SW 5th and Stark St. Just like the name suggests Brunch Box serves up their take on breakfast and lunch. Brunch Box is famous for making a burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches for buns, not for me today though. It’s only 9am and I’m looking for breakfast. Since I’ve just come back from a recent Hawaii adventure the menu item that catches my eye is the Hawaiian Breakfast made with Spam, Swiss, Pineapple, Fried Egg & drizzled with Teriyaki sauce. Doesn’t that make you want to say Aloha? To say it is good is like saying it’s messy, very true.

Brunch Box Burgers and Breakfast

Now Open Brunch Box

Hawaiian Breakfast from Brunch Box Portland

Marc eating a Hawaiian breakfast sandwich from Bruch Box food cart in Portland

Brunch Box on Urbanspoon

The Frying Scotsman

The Frying Scotsman is located at SW 9th and Alder and just guess what they serve up? Fish and Chips that would make any Scots or British tourists feel like they were back home across the pond. I met up with Sally Murdoch the wife of James, the man behind the fryer at The Frying Scotsman for lunch just to see for myself if they are as good as the reviews say. Verdict is in and OMG it is soooooo good. I had one piece of Halibut and one piece of Haddock plus chips British style, no french fries here! The batter was everything I could have asked for, crispy, full of flavour and inside was some of the moistest and most flaky fish I’ve ever enjoyed. Two greasy thumbs up for The Frying Scotsman!

The Frying Scotsman

Marc and Sally at The Frying Scotsman

James hard at work plating our fish and chips

Fish and Chips from the Frying Scotsman

The Frying Scotsman on Urbanspoon

Nong’s Khao Man Gai

Nong’s Khao Man Gai is located on Alder St at SW 10th and is more commonly referred to as the place you go to for chicken and rice. In fact that is what everyone who knew I was going to Portland said to me, “you must go to the cart for chicken and rice”. Guess what, here I am and yes I’m ordering chicken and rice. If you aren’t sure Nong’s Khao Man Gai serves up Thai cuisine and chicken and rice is a staple street food item. I order mine and take it back to my hotel to enjoy since it is raining out and I don’t want my chicken or rice to get drowned. It’s a pretty simple dish, sticky rice, sliced cucumbers, a light broth soup and plain cooked chicken breast. What takes this dish to the yummy spot is the little dish of sauce you get with it. Drizzle that over the chicken and rice and you have a dish that is full of flavour and a delight to eat. It’s Thai comfort food and I like it.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai food cart in Portland

Chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai

it's the Thai sauce taht makes chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai so tasty

Nong's Khao Man Gai on Urbanspoon

Of course there are lots more food carts in Portland that I enjoyed and that I think you should explore but these are the 3 I think you shouldn’t miss. Trust me it’s hard in a city that loves food carts to just pick three. If you asked me tomorrow I might have chosen a different three but trust me you won’t be disappointed by any of them. Enjoy the food carts in Portland, it’s truly a culinary adventure you don’t want to miss.

more food cart goodness in Portland Shwarma

I want to thank my sponsors Roam Mobility and GM Canada for helping me make this series possible. Roam of course for their awesome product to help me stay connected at a reasonable price and to GM for providing me with a sweet ride to make the road trip in. I don’t know what I’ll be getting yet but I’m looking forward to exploring and test driving a brand new GM.

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2 Comments

  • Kelly says:

    As a Portlander I can’t fault your three choices as they rank high on my list of best food carts. One note though: it sounds like you stayed in downtown. There are more dinner and late night food cart pods on the East side of the river. For example, Cartopia stays open past 2 AM. The foodcarts downtown cater to business traffic while the east side pods catch people for dinner and on the weekends.

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