The differences between falafel sandwiches are subtle matters. ChickpeaDX, Israeli-born Yair Maidan’s food-cart experiment, delivers the shocking exception: with spice-mad formulas in every crevice, this sandwich is calculated to make taste buds reel with glee. To begin, a disc of grilled pita. To finish, salty drizzles of puréed mango pickles, or the chunky smolder of Maidan’s zhug—all garlic, cilantro, toasted spices, and green heat. In between, sink your teeth into layers of reverential tahini beaming lime and Sriracha; fried eggplant slivers; artful falafel spheres (shockingly light and herbaceous); pickled carrot ribbons high on orange juice and cumin; and tomato-cuke relish zapped with serranos and sumac. The sea has parted.
The ultimate expression of Portland gastronomy: an awesome, farm-fresh fried-egg sandwich on a hand-tooled bun sporting fresh garlic mustard and knee-weakening, sweet-hot jalapeño pickles from “the kingdom of the brine” (a.k.a. Picklopolis). To find this gem, hightail it to the Saturday Farmers Market, which kicks off again March 15. Duck-egg upgrade optional!
Bagel, Bacon & Raspberry Jam
This food cart’s hand-formed, rustic rounds bear surprising seasonal gifts like fat berries or raw asparagus pesto. One irresistible composition never changes—sliced halves, soft cream cheese, sweet-tart raspberry jam snagged from a local farm, a fistful of arugula, and two crispy strips of bacon. If the rabbi weren’t looking, you’d gobble one every day.
Carne Asada Torta
Meet the Mexican French dip. Chef Kelly Myers grills flank steak with adobo chile paste, simmers cowboy beans with bacon and serranos, smashes some heat into guacamole, then piles it all on a toasty telera roll glazed with—what else?—chile mayo. Chopped onions, cilantro, Salvadoran slaw, cotija cheese, and a fiesta of peanuts and arbol chiles greet you on top. Dunk the edges in “salsa de muchos chiles,” a manic pool possessed by five types of dried Mexican chiles.
Ham & Pears with Beer-Pickled Onions
Cliff Allen can’t manage a hamstring stretch inside his tiny downtown food cart. But Portland’s condiment king thinks big. Each generous sandwich holds a bounty of wood-fired meats and customized flavor boosters tucked inside homemade sourdough buns. The magic extends to a bourbon-glazed ham number paired with sharp cheddar, mustard, and the juice and pop of wide-sliced pears. Raising the roof: crunchy spring onions bathed three days in beer. At $9, it’s a squeal.