Food Cart City

The Icono-Carts

Six carts that skip the gang mentality to stake out new ground

By Martha Calhoon and Rachel Ritchie With Brian Barker August 17, 2010 Published in the September 2010 issue of Portland Monthly

BEYOND the bazaarlike clusters of good eatin’ found in the city’s frenetic major pods, there are the go-it-aloners, the quieter clusters, and the sturdy pioneers of bold new pods-to-be. Indeed, at the rate they’re spawning across Portland, it would be best to keep your gate sturdily locked, lest you find someone serving up pasta, soup, or tacos a little too close to home. For the intrepid editors at Portland Monthly, the problem has been different—namely, keeping up (and keeping off what we’ve come to call cart-weight). As of press time, here are six of our favorite iconoclasts.

The People’s Pig: Porchetta sandwich ($8)

Oven-roasted till it’s practically turned to butter, the hazelnut-finished—and gloriously fat-laced—Tails and Trotters porchetta at the People’s Pig is swaddled in a fresh, powder-dusted ciabatta roll from Fleur de Lis bakery. A drizzle of lemon adds some zip, as do extras like pickled carrots, serrano peppers, and cherries. Believe us: you won’t make it back to the office without sneaking a bite. —BB

Wolf & Bear’s: Falafel ($6.50)

It would be easy to pass by this solitary scratch kitchen without a second thought. Don’t. Because unlike the bland, deep-fried versions of falafel that are all too common in Portland, Wolf & Bear’s version, composed of sprouted garbanzo beans, is carefully grilled.Neatly swaddled in a warm pita and dressed with roasted red peppers, eggplant, salad greens, and homemade hummus and tahini, it’ll ensure that you never pass by without contemplating a pit stop. —RR

PBJ’s: The Joy ($5.50)

There’s no substitute for the mood-boosting nostalgia of a good, old-fashioned peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. Especially when it’s “The Joy,” which comes grilled on soft challah bread spread with organic, homemade almond butter, creamy chocolate ganache, and coconut. Or try any number of PBJ’s savory options, heaped with toppings like gruyère, applewood-smoked bacon, or jalapeños. —Martha Calhoon

Namu Killer Korean BBQ: Pulled-pork sandwich ($5)

The sweet Korean short ribs and gingery kimchee here certainly warrant a visit, but the juicy, drippy, zesty pulled-pork sandwich will have you making a regular pilgrimage. The guilty pleasure showcases hormone-free Lonely Lane Farms pork, marinated for 12 hours, doused in a tangy honey-horseradish sauce, and served bursting from two toasted buns. The result finds a finger-licking balance between sweet and savory. —MC

NOTE: Namu Killer Korean BBQ has officially moved from SE 33rd & Hawthorne to SE 42nd & Belmont. 

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Built to Grill Gnocchi

Image: Avi Katzman

Eat This!!!: Black Angus brisket flatbread ($6.50)

You’d be wise to heed the chalkboard sign on SW Salmon Street that simply advises “Eat This!!!” And once you do, you’ll happily discover a Ristorante Fratelli alum serving up “globally inspired” flatbread wraps featuring rotating, made-from-scratch combinations like pork loin with cinnamon apples, or the decadent Black Angus brisket with parmesan creamed spinach. Following an order has never been so delicious. —MC

Built to Grill: Gnocchi ($6)

A simple whiteboard above Built to Grill’s window signals a new time zone: “We are an Italian Café, not a fast food trailer.” That means your steaming order of fluffy gnocchi must wait its turn on one of the cart’s two burners before being tossed in a white-wine butter sauce and garnished with sun-dried and roma tomatoes, roasted garlic, fresh basil, and shaved parmesan. Patience has its rewards—we promise. —MC

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