Best Restaurants 2016: Carts We Heart

Portland’s 5 Best New Food Carts of 2016

Montreal-style pastrami to smoldering coconut curry, these are our new favorites from the fast-paced world of cart cooking.

By Kelly Clarke and Benjamin Tepler October 10, 2016 Published in the November 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Jook Joint

Image: Michael Novak

Pastrami Zombie

Ashland’s greatest food gift to Portland is this cart’s Montreal-style pastrami, the specialty at the Southern Oregon city’s beloved Sammich Chicago Italian shop: fatty, dark red, and deeply smoky after hours over smoldering black oak. Try it—as the Chicagoans do—in Reuben form, or capping the Sammich Burger griddled with ground Angus beef and special “Sammich sauce.” 5429 NE 42nd Ave, —BT

Boke Dokie

Boke Bowl, fast food edition. From the five-item menu, order the “chix sando,” with devilishly spicy fried chicken nestled in a soft, buttery bun with tangy kimchi-slaw. Don’t forget a side of caramelized brussels sprouts and cauliflower—a staple of the Boke mothership—complete with smoky bacon-flavored tofu and a fish sauce dressing. SW Ninth Avenue and Washington Street, —BT

Matt's BBQ

Hungry locals make a beeline for the parking lot of a pawn shop on NE MLK Boulevard all year long, thanks to this cart’s super-tender, white oak–smoked ribs and brisket. Psst: buried under Matt’s meaty slabs lurks a lesser-touted gem: a dangerously snappy jalapeño cheddar sausage, oozing saucy cheese and laced with sucker punches of fresh chile. Order it. 4709 NE MLK Jr. Blvd, —KC

Jook Joint

Ryan Ostler doesn’t do shortcuts. The Southern-fried Asian eats at the chef’s downtown cart are all-day affairs, from the long-simmered stock for his silky jook (rice porridge), fragrant with ginger and lemongrass, to the tender 12-hour-smoked Texas brisket he stuffs inside puffy bao buns. 530 SW 10th Ave,—KC

Straits Kitchen

This spice-simmering cart imports the heady flavors of “Straits Chinese” cooking found along the western coast of Malaysia. Dishes thrum with heat, tang, and shrimp paste funk, from a generous bowl of noodles in smoldering, turmeric-stained coconut curry to the Malay version of chicken nuggets—juicy bites marinated in eight secret spices and tossed with punchy soy-lime sauce. 1122 SE Tacoma St, —KC

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