Best New Restaurants 2019

2019’s Cart Standouts Were All About the Meat and Potatoes

The year belonged to Austin barbecue, Tex-Mex tacos, and chicken n’ jojos.

By Kelly Clarke, Benjamin Tepler, and Ramona DeNies October 18, 2019 Published in the November 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

Matt’s BBQ Tacos

“The lady on the plane said this was the place to be,” whispers the guy midway in line as he and friends melt on the Hawthorne sidewalk on a muggy Sunday. It’s pushing 11 a.m. Matt’s BBQ Tacos is about to segue from breakfast to lunch. Fist-size, Austin-style migas breakfast tacos—the fluffy, cheesy, eggy scrambles mixed with house-fried corn tortilla bits and doodled in salsas roja y verde—beckon, as do lunch’s showstopping slabs of smoky, guac-and-pickle-topped protein. Morning to early evening, Matt Vicedomini’s tight menu offers the same pupil-dilating tender pulled pork, generous belly, nubby pink brisket, and heat-packed house sausage. Not to knock the headliners—the meats here, like at Matt’s original N Mississippi barbecue cart, are Portland A-list—but the true heartthrob might be the packaging: hand-pressed house tortillas made to order and coming in hot, air-pocketed, and with enough spring to launch a longhorn into space. 3207 SE Hawthorne Blvd —Ramona DeNies

Jojo’s pad thai fried chicken sandwich

Image: Courtesy Jojo


Does this city really need another fried chicken sandwich? Self-taught fried food savant Justin Hintze answered that question last fall, with a culinary mic drop. He started smoking, buttermilk-battering, and frying his own take on Portland’s go-to dish: a wonder of colossal crunch and ripple, deep in chickeny flavor thanks to skin-on boneless thighs, and creamy with sweet slaw and Duke’s mayo (a house obsession). You could exist happily on the cart standards—perfect smash burgers; craggy namesake potato wedges. But the specials breed true Jojo superfans: burnt brisket ends from cart pod neighbor Holy Trinity, chicken-fried and pepper relished; a steamed ham “grilled cheesy kinda thing” inspired by fast food blogger Bill Oakley; or sensory-smacking “Pad Thai jojos,” pop-rocketing with vinegary pickled Thai bird chiles, Thai basil, and an unholy deluge of fish sauce caramel and sambal mayo. Witness the menu evolve in real time on Jojo’s delightfully unhinged social media feeds, where dishes appear as characters in some long-running psychodrama and Hintze taunts followers as mere taste buds on legs. “It gets weird,” he laughs. Yes. And it is glorious. 3582 SE Powell Blvd —Kelly Clarke

Holy Trinity Barbecue

Holy Trinity Barbecue

Kyle Rensmeyer skip-runs from his makeshift smokehouse to his cart a few dozen feet away, precariously balancing a stack of 18-inch-long short ribs in his rubber-gloved hands slicked with brisket fat. Five minutes after Holy Trinity opens, a line already snakes outside of Rensmeyer’s royal blue cart, which opened in May, sparking debate over which PDX food cart serves the best Texas barbecue. They’re here for Rensmeyer’s meats, styled after Austin legend Aaron Franklin, smoked over Oregon white oak for 14 hours. Most come for “The Trinity,” a heaving, $22 platter: ubertender, rose-ringed brisket, simply seasoned with salt and pepper; thick pork ribs; and snappy Czech-style sausage. (Never mind the sides, which range from underseasoned pinto beans to uninspired slaw.) Whatever the alchemy behind Rensmeyer’s seemingly simple meat-craft, it’s a winning formula: for our money it’s one of the best spots, if not the best, to get Texas barbecue in the city. 3582 SE Powell Blvd —Benjamin Tepler

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