Dining Picks

20 Food Carts that Define Portland Now

Find super-fresh sushi, quesabirria tacos, hand-pulled noodles, and more at the best carts in the city.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton

Customers pose with Kiauna Nelson at Kee's Loaded Kitchen.

Portland is undoubtedly America’s best food cart city, with some offering creative, cheffy fare, others capitalizing on nostalgia, and some hyperfocused on perfecting a favorite traditional dish. It’s no wonder that Portland got its own episode on Netflix’s Street Food USA this July, with three food carts featured (that also made this list). But if you’re struggling from decision fatigue, we can’t blame you—there are, after all, hundreds of food carts here. We’ve done the work for you, picking standout carts so you can enjoy the best food cart meals for solo lunches, casual dates, and impressing your out-of-town friends with the likes of wood-fired pork chopsube bibingka, and cheesy fried fish sandwiches on pandan buns

Baon Kainan


Baon Kainan's kare kare fries

Image: Thomas Teal

Portland Monthly’s Cart of the Year 2021 offers its own take on Filipino cuisine—tradition meets cheffy twists and updated ingredients in what owners Ethan and Geri Leung call ”not your tita’s cooking.” Come for straight-from-the-fryer lumpia stuffed with house-made longanisa sausage, a less acidic and almost buttery take on chicken adobo, braised beef kare kare translated on top of the shoestring fries of your fast-food dreams, mouth-puckering hot calamansi citrus cider, and fluffy, warm ube bibingka—an eggy, chewy rice flour cake—topped with toasted coconut that tastes like a marshmallowy cloud. 807 NE Couch St

Bari Food Cart


In this pizza-obsessed town, how do you take the doughy, cheesy staple to the next level? Just ask Bari-born Trifone Walter Ferrante—he goes by Walter—who serves a Southern Italian street food rarely seen stateside called panzerotti, essentially fried calzones. Fresh dough gets rolled out by hand and filled to order with tomatoes, cheese, and options including anchovy-caper (Ferrante’s favorite), soft spicy Southern ’nduja sausage, or our pick, the carciofi (artichoke). Then, it’s deep-fried until golden brown, where the dough puffs up and becomes crispy while somehow not absorbing too much grease. Magic! It’s airy, flavorful, and delicately crunchy—think Chinese fried dough stick or frybread. Cut open a panzerotto to reveal the stretchy mozzarella within, and don’t forget to grab a freshly piped, lemon zest–loaded cannolo for dessert. 5205 SE Foster Rd

Bing Mi


See why jianbing is a street food staple in China at this friendly cart, which folds giant savory crêpes, super-crunchy crackers, and savory fillings into a multifolded, handheld treat, cut in half and paper-wrapped. It's a year-round comfort food, perfect for warming cold winter hands or for chowing down after a summer hike in Forest Park. Each comes stuffed by default with fried won ton crackers, scrambled eggs, fermented black bean–chili sauce, pickled greens, and green onion. Add your choice of protein including duck, bacon, Spam, tofu, barbecue pork, or smoked Kielbasa. Loading it up with extra crackers and pairing with a warm date soy milk is never a bad idea. 1845 NW 23rd Pl

Birrieria La Plaza


If you’re going to serve a small menu, you’ve got to do it well—and it's hard to top this birria de res. This big red truck always has a line for its quesabirria tacos. Underneath those orange-stained, cheese-oozing tortillas is tender, juicy beef made according to a Jalisco family recipe, marinated in guajillo and pasilla chiles, then cooked for hours and served with a cup of consomé for dipping and drinking. Get the Plaza Plate, which comes with a regular taco, a quesabirria taco, a mulita, a tostada, and consomé to find your favorite combo of toasty tortillas and cheese, and be sure to add some of the cart’s sweat-inducing housemade salsa. 600 SE 146th Ave

Golden Triangle Asian Fusion


Lao and Cambodian flavors star at this Lents cart, where Sarah Singharaj cooks everything from scratch, right down to the toasted rice powder for her laab. Speaking of which, grab the lobster laab special right away when you can—it’s a delight of massive juicy chunks of lobster, red onion, and bird chiles, cilantro, and mint that she grows herself, with that rice powder adding a hint of nutty toastiness and texture. On the regular menu, the salt and pepper soft shell crab offers copious portions of crustacean, while the golden rolls—a Singharaj creation—combine turmeric pancakes and rice paper rolls with freshly stir-fried ground pork and crisp bean sprouts. 9320 SE Woodstock Blvd 

Kabba’s Kitchen


This Senegalese and Gambian cart is one of only a few places in Portland serving West African food, and it does so with excellent flavor and heaping portions. We particularly love the niambi ak ndiebe, chunks of chewy-crisp fried cassava with black-eyed pea tomato stew, with the option to add on a whole fried fish for just $7 (an obvious must-do). Equally tempting is the dibi, with juicy lamb grilled in mustard and sweet, caramelized slices of onion, sided by a simple salad and surprisingly good French fries. 4631 N Albina Ave

Kee’s #Loaded Kitchen


What other Portland cart has customers lining up before opening, even in the rain on a random Thursday? None that we can think of, and that’s because few can match owner Kiauna Nelson’s excellent cooking, flavors and portions and personality big enough to send you into a giddy stupor. The Loaded Everything plate includes a taste of every protein on that day’s rotating menu, fantastic fried “crackfish” catfish filets dusted with umami-loaded seasoning to brisket to wings. That doesn’t even count all of the sides like the famed Mac ‘n’ Kees made with Tillamook cheddar, or the textbook-perfect potato salad and baked beans. Nelson rightly believes that no meal is complete without dessert, so save room for the desserts like mammoth pound cake slices and wedges of chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting that come with every meal. 5020 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Kim Jong Grillin


This legendary cart has been a staple of Portland’s food cart scene for over a decade, and even today, it’s easy to see why. The bibimbox, which the menu rightly describes as the city's favorite hangover cure, translates the bibimbop experience into a cardboard takeout box. In the mix: crisp-chewy japchae, house-made kimchi, sesame bean sprouts, sliced mushrooms, lettuce, rice, a sesame-sprinkled fried runny egg, and a protein choice, house galbi to the snappy, juicy Seoul Sausage, a Korean BBQ sausage made in LA. Equally alluring is the KJG Dog, a massive, meaty Zenner’s sausage on crackly Binh Min bread with lightly pickled mango, bean sprouts, and a slathering of kimchi mayo. 4606 SE Division St

Kind Coffee


Some mornings, you don’t want a leisurely brunch; you want a cup of black coffee, a quick and portable bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel, and a cannoli for later, all served with a kind welcome and no-nonsense New York hustle. That’s where this Belmont Street cart comes in. The coffee is inexpensive and strong, the breakfast sandwiches are impeccable and dependable (especially the one combining gingery maple-flavored house-made pork sausage, gooey American cheese, and a fried egg on an English muffin) and endlessly customizable, and you can order them ahead for pickup in as little as 10 minutes. It’s perfect grab-and-go fuel for a day at the office or weekend adventures in the Gorge4255 SE Belmont St

Loncheria Los Mayas


Tacos and panuchos from Loncheria Los Mayas

Image: Michael Novak

Cochinita pibil panucho. That’s the must-order at this bright orange cart that sits alone in a parking lot with its own covered picnic tables. Two handmade corn tortillas get deep-fried, then stuffed with black bean purée while still hot. The pork is slowly cooked in a tangy, velvety achiote sauce, topped with slices of avocado and pickled onion. Eat it immediately: it’s a delight of texture, temperature, vinegar, and spice. The tacos on handmade tortillas are no slouches either, especially the carnitas, and for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, the spinach sopes are a great way to sneak some greens into your meal. 4212 NE Prescott St, 503-754-3059



Richard Le shows off the fish sandwich at Matta.

By day, power couple Richard and Sophia Le serve up childhood love for fast food through a Viet Kieu (foreign-born Vietnamese) lens with fish sauce cheeseburgers, Filet-O-Fish homages, coconut-glazed pandan doughnuts, and Sunday-only pork patty and hashbrown breakfast sandwiches—our favorite in the city—on house-baked green pandan buns. Dinner is Richard’s take on Vietnamese American comfort food, from Grandma’s beef stir fry with fries and Thai basil to pork belly in ginger-fish sauce to coconut milk-dredged fried chicken. 807 NE Couch St

Matt’s BBQ Tacos

Mount Tabor

Barbecue tacos on flour tortillas

The only way to make some of Portland’s top barbecue even better? Put it in a taco, all built upon a lard-laden fresh flour tortilla—a rarely seen carb in this city. Chopped brisket and sliced pork belly, both topped with pickled onions and guacamole, are easily must-orders, as is the migas taco melding together eggs and tortillas—a breakfast favorite now available all day. 2216 SE 50th Ave

Merendero Estela


This cart off 82nd serves a small yet mighty menu of Honduran dishes, our favorite being the humble baleada: a thick handmade flour tortilla charred until spotty and flaky, smeared with mashed red beans, fresh cheese, and sour cream. Or upgrade to the special baleadas, loaded with  avocado slices and tender scrambled egg, plus your choice of meat (may we suggest the  juicy, charred carne asada?). But the pollo con tajadas is another close contender—a super-crisp, succulent fried quarter chicken topped with pickled red onions, mayo-laden cabbage salad, and paired with thinly sliced fried green plantain. Grab drinks, too, like a cinnamon-laden, not-too-sweet horchata, or thick, comforting atole flavored with fresh cheese. 7107 SE 82nd Ave

Mole Mole


What can’t you find at this Alberta Street cart? Not much, is the answer. Enchiladas, check. Pollo en mole—green or red? Yup, both. Tacos, burritos, and tortas, of course. Soups, too, and a whole menu of aguas frescas, and plates of seafood and an entire selection of plant-based options, vegan tinga to soy curl mole. Usually, with a menu this big, there are bound to be hits and misses, but everything we’ve tried so far has been stellar. Standouts include chicken in green mole, a tangy pumpkin seed sauce; roast cauliflower with sikil pak and pumpkin seeds; and soups including the comfort food standby of red pozole with pork, as well as the beefy, bacon-laden hard-to-find Jaliscan soup, carne en su jugo. Everything comes on real ceramic plates—ones lovingly hand-painted in Mexico with the cart’s name on them—and even the aguas frescas, especially the agua verde blending cucumber and honeydew, are handmade with care. 2231 NE Alberta St

Momo House

Rose City Park

Out of Portland’s many momo food carts and restaurants, this is our favorite for the comforting, must-have Tibetan-style cool-weather dumplings. Handmade dumpling wrappers are thick and chewy, and fillings are delightful, from the juicy celery-beef momo to the veggie momo stuffed with buttery mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots. Get them steamed or panfried to experience their full range of textures. But it would be a mistake to stick to momo alone—try the chilli chicken, which takes cues from Indian and Chinese cuisine to create bright-red, fiery bites of lightly breaded and fried chicken, served alongside fluffy fried rice. 5235 NE Sandy Blvd



A spread of wood-fired food from Ruthie's, including the essential Grandma's rolls

Image: Thomas Teal

Combine comfort food from a Utah Mormon grandmother named Ruthie, a do-it-yourself ethos, seasonal Oregon produce, and a wood-fired oven, and you have the recipe for this standout cart, tucked in a hidden alley. The Grandma’s rolls are sweet, chewy, and light, baked to a golden brown in the wood oven; they makes the perfect base for rockfish sliders. Or order anything with pork, like the standout coppa with roasted peaches and Padrón peppers we scarfed down last summer. Everything has wood-fired flair, even the salads, which might sport oven-baked popped sorghum and cornbread atop peak-sweetness corn and tomatoes. Catch the guys at Ruthie’s on days when they play it a little silly, like with a Valentine’s Day special of shokupan with dino nuggets, ranch powder, and caviar. 3634 SE Division St

Sorbu Paninoteca


Sorbu’s thing is to make extremely simple dishes staggeringly delicious. The signature cinque e cinque (“5 and 5”)—cart-baked sourdough focaccia stacked with crispy chickpea pancakes and sweet and tender marinated eggplant, and literally nothing else—is one of the most dynamic, satisfying vegan sandwiches in town. The secret, no surprise, is product quality and heirloom recipes. Aurelia Galimberti, who runs the cart with her husband, Chris Ericsen, and his brother Johnny, brings many of the recipes from her Tuscan childhood. Pork belly from Canby’s Revel Meat Co, rolled into porchetta and served on ciabatta slicked with anchovy mayo and a caper-heavy salsa verde, is the cart’s other mainstay. The rest of the slim, focused menu changes biweekly. And perhaps most importantly, they serve espresso. 5011-B NE 42nd Ave —Matthew Trueherz

Stretch the Noodle


Grab handmade noodles for lunch downtown at Stretch the Noodle.


Downtown Portland’s greatest cart draws lines every weekday for its handmade noodles. The repertoire stretches from the wide hand-ripped biang biang noodles in chile sauce and black vinegar to the carefully folded dumplings with pork, whole shrimp, and corn, complete with shrimp tails poking out of the wrapper. Go right when opening or just before closing to cut down on your wait, though it’s well worth your time—you’ll likely get two meals out of a single order. 223 SW Washington St

Tito’s Taquitos


Tucked in the parking lot of a 76 gas station, you’ll find some of Portland’s best tacos and taquitos here. The taquitos are stuffed with tender potatoes, then rolled in handmade corn tortillas and deep-fried. Top them with the likes of slow-braised beef birria or shrimp, or choose from seasonal vegetarian options like chickpea al pastor, mushroom asada, or hibiscus flowers. Tacos are equally satisfying, with thick corn tortillas and a rainbow of handmade salsas to pour over the top. Don’t skip the tres leches cake, a strawberry shortcake-esque take with fresh mixed berries. 3975 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy



A spread of sushi from Yoshi's—the best cart in town that can also smash most brick-and-mortar sushi restaurants.

This is not just Portland’s best sushi cart—Yoshi’s can smack down most of the city's brick-and-mortar sushi restaurants, too. The fish is pristine, and chef Yoshi Ikeda adds subtle flavor boosts that put this sushi over the top. The seared sea scallop nigiri is buttery and tender, dotted with zippy yuzu marmalade, while the salmon gets dabs of ginger miso and microgreens. The lime green roll, a creation of sesame spinach, avocado, cucumber, and more, is a fish-free flavor bomb, while vegetarians can also grab stellar inari, shiitake nigiri, or spicy jackfruit rolls. Portlanders are in on the secret. So heads up: no walk-up orders. Call starting at 10 a.m. for pickup later that day. 3530 SW Multnomah Blvd

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