Cartside on North Williams

Restaurants scrambled to build outdoor dining patios when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year. But Portland’s food cart pods are no strangers to handling winter weather. Behold, our running list of covered, and occasionally heated, food cart pods—organized by quadrant—and our picks for where to eat and drink at each of those pods. This is far from exhaustive. Don't worry, we'll keep eating—and adding.

NE Portland

The Barley Pod (6035 NE Halsey St)

Heated: No

Covered: Yes

Anchored by Baerlic Brewing’s Northeast expansion in the center, this pod’s strength is not just the ample walking space between carts, but the cuisine curation. Everyone will find something they want to eat: burgers at Bam Pow, Korean fare at Namu, fried chicken at Flew the Coop … not to mention Thai, pizza, ramen, Mexican. Baerlic’s indoor taproom has been temporarily converted to a makeshift retail store. Unfortunately, a major downside is that the pod’s permitting does not allow diners to actually drink Baerlic’s canned beers at the picnic tables. Hopefully that changes. —MP 

Piedmont Station Food Carts (625 NE Killingsworth St)

Heated: Yes (partial)

Covered: Yes

Piedmont Station offers food options and seating options for everyone. Stop by Dönerland PDX for an outstanding example of the döner kebab, stuffed with the classic spit-roasted lamb-beef blend or with chicken, garnished with fresh veggies and yogurt sauce, and served on fresh, cart-made bread. Falafel and döner salads are also on offer. Other highlights include Bella’s Cravings, serving a variety of meat and veggie kebabs, vibrant salads, and sabzi (spinach stew over rice); The Original Halibut’s, serving up fish and chips and clam chowder; and Hapa Howie’s, dishing Hawaiian plates like mochiko chicken and kalua pig with rice and mac salad. There’s also a cart serving beer, wine, and cider, and a coffee cart. Sit at the uncovered tables scattered throughout the pod, in the main covered and heated seating area next to the life-size masked Blues Brothers figures, or in one of the very cute but perhaps not adequately ventilated four-walled “outdoor” seating areas. —KH

Rocket Empire Machine (6935 NE Glisan St)

Heated: No

Covered: Yes

Portland’s wildest developer, Kevin Cavenaugh (The Zipper, Treefarm, Fair-Haired Dumbbell), opened this NE Glisan food court on the outskirts of Montavilla midpandemic. Foodwise, the second location of mini-pie maker Pie Spot is the recognizable draw, but the sleeper hit is Sea & River Sushi, where some of the city’s best Burmese food hides in a very solid sushi menu. (Try the instantly habit-forming Nan Gyi Thoke, or chicken noodle salad.) Gigantic Brewing’s second location (a.k.a. “The Robot Room”) is here with 20 taps and a brand-new mounted TV that’s waiting for a Timbers game to broadcast. SOON. —MP

Rose City Food Park (5235 NE Sandy Blvd)

Heated: No

Covered: Yes

Choose from brisket plates, momos, Guamanian fiesta plates, and more.

Just off of Sandy lies this pod boasting one of widest ranges of cuisines in the city. At Skidbladnir, pick up Celtic comfort food made with local produce, ranging from lamb sandwiches to Oregon seafood chowder. Stop by La Taquiza Vegana for vegan jackfruit birria tacos, al pastor tacos made with soy curls, and vegan horchata. Visit Chochu Local for Guamanian chicken kelaguen, and head to Bark City BBQ for brisket, ribs, and bacon-jalapeño mac and cheese. Along with a rotating selection of Oregon beers on tap from Adda Beer, this pod also boasts two covered seating areas: one with two picnic tables and another with four picnic tables. —KH

North Portland

Cartside PDX (1825 N Williams Ave)

A couple enjoying the #17, so duk kim, from Ko Sisters at Cartside PDX

Heated: Yes

Covered: Yes

Sandwiched between Broadway Toyota and I-5, with an industrial zone/night market feel after dark, this pod opened during 2020’s warm months and installed overhead heat lamps to take the chill off the current season. Offering much more than meets the eye, what looks like just a cart or two from the street is actually a packed lineup offering a shrimp-in-brioche sandwich called the Nipsey Hussle (at Mumbo Gumbo), rich handmade pasta dishes (L’Unico Alimentari), fish cakes and more on sticks (Ko Sisters Seoul Food), and Thai, Mexican, Japanese, and Lebanese choices in between. The tables-per-cart ratio is very low, so be ready to take things to go if the six or so tables are all full, and be courteous: don’t linger over that draft from the beer window if someone’s waiting to spread out their feast. —MS

Prost Marketplace (4237 N Mississippi Ave)

Heated: Yes

Covered: Yes

Several of Portland’s superstar carts are all nestled in this pod off Mississippi: Matt’s BBQ, Burger Stevens (a contender in Portland Monthly’s Burger Cabal rankings), Little Conejo, DesiPDX, and popular breakfast pick Fried Egg I’m in Love. You’ll have to purchase a beer or other beverage from Prost in order to sit at one of its heated, covered tables—minors are also allowed until 8 p.m.—but we think that sounds like a welcome excuse to grab a beer with your lunch or dinner. If coffee or cocktails are more of your thing, you can also grab a seat at the (heated, covered) area in front of the Bloodbuzz cart, which boasts a full bar. —KH

St. Johns Food & Beer Porch (7316 N Lombard St)

Sit outside and enjoy a beer while noshing on a burrito or fish and chips.

Image: Margaret Seiler 

Heated: Not on a recent visit, through it's had fire pits in the past

Covered: Yes

Evolving from a project of St. Helens nanobrewery Captured by Porches! (its old beer bus is still the lot’s rather buried centerpiece), the St. Johns Food & Beer Porch spent the recent pandemic-related “freeze” as a Christmas tree lot and takeout station before reopening for outdoor dining. Carts can rotate, and they don’t all keep the consistent or overlapping hours, but options usually include best-of-the-city contenders Arlo’s Fish & Chips, all-day breakfast burritos from El Burrito Mojado, and Himalayan noodle bowls and momos from Little Tibet. Most of the spread-out picnic tables are under a large, open-sided tent or a corrugated metal roof, with sliding doors to the beer counter, where roughly a dozen taps guarantee a solid selection of largely local beer and cider, G-Man to Level to Queen Orchard. MS

NW Portland

Nob Hill Carts (1845 NW 23rd Pl)

Nob Hill doesn't offer heated seating—no problem when you've got a warm jianbing from Bing Mi in your hands.

Heated: No

Covered: Yes

This pod, nestled amid bustling Nob Hill, is jam-packed with tasty options. Highlights include Farmer and the Beast, which PoMo critic Karen Brooks and her Burger Cabal ranked #6 in the city. (Overheard at the cart on a recent Friday, customer to cashier: “We came here because of your high standing in the Burger Ranking.”) You also can’t go wrong with a loaded duck jianbing, or Chinese crêpe, from Bing Mi, loaded with shredded duck, black bean sauce, fried wonton crackers, cucumber, cilantro, and egg. (Bonus: it makes for a great handwarmer on a cold day, especially at those unheated tables.) You can also grab Oaxacan memelitas from La Tehuana, and sip on one of many Oregon beer offerings from The Pour House beer cart. There are plenty of covered seating options, ranging from canopy-covered picnic tables to smaller, umbrella-topped tables for two. —KH

SE Portland 

Cartopia (1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd)

Heated: Yes

Covered: Yes

One of Portland’s classic cart pods still buzzes even through rain and a pandemic. Grab a cheeseburger from Bottle Rocketdeemed our #9 pick in the entire city by the PoMo Burger Cabal—with fish sauce tots, gorge yourself on cheese curd–loaded poutine at Potato Champion, or load up on wood-fired chicken with Peruvian aji sauce at Chicken and Guns. Various vendors also offer beer, which you can drink on site. —KH

Hawthorne Asylum (1080 SE Madison St) 

Heated: Yes (front half)

Covered: Yes

This sprawling food cart complex, which opened in February 2019, covers just about every cuisine you could possibly be in the mood for. Lebanese? Try the Pleasant Peasant. Thai? Check out Thai Thantawan. Mexican? Nom on something at Fernando’s Alegria. Classic American fare? You’ve got to try Dr. Philly Cheese Steak. There’s also Guyanese food at Bake on the Run, sweet and savory waffles at Smaaken Waffles, libations from “Bar Truck Beverage Warlord” Black Dagger PDX, and much, much more. Hawthorne Asylum, named after a hospital from the 1800s that served Portland’s severely mentally ill, is a go-to for picky eaters and friends with a diverse set of tastes. The center fire pit keeps customers warm while they indulge or get lost in the giant steampunk/graffiti-style/gothic-inspired murals. With social distancing measures in place, Hawthorne Asylum serves fewer than its usual 150-person capacity, but there’s plenty to eat and drink. There’s only one fire pit in the front half of the complex, but seats are covered all around, so best to wear your mask, put on something nice and cozy, and get to choosing what you’re going to eat. Don’t be afraid to take your time. —GG

Pod 28 (113 SE 28th Ave)

Heated: Partial

Covered: Yes

This pod attracts hungry Portlanders with carts like Saint Burrito, beloved for its burritos and yellowfin tuna tacos; Wolf & Bear's, known for vegetarian Middle Eastern fare like falafel and sabich; Egyptian Bros, with a fan following for its lamb gyro; Crave Creperie, serving sweet and savory crepes; and FOMO Chicken, dishing Korean fried chicken alongside gluten-free Southern chicken. The Captured Beer Bus offers a dozen local beers, ciders, and wines on tap. Note: you can enjoy the heat of the fire pit, or you can take shelter sitting at one of the pod’s four picnic tables under its large tent—but you can’t be both covered and heated at the same time. —KH 

Portland Mercado (7238 SE Foster Rd)

Heated: Yes

Covered: Yes

A heated, covered outdoor seating area with food carts sampling the various cuisines of Latin America? Sounds like paradise in Portland. Though the indoor area at the Portland Mercado is currently closed due to the pandemic, the food carts are still buzzing. Stop at Tierra del Sol for three different kinds of Oaxacan moles with rice and handmade tortillas, or become the object of envy of your table neighbors from six feet away with one of the giant tlayudas—a crisp, flat corn tortilla topped with bean paste, stringy Oaxacan cheese, avocado, veggies, and your choice of meat. Other options include Cuban cuisine from Havana Station, Peruvian dishes from Tita’s Kitchen, Argentine fare like empanadas and alfajores from Alecocina, and Venezuelan arepas from La Arepa. —KH

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