Just in time for summer, I'm raving about food fit for dining al fresco: Portland food carts!
For years street food has had cultural importance worldwide, and it has become increasingly popular in the states. Exotic, sometimes unimaginably intricate creations are cranked out of the tiniest of kitchens daily. With all due respect to our fabulous chefs and restauranteurs, some of Portland's best cuisine is on the streets.
Some say the trend has been taken too far. Gourmet this, push the boundaries that... I say, the more the merrier. There are just too many carts to cover in a single diatribe, so I'll start with the goods in my 'hood, inner SE Portland.
Cartopia: Corner of SE 12th and Hawthorne
Potato Champion holds a special place in my heart.
This was my first foray into the world of poutine, and no other Portland restaurant can hold a candle. A Canadian favorite, poutine is a soul warming pile of fries topped with squeaky cheese curds and brown gravy. Potato Champion does a great twice-fried, Belgian style fry, poutine or not. You can go with the Belgians' dip of choice - and my fave- mayo. But even THIS gives you options. Pesto mayo, tarragon anchovy mayo, wasabi or chipotle mayo, Ay, caramba! Not a fan of the mayo? Their ketchup & mustard selection runs deep as well.
Hang out at this hipster favorite for other delectables like PB&J fries, featuring peanut satay sauce and raspberry chipotle jelly.
Whether you're in the mood for something sweet or savory, Perierra's crisp, thin, crepes have mountains of flavor combinations. My go-to dinner crepe is the meat centric version with Italian style cured meats, gruyère and spinach, but there are plenty of veggie or vegan arrangements as well. Bridging the sweet and salty gap is a Nutella and precuitto number (although they've skimped a bit on the prescuitto in my opinion) or perhaps the gorgonzola-pear-walnut . Desserts are abound with lemon curd, honey n' fig, plantain and Nutella ...... or may I suggest a shake? Inspired flavors like lavender-honey-cardamom and avocado are worth the calories the full fat milk instills.
Whiffies Fried Pies - Keeping with the sweet-or-savory theme, Whiffie's will see you through dinner or dessert, or both, if you like fried pies that much. The menu changes seasonally, and can include savory fare such as bbq beef brisket with mozzarella, chicken pot pie and mac n' cheese with bacon. Contributing to the sweet team, pies with apple and berries galore, peanut butter chocolate chip. In grand Portland style, vegan and veggie options are always present. The pie itself boasts a flaky and crisp crust, with enough density to partner well with the filling.
I munched on the pumpkin creation all last fall, and always enjoy the beef brisket - sharp and tangy, not overwhelmingly barbeque-y, and lots of gooey cheese. Pies are made to order and piping hot!
Pyro Pizza. Wood fired and delicious. Aside from having a giant, wood-fire oven, they've got an organic, sustainable waste not, want not attitude. Get your pie shroomed out, extra meaty, cheesey, vegan ... You'll wait the longest at this cart, and probably pay the most for a single item, but their caramelized onion pie is worth it. Loaded with fragrant gorgonzola, and topped with pistachios, also wood fired, enhancing the nuttiness. I am dying to try their handiwork with white truffle oil. The pie is simply prepared with with romano and black pepper.
Also present, a Cajun and a Mexican mission style burrito cart. I've sampled both and have not been back to either, so I will not be gushing on. I found Bubba Bernie's offerings to be a tad dry and under-seasoned, and while the burritos at El Brasero aren't bad, there are so many superior options in this cartopia that I've found no reason to return.
Party all night, as much of Cartopia is geared toward the after hours, drunk munchies crowd and is open until 3am. But beware, most carts are closed on Mondays, so options are limited.
Obsessed with Oregon "vino-culture"? - A great place to read about Oregon Pinot Noir.