There are a staggering 700 food carts in Portland. It may be the food truck capital of the known universe, though in this Oregon city they are stationary and organized in pods throughout the city. I’ll write about this unique food culture in more detail at a later date.
But for now, suffice to say there are some free-spirited, independent cart owners experimenting with some mad food combinations to come up with some amazingly creative, cheap, excellent cuisine. This may be the future of dining out, especially for frugal road fooders looking for something new and exciting. Needless to say, it’s worth the long drive alone. I may never leave this nourishing city.
Got time for only one food-cart breakfast and can’t decide between something eggy or sweet? At *The Egg Carton, enjoy the best of both worlds by ordering the Famous FoPo Christo, a combination of, get this, fried egg, bacon chunks, Tillamook cheddar, spicy mustard and strawberry jam, sandwiched between two slices of French toast. Believe me, it tastes a hell of a lot better than it sounds. The French toast alone, featuring thick slices of Texas toast, is more custardy tender than most conventional kinds I’ve eaten. And the jammy mixture in the middle somehow works. Trust me, just look at the picture and then order it. The Ronald is another popular egg-and-cheese choice along the same lines, this time with a cart-made sausage patty, an English muffin and maple syrup.
The Egg Carton
5205 SE Foster Road (Foster Food Cart Pod)
Thursday, Friday and Monday 8:30 am-2 pm, weekends 9 am-3 pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
I’m waiting for my margherita to come out of the wood-fired oven at the Pyro Pizza food cart. And I must say, it’s a wonderful, 12-inch pie, with a thin, chewy crust, fresh mozza and big basil leaves, all for a ridiculously cheap $7; I’ve paid three times as much for a lot less elsewhere.
Anyway, while I’m waiting, I wander around the southeast Portland food-cart pod and pass PBJ’s Grilled sandwiches. Not bloody likely, I think. But then out pops owner Keena Tallman. “I’m cute and little,” she says, in reference to her name. With a big personality. She’s soon talking me into the merits of grilled sandwiches featuring house-made nut butters paired with jams. While I feebly protest about my impending pizza arrival, she makes me a sample of her award-winning Oregonian—a medley of challah bread, Oregon hazelnut butter, Rogue Creamery blue cheese and house-made marion berry jam (duck is an add on). As I’m wolfing down this “my God, how can this be so good?” grilled sandwich, Keena passes me a little piece of incredible crispy coconut shrimp (it goes with the Spicy Thai sandwich). “Deliciously addictive,” the cart sign says. I’ll say. I’m nut butter in her hands.
SE 12 Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard cart pod (also at 919 NW 23 Street)
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am-7 pm