Note: Since this street food trend is getting a little out of control, we're going to spend every Monday getting to know different vendors from all over. This week in Street Food Profiles, we scoot to Portland.
Name: Brunch Box
Vendors: Ryan Incles and Ariana Berry
Location and hours: Downtown Portland on SW 5th Avenue in a parking lot between Stark and Oak. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What's on the menu? Breakfast sandwiches, hot dogs, and burgers—some of which are strange.
How many years have you been street-fooding? Since March 2, 2009, so 0.475 years. Is that right?
Are you on Twitter? If so, how has it affected business? We are all up on it (@BrunchBox). People use Twitter to form mobs and then mob us during lunch hours. We like it.
Why a mobile business over brick-and-mortar? It’s like a convenience store vs. grocery store situation, just a different kind of service. Food carts are good stepping stones to brick and mortars but we’re happy in our little cart. Lower overhead and more customer interaction FTW, yo.
Typical customers? Man, it is just all over the map. Literally young, old, street people, business execs, blue collar, white collar, bike kids, locals, tourists, all standing in line together. We especially like the guy who asked for a heartburn everyday (a hot dog with mustard, apparently). Now we see him crossing the street and have it ready before he even has to ask.
Describe a typical day from start to finish. *Grin.* It may be somewhat censored:
- Wake up at 6 a.m. (it was 4 a.m. when we made homemade English muffins)
- Get to the cart, set up. More specifically, turn stuff on, do some prep
- Open to a small gaggle of sleepy but smiling customers
- Work our toned, chiseled asses off until 4 p.m., close the doors, do more prep. Our asses are big and soft, by the way. Job hazard
- Make lists to go out to re-stock supplies for next day.
What makes the food so special? Can anything like it be found in the city? We’re not from Portland but have much lurv for yer guys’ ability to go out and appreciate a five-star dinner dinner, then go home and scarf tater tots. You know what’s good! We think 100-percent certified Black Angus beef is good but we also think SPAM is good. We think Chimay is good but we also think PBR is good (but drink it in bars and risk being called a hipster). Then we use our kitchen management experience to keep costs low and pass on the savings. Everyone wants good food cheap.
Although we have some standard stuff and fairly typical flavor combinations, our menu was designed by asking, what are items we’d want to eat that haven’t been done yet in a Portland food cart? That’s how the YouCANhascheeseburger was born.
How would you define "street food"? Here in Portland it seems to be mobile food units worked by the owners and operators or their friends and family.
The best street food city and why. *Thoughtful face.* That’s hard to answer. Surely Portland is up there because the city welcomes carts and the “pod” lots are pretty unique. It’s just that we watch certain street-food-centric episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and feel very, very humble.
Your comfort food after a long day? Yes! The 12th Ave. and SE Hawthorne Blvd. cart lot is a comfort-food haven for the late-night masses. Lots of affection for those vendors.
Advice for an aspiring vendor? Kitchen experience and a little bit of business know-how come in handy. It’s not necessarily the opening of a cart that’s hard. Don’t underestimate the sometimes repetitive nature of daily operations. Bring something original to the table; never bite the flavor of somebody else’s menu. It can be a lot for one person, so having a business partner can really take a load off. Keep a sense of humor.
And if you’re gonna go, GO ALL OUT!