Gallery: Portland Street Food: 10 Carts We Really Love

  • Wolf and Bear's

    Jeremy ("Bear") and his co-owner Tanna (aka "Wolf") make the falafel with sprouted chickpeas (so it's gluten-free), parsley, onion, and lemon. The fritters are fried in the cart and wrapped in a warm pita with caramelized onions, roasted peppers, grilled eggplant, and tahini. All of the hummus and labneh is made from scratch, and the zhug (the spicy green chili sauce) is awesome. Sit at the picnic table outside the cart and they'll serve you a bowl of pickles and olives, imported from the Middle East.

    Wolf and Bears: 3925 N. Mississippi Ave

    Kirsten from Sugar Cube

    "Eat your Lardo sandwiches then come to me for sugar," said Kirsten Jensen, parked in the lot facing Lardo, a new sandwicherie (formally a cart). She's been baking from her wee convection oven for four years ("it's insane, I agree!") and recently published a cookbook (more on that here). After studying pastry in Chicago, she started her "one-woman band" and you can't help but love this woman. She bakes soulful sweets, labels them with adorable signs, and serves them on vintage plateware.

    Sugar Cube: 1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd

    Sugar Cube

    "My friend dropped off some Italian plums," Kir said, pointing to the plum crostata on the glass display. This flaky, all-butter pastry was so good, it almost made Maggie cry (tears of joy).

    Sugar Cube: 1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd

    Viking Soul Food

    Haven't you always wondered what vikings crave when they need a soul-comforting meal? Well, it's lefse (pronounced lef-suh). The delicate flatbread is made of potatoes, flour, cream, and salt, and it's the perfect starch vehicle for wrapping Norse meatballs or aquavit-cured salmon or lingonberries, or even just a simple swipe of butter and honey. Self-described as Portland's only Norwegian inspired food cart, and the cart has a name (Gudrun).

    Viking Soul Food: SE 43rd and Belmont; 503-704-5481


    Since April, Fishbox owner-chef Dustin has been grilling wild-caught salmon and steelhead that he buys directly from the Native American fishers along the Columbia River. For $9 you get three fish tacos (ahi tuna and mahi mahi are also options), which is a great deal given the generous size of such high-quality and nicely grilled fish. It sits on a bed of crunchy cabbage slaw tossed in a chili-lime vinaigrette with red onions and cilantro, drizzled with a squiggle of Sriracha sour cream. There's a nice amount of heat, crunch, and tender fish all piled on the thick, toasted tortillas.

    Fishbox: SE 43rd and Belmont

    Euro Trash

    After spending a year bumming around Europe, Charles Thomas came up with this menu; it's vaguely an amalgamation of Portuguese cuisine with a heavy Iberian influence and some of his Tacoma roots tangled in there. Really, it's just whatever "dope stuff" he feels like making inside the bright pink faux brick cart (likely with his sunglasses on).

    Eurotrash (2 locations): SE 43rd and Belmont; SW Washington St and SW 10th Ave

    Euro Trash

    So what exactly is Eurotrashy food? "Prawn Baguette" with Portuguese curry prawns, cilantro slaw, and curry sauce. "Na na" potato chips topped with chorizo or seared foie gras. We ended up ordering the "Fishy Chips" since we're big anchovies fans. The salty little fishies are breaded and fried in a bubbling oil bath, with their feathery tails still poking out of the deep brown breading. Be sure to squeeze that lemon wedge all over them, and dunk away in the creamy aioli.

    Eurotrash (2 locations): SE 43rd and Belmont; SW Washington St and SW 10th Ave

    The Frying Scotsman

    "Beer is not for frying, it's for drinking!" said the Frying Scotsman himself (James King) in his charming Glaswegian brogue. He drops some vinegar into his fish-fry batter instead of wasting perfectly drinkable beer. His other secret ingredient: turmeric, which gives the fried coating that deep golden hue, as well as a subtle curry flavor. Choose from halibut, red snapper, haddock, mahi-mahi, or the Scottish classic, cod. Served piping-hot from the bubbly fry basket, our cod came out moist, flaky, and achieved that fried-togetherness where it doesn't fall apart when you chomp off a bite. The chips are nice, too: double-fried wedges with soft potato-y middles.

    "Eye'm not Catholic but eye grew up eating fried fish on Frrrry-days," said the Scotsman. Even after trying some great fish and chips up and down the Oregon coast, Maggie and I couldn't get over these.

    The Frying Scotsman: SW 9th Ave & SW Alder St


    A pie cart called Honeypot, how adorable is that? And since they bake the (sweet and savory) pies inside the teensy cart, all you want to do is stick your nose through the window and huff up all the warm buttery aromas. Owner Mary Sheridan, who earned her pastry degree from CIA, opened this vintage silver trailer after moving up from Bend, Oregon, where she had a bakery.

    The "Pendleton" pie is basically a boozy chocolate pecan pie made with Pendleton whiskey and baked into a chocolate shortbread crust. It's as decadent as it sounds, and you should absolutely say yes when she asks, "do you want fresh whip cream on the side?"

    Honeypot: SE 43rd and Belmont

    Nong's Khao Man Gai

    Narumol "Nong" Poonsukwattana has become a bit of a rockstar in the Portland street food scene. She's been at the busy downtown pod at 10th & Alder since 2009, and she only serves one thing. Khao man gai. It's just chicken and rice, yes, but extremely tender poached chicken with fluffy jasmine rice and, this is the really important part: a ginger-garlic dipping sauce that you'll want to drink. It's ginger-spicy, fish-saucy, extremely garlicky, and makes everything it touches taste better.

    Nong's Khao Man Gai: SW 10th and Alder

    The Grilled Cheese Grill

    Bread + cheese + other stuff, like pickles, avocado, potato chips, artichoke hearts, fried eggs, and apples (not all at the same time; though you could). They have three locations now: one cart and two buses (a converted school bus and a double-decker). It's a happy place for grilled cheese lovers. It's also a little pricey for what you could make at home, but judging by the long line, people don't seem to mind. We ordered the Jalapeno Popper special: basically a jalapeno popper inside a grilled cheese with tortilla chip bits mixed in for crunch. Check out the melty Tillamook cheese stretch on that!

    The Grilled Cheese Grill (3 locations): 113 Southeast 28th Ave; SW 10th and Alder; 1027 Northeast Alberta


    People don't usually rave about Czech food. It's a lot of meat and fried cheese (not that we're opposed to either of those two things). But you have to czech out (hehe, had to) the "Schnitzelwiches" from Tabor, a red hut run by a Czech couple. Crisp pork with a juicy center with ajvar (red pepper spread), sour creamy horseradish, and caramelized onions in a soft ciabatta.

    Tabor: SW 5th Street Stark Street

    Wolf and Bear's

    Wolf and Bear's

    Funny/random story with this one: I first found out about this cart while traveling through Israel last summer and met the cart's owner's dad, who's a photographer in Jerusalem. "Next time you're in Portland, you have to try my son's cart." I promised I would, and then when I actually did, the guy Jeremy wasn't even there (sigh; anticlimactic ending). However, his pita sandwiches were very enjoyable, bringing me right back to those vibrant vegetarian flavors of Israel.

    Wolf and Bears: 3925 N. Mississippi Ave