I am a faithful devotee of the Portland food cart scene. Food Carts Portland is one of my most referenced bookmarks. Admittedly my expertise is largely limited to those carts situated on the western side of the city. I frequent most often those carts located near SW Alder, between 9th and 10th Avenues. This preference is due mainly to Huong’s, a Vietnamese cart. When questioning what I might indulge in for lunch this is always my go-to option. And though I have tried different options on the menu, such as the phở and various noodle dishes, I tend to order the vegetarian bánh mì sandwich. Fried tofu, cucumber, tomatoes, pickled daikon and carrots, and sriricha hot sauce are all tucked into a crusty French baguette. It is delicious and a bargain for only $3.
Recently I opted for lunch at the Whole Bowl. The long line of hungry customers was immediately a good sign. The Whole Bowl is somewhat of an institution. The cart serves one dish in two different sizes. The composition is as follows: a layer of white rice, dousing of Tali Sauce (lemon-garlic “crack” sauce), layer of black and red beans, second dousing of sauce, cheddar cheese, salsa, black olives, avocado, sour cream and cilantro. A multitude of hot sauces allows one to customize the level of spice. It is a delicious and healthy combination of flavors, perfectly comforting but not at all heavy.
While I visit the Asian and vegan carts, Mao leans towards the more meat-centric food options. Euro Dish, a Polish cart, is a favorite of his and a typical meal consists of hearty stew and accompanying dumplings. More recently, he has visited Altengartz German Bratwurst. This Deutsch cart boasts homemade brats and various German side dishes. I am told that the sausages are delicious. The menu does have a vegetarian option made from chickpeas, but I tend to fear anything veggie shaped into meat form.
Another carnivorous option is Tito’s Burritos. Standard Mexican fare is available here, like eponymous burritos, quesadillas, and enchiladas. The tacos are the thing to get here, according to Mao of course, as I cannot speak from experience of the merits of Tito’s. $1.50 gets you a taco with a variety of meat choices. The chorizo and carnitas come highly recommended. Corn tortillas with a generous heaping of various meats as well as chopped onion and cilantro provide an excellent, albeit greasy lunch.
The food carts near SW Alder and 9th/10th Avenue are plentiful, but cater mainly to the downtown lunch crowd. Some stay open as late as 6:00 pm, but most only serve their wares between 11:00 and 2:00. Meander over to this part of town to try any number of the carts during the week.