You would need to purposeful turn a blind eye in order not to observe the vibrant, trendy and lively food cart scene once you head into the heart of Portland!
Popping up in various blocks around the downtown core, the carts tend to situate in brigades, with no less than 3 or 4 food trailers whipping up signature dishes in one location all at the same time. One of the more cart-populated blocks is on Alder and Spruce, where up to 20 carts are eagerly serving up made-to-order gourmets daily. Some stay open throughout the day, others make ends meet during primetime meal hours only.
The culture of these carts is perhaps driven by the urban hipster-mentality that defines Portland’s current food scene. The demanding attitude for cart fare is unpretentious yet palatable, home-styled yet creative, urban yet affordable. The ethnic make up of these carts is diverse - a reflection of Portland's culinary appreciation of international flavours. The result is a competitive food retail scene that effectively serves the lunchtime working class and free-spirited urbanite; and of course draws in the curious tourists big time. Dishes typically run around $6-$8 US dollars, a price tag which gratuitously leaves the hipsters a couple greens for a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to wash down the food.
We spent the whole lunch hour there trying different cuisine. The less-than-traditional Korean Dak Gochujang
Bul- GoGi on rice was very inviting. The succulent chicken tossed in a sweet
and tangy sauce and stir-fried with onions and zucchinis, was served over a
generous portion of rice with a side of kim-chi and garden salad, family-style.
The dish proved to be more than filling, leaving me with some tasty leftovers
for afternoon snacking. Vietnamese rolls at a very reasonable price was not disappointing at all.
But of course, no one would want to have the sampling task done halfway,
coming back for dinner was a mutual decision. Upon our return for dinner, I chose the Pad See Yew from "Thai Palace". While the traditional version is served with thick rice noodles, this dish came with unsual - large, uncut sheets of rice noodle, stir fried with beef and various veggies such as bean sprouts and broccoli; then fused together by a light savoury sauce. Another eye-catching item was the ‘Build your own burger’ which we decided to come back for but the authentic Vietnamese Spring Roll wrapped in
rice paper instead of egg-roll wrapper was a delicious surprise!
Unquestionably one of the more desired and robust scenes in Portland these days, a freshly-made and aromatic order from one of these carts is a definite must-try on your list of Oregon to-do items. Deciding what to eat may be difficult, whether it is Asian, American or other ethnic dishes, but from my own sampling and review, I am quite sure most of them deserve a taste or two.