Food carts hold a treasured place in the heart of Portlanders. With hundreds of food carts operating in the city, you can find every type of food you can possibly imagine (and quite a few you never would have thought of). Like whales and teenagers, Portland’s food carts love to hang out in groups (known locally as “pods”), which makes it easy to sample a wide variety of delicious treats.
For years, the largest downtown collection of food carts was the Alder Street pod. However, with the land it occupies slated for development, this pod is on its way out. Thankfully, you’ll find plenty of other pods around town (see the list below).
Every Portlander has their favorites, and any “best of” list is bound to spark a debate, but that’s not going to stop us from sharing our personal favorites
217 SW Washington St (Third Avenue Pod)
Bao buns (pockets of dough with fillings like pork in gravy and chicken curry), dumplings and wonton soup are the stars of the show at this downtown cart whose owners founded the business after bemoaning Portland’s lack of truly authentic Chinese food. We favor the pork bao buns, dipped as often as possible in their flavorful chili oil.
1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd (Cartopia Pod)
Stepping up to this decidedly rustic-looking food cart feels like stepping straight into a past – they’ve done a convincing job of conjuring a backwoods shack. One that specializes in Latin-American style grilled chicken. But our favorite dish here is are the crispy potatoes that are topped with a deliciously spicy Peruvian aji sauce.
4233 N. Mississippi Ave (Prost Marketplace pod)
“Indian spices and flavors that are blended with cooking styles from the West” is how DesiPDX describes their fare. Others – ourselves included – describe it in far more enthusiastic terms. Big flavors here. This cart is unique in that all of their dishes are gluten free, and vegan and paleo options are available. Give the sampler platter a try for a taste of this curry-forward cart’s best fare. Care for a beer with your meal? Prost, the pod’s namesake food cart, is on-hand to fulfil your wildest barely-pop desires.
1533 NE Alberta St (15th and Alberta pod)
Delicious hand-made pasta – some say that city’s best – served out of an Airstream by incredibly friendly staff. Their offerings change daily, but if you happen to see beef short-rib pappardelle or tagliatelle carbonara on the menu, we recommend you give them a try. In the mood for a glass of wine with your meal? Bring your food across the street to Devil’s Den wine bar (they’re all for it) to pair your pasta with one of their over 400 wines that are offered by the glass.
4233 N Mississippi Avenue (Prost Marketplace Pod)
Mention this place to anyone, and you’re like like to get an enthusiastic nod and stories of overindulgence. Matt’s BBQ has appeared at the top of citywide-fave polls. Their pork belly burnt ends are a personal favorite – and their jalapeno cheddar sausage is so popular that to get some, you’ll have to show up fairly early in the day.
3207 Southeast Hawthorne Blvd
A different location; a different mode of delivering Matt Vicedomini’s out-of-this-world Texas-style BBQ. Matt’s Hawthorne location combines brisket and pork belly with south-of-the-border offerings like guacamole and refried beans and serves them up on house made flour tortillas or corn tortillas made from Three Sisters masa. You can also get any of Matt’s BBQ meats on on a “fancy bun” with coleslaw and pickles. If you’re looking for breakfast, you’re in luck: the “Basic” breakfast taco comes with scrambled eggs, potato, cheese, and meat options, and their migas comes with scrambled egg, tortilla chips, pico de gallo, cheese and guacamole.
3927 N Williams Ave
“Southwest inspired. Portland made.” This off-the-beaten-path cart features weekly specials – as well as standbys like their Brunch Burrito and their Heavy Duty Quesadilla. Rainy outside? Not to worry: MF Tasty has converted a small shed into a cozy out-of-the-weather spot, complete with heaters and music.
625 NE Killingsworth Street
“Like a German gyro.” Yep. If you’re like us, you had no idea that this Turkish dish was so popular in Germany. Enjoy an order of lamb sliced from a roasting spit, served on bread that’s baked right in the cart along with veggies grown by the owners. Yum!
1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd (Cartopia)
Another one of those carts that has become a Portland institution, the specialty here is authentic Italian-style wood fired pizzas made from locally sourced ingredients. They even make their own natural sodas!
SW 3rd and Stark (3rd Avenue Pod)
Delightfully chewy, hand-stretched Chinenes noodles are the main attraction here, and the crowds around this humble cart are testament to their star power. Our favorite dish here is the Chao Mian with chicken and veggies – which features a huge portion of noodles and in a ma la pepper sauce – which packs a nice heat.
Food Cart Pods
While not all of Portland's food carts are located in pods, the majority are.
- Fifth Avenue Pod - 324 SW 5th Ave
- Third Avenue Pod - SW 3rd Avenue & SW Harvey Milk St
Portland State University
- SW 4th Avenue & SW College St
- Cartopia - 1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd
- Hawthorne Asylum - 1080 SE Madison St
- Portland Mercado - 7238 SE Foster Rd
- Cartlandia - 8145 SE 82nd Ave
- Hawthorne Blvd - SE 32nd Ave and SE Hawthorne Ave
- North Portland
- Prost Marketplace - 4233 N. Mississippi Ave
- Killingsworth Station - 1331 N Killingsworth St
- Barley Pod - 6035 NE Halsey St
- Rose City Food Park - 5235 NE Sandy Blvd
- 15th and Alberta - 1533 NE Alberta St
Of course, not all food carts call the same location home every day, and carts that are in business today may be gone tomorrow. For a complete list of who’s where, check out this handy list that comes courtesy of FoodCartsPortland.com.
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