written by Julie Lee | photo courtesy of PDX Sliders
With more than 500 food carts, Portland has a lot to offer. We found five food carts for some of our most intense cravings—burgers, tacos, fried chicken and sweets—plus, an overall favorite. No matter your preference, food carts offer fast, fresh and affordable fare.
Best Burger: PDX Sliders
Recently recognized as one of the best burgers in the country by National Geographic, PDX Sliders is beefing up for a big summer. You can find these burger bites in Sellwood, or their mobile catering truck will come to you at your next event. Each slider is cleverly named for a Portland bridge: the top-selling Sellwood comes with bacon, Beecher’s aged cheddar, and caramelized onions; the Hawthorne gets fancy with goat cheese and strawberry preserves; and the Broadway, a Portland Food Cart Festival judge’s choice winner, is made with braised pork and baby arugula. Prices hover under $5 each, so try a few or try them all. For the carb free, butter lettuce can be swapped for bread.
8064 SE 17th St. | pdxsliders.com
Best Tacos: Tacos + Tequila
We’re going off the grid for our taco pick. While it’s more a pop-up than a food cart, associated with Three Degrees restaurant on the waterfront and for a limited time only (through September), our summer suggestion for taco cravings is Tacos + Tequila, also called TD’s. Sit at the ten-seat bar, or grab and go. Wood-fired tecate braised-beef short ribs, chile-rubbed albacore tuna, tequila-infused pork belly and charred king oyster mushrooms are centerpieces in some of the best tacos we’ve ever tasted. If you have some leisure time to eat on site, the Paloma de Tamarindo margarita is crazy good, with mescal, grapefruit soda and lime.
1510 SW Harbor Way | threedegreesportland.com
Best (Fried) Chicken: Boke Dokie
Many food carts, after logging success, open a brick and mortar. Boke Bowl did things in reverse. A ramen shop with two locations, Boke Bowl dominates the world of buttermilk fried chicken, so they took this specialty to the street with the opening of Boke Dokie at the downtown food cart pod on SW Washington. The fried chicken, an add-on at the restaurants, takes center stage in a sandwich at Boke Dokie, with gochujang sauce and pickles on a brioche bun.
SW Washington St. & SW 9th Ave. | bokedokie.com
Best Sweets: Donut Byte Labs
It can be argued that donuts in a pink box were partially responsible for putting Portland in the national food spotlight. Now, you can count the wave of gourmet donut shops on two sugar-coated hands. Donut Byte Labs combines two of the best things about Portland’s food scene—food carts and specialty donuts—and puts on a show while you wait. Miniature donuts are made by a “donut robot,” then decorated, glazed or infused with sweet creams and pastes, one at a time while you watch. It’s a fascinating process resulting in the perfect sized sugar splurge.
12 SW 4th Ave. | donutbytelabs.com
Best Overall: Nong’s Khao Man Gai
A top five list involving food carts or trucks is incomplete without mentioning the reigning queen: Nong’s Khao Man Gai. With humility and grace, Nong Poonsukwattana has taken the simplest dish, chicken and rice, added her special touch, and garnered the attention of nearly every foodie rag from here to New York. Poonsukwattana started the curve and stays ahead of it, constantly updating plans to include more locations, delivery service and catering.
609 SE Ankeny St. Suite C
SW 10th & Alder
411 SW College St.