Spice Up Your Lunch Life, PDX!
Portland is known to foodies around the country for being one of the best places to find unique eats in a variety of casual settings. But still, when you eat out every day (let’s say you have an office job, or you’re visiting PDX for an extended visit), it’s easy to get bogged down by routine and familiarity. This list of unique Portland food carts will act as your guide to spice up your lunch life – so be sure to try any of the following winners on our list next time you need a change of pace.
1. Nong’s Khao Man Gai
SW 10th & Alder St.
411 SW College St.
609 SE Ankeny St Suite C (Restaurant)
Ask any Portlander what the most ubiquitous food carts are in Portland, and they will probably list of a plethora of Thai food options sprinkled around the city, but Nong’s is something different. You won’t find the traditional Pad Thai noodle dish or any of the Thai soups you can find at most Thai food carts, because Nong’s serves only one dish: Khao Man Gai, and it’s the most miraculously simple yet mouthwateringly distinct food cart in Portland.
With a concise menu of just chicken and rice with a delicious sauce, the clean menu is one of the things that makes this truck so unique. If you’re interested in more of a sit-down experience, Nong’s has opened up a restaurant on SE Ankeny with the same menu.
SW 5th & Stark
The Portland food scene is known for good sandwiches, but many foodies haven’t yet caught on to the schnitzelwich, a czech-style sandwich served by Tábor in downtown Portland. Tábor is a cozy little cabin-style food cart where you can find all things Czech and Hungarian, from goulash soup to schnitzel sandwiches. The potato pancakes are a popular lunchtime munch; you can get them filled with spinach and ham, or sauerkraut for some added sustenance.
3. PDX Sliders
1831 SW River Drive
1605 SE Bybee Blvd (Restaurant)
PDX Sliders is one of those lesser-known but quintessential Portland gems. This bright red food cart located in Sellwood dishes out sliders named after some of Portland’s legendary streets like Hawthorne and Burnside, and the flavors are just as unique and memorable as the streets they’re named after.
The Hawthorne burger, for example, includes bacon, goat cheese, and strawberry preserves for a fruity yet savory combination. Each burger comes in two different sizes, and because PDX Sliders was named Portland’s best food cart in 2016, don’t just take our word for it when we say these tiny burgers are amazing.
4. The Frying Scotsman
SW 9th Ave & SW Alder St
In a city of food carts better known for its Thai and Mexican influences, it’s hard to find authentic British food. James King, owner of The Frying Scotsman, opened his “chippy” after serving as a chef for oil riggers in the North Sea. And it’s no surprise that Portlanders are attracted to the same food served to people working in the cold wet conditions of the arctic. Diners at this downtown food cart can choose between fried Cod, Haddock, and Snapper, each served with fries; other sides are available.
5. Donut Byte Labs
SW 4th & Burnside
There’s something about Portland that makes people crave donuts. Portlanders are always ready to explore new donut technology, and Donut Byte Labs seems to be the cutting edge. They make their mini cake donuts using a “donut robot” right in the cart for customers to watch.
You can find classic flavors like powdered sugar and glazed, or you can opt for something more adventurous like milk and honey and French toast. Don’t be shocked when you bite into your mini donut to find that it’s cold–they pride themselves on being free from the warm donut paradigm.
6. Hog & Hen
SW 4th Ave & SW College St
Dressed up like a bungalow that belongs near a bayou, this charming little food cart serves Cajun comfort food and will transport your taste buds to Louisiana when you’re stuck in Portland’s everlasting drizzle. The rotating menu at Hog & Hen includes classics like smoked sausage gumbo, and jalapeno mac & cheese. Make sure you order a side of the buttery cornbread.
7. Viking Soul Food
4255 SE Belmont
A streamliner named “Gudrun” that serves up Norwegian and Scandinavian comfort food? Only in PDX. “Gudrun” means “she who knows the secrets of battle,” and it seems like in the case of Viking Soul Food, a secret recipe is half the battle. This yummy food truck specializes in Lefse, a Norwegian soft bread.
A classier version of the IKEA cafe with better ambiance, you can still get your favorite meatballs and lingonberry preserves without feeling pressured to get lost in a maze of furniture and home goods. Bonus: Viking Soul Food has teamed up with Delivery Dudes, so you can get your Scandinavian snacks without even leaving the comfort of your IKEA couch.
8. Que Bacano Colombian Food
7238 SE Foster Road
You’ve eaten savory empanadas before, but you haven’t had Que Bacano’s empanadas con Aji, traditional fried pastry filled with your choice of chicken, beef, or veggies, with homemade, spiced sauce. Que Bacano is a food truck nestled in Portland’s El Mercado, an Hispanic market connected to a large food cart pod with quaint outdoor seating.
“Que Bacano” translates literally to “How cool,” which is what you’ll be saying after taking a sip of one of their fruity bebidas. Don’t forget to check out the little store inside the market, which sells the Aji sauce you will find on your empanada.
9. Chicken & Guns
1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Like Nong’s, Chicken & Guns has found the secret key to a unique food cart in Portland – mastering the small menu. Located in the Cartopia food cart pod on SE Hawthorne, Chicken & Guns serves up Latin American-style chicken. Diners can choose between a bed of fried potatoes, or a bed of greens.
The simplicity of the menu sets this food cart apart from other carts in Portland, while the diverse array of flavors within the dish ensures that you never get bored of the menu. If you’re feeling extra hungry, you can add an egg to the dish for some additional protein.
10. Dog Town Food Cart
2880 SE Division St
“The-Hot-Dog Stand” is one of the oldest food cart themes in existence. Hot dog carts can make anyone older than 20 feel nostalgic for some small-town sausages served from a red and white striped umbrella in the park. So it takes a lot for a hot dog food cart to be considered “unique,” but Dog Town gets it.
Dog Town takes hot dog-themes from all over the world – L.A., Philadelphia, Memphis, Italy, Germany – to create a cohesive and one-of-a-kind menu. Vegetarian friendly with a veggie sausage option, Dog Town covers all hot dog bases. Round off your unique dog with classic chili cheese fries, or go all out with the Poutine.
11. Lodekka Double Decker Dress Shop
2880 SE Division St
Okay, so this isn’t a food cart, per se, but some people eat fashion like lunch, and Lodekka is definitely on Portland’s list of unique carts. Located in the same cart pod as Dog Town and many others, it’s a convenient way to browse cute vintage looks while you wait for your food.
Lodekka is a double decker bus filled with men and women’s fashion and accessories. With everything from fur coats to vintage swimsuits, Lodekka’s vintage flair will satisfy your fashion needs so the food carts can take care of the rest.
12. Tov Coffee & Tea
SE 32nd & Hawthorne
Let’s face it, there’s really nothing unique about a coffee shop in Portland. But when you take an Egyptian coffee shop and stick it in a double decker bus, things suddenly get interesting. The interior of the bus has been renovated to emanate traditional Egyptian café vibes, with warm colors and sumptuous lighting. At Tov Coffee & Tea, you can take your coffee or tea and a scrumptious baked good to the covered and heated upper deck to enjoy the funky people-watching on Hawthorne Boulevard.
SE 48th & Woodstock
Brunch in Portland is certainly nothing new, so brunch at a Portland food cart is a magical combination of two of Portland’s most quintessential foodie formats. Housed in a bright yellow cart, Yolk is the perfect way to start your Sunday morning slowly but cheerfully. You can get all the classic egg dishes that you crave after a long, hard weekend, as well as homemade English muffins and a plethora of vegan options.
14. Matt’s BBQ
4709 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
There aren’t many places in Portland where you can find Texas-style brisket and pulled-pork tacos – in fact, we don’t think there are any, except for Matt’s BBQ. The menu includes sandwiches with names like “The Cow Pig Stacker” and “The Hot Mess” that will satisfy all of your dirty meat cravings, with sides like pinto beans and coleslaw to trick yourself into eating a well-balanced meal.
Matt’s BBQ is the perfect stop for those of us who crave southern-style barbeque in the midst of the dreary Pacific Northwest winters.
15. Smak Dab’s
NE 52nd & Sandy
Perhaps you’re familiar with the “Juicy Lucy,” a Midwestern favorite that consists of a burger stuffed with cheese and possibly bacon. It’s hard to find unless you’re in Minneapolis or maybe Chicago, that is – until Smak Dab’s opened up in Portland. Smak Dab’s provides juicy, moist burgers loaded with cheese and other delicious goodies like pepperoni, olives, or peppers. Vegetarians can enjoy these delicacies inside a black bean burger. Just be sure to prepare for a flavor explosion in your mouth.
16. Wolf & Bear’s
SW 10th Between Alder & Washington
3925 N. Mississippi Ave
113 Southeast 28th Avenue
Wolf & Bear’s is perfect for vegetarians and veggie-philes looking for Middle Eastern-inspired fare but wanting something more than the classic falafel sandwich. Resembling a tree house transplanted into downtown Portland, this food cart is the perfect spot for a lunch break during the busy work week. In the winter months, you can warm up with the lentil soup, while on the warmer days be sure to tuck into the Olea, a kalamata tapenade salad with refreshing tahini sauce.
17. The Parmacy
2231 NE Alberta St
The Parmacy is new on the Portland food cart scene, offering diners homemade pasta with various classic sauces, including marinara and alfredo. It can be hard to find the delicious and hearty Italian dishes without the expensive and fancy Italian restaurant drawbacks, so this is the answer: a casual food cart environment with modest prices and lavish flavors. Located on NE Alberta, you can hit up Salt & Straw after for the cherry on top.
18. Hindsight Tap Cart
4255 SE Belmont St
If you’re more into liquid snacks, Hindsight Tap Cart is the food cart for you. With four rotating taps of beer as well as wine and cider options, Hindsight is the perfect option to quench your thirst while you wait for your food at Bite cart pod, or just to take the edge off your Monday. Offering mostly local beers and wines, Hindsight is a great way to delve into the immense local beverage scene.
19. Smaaken Waffles
2880 SE Division St
3121 SW Moody Ave
Waffle sandwiches are an unparalleled delicacy that is hard to find, unless you have a waffle maker at your disposal at home. Smaaken Waffles offers an expansive menu of both sweet and savory waffle sandwiches that will blow your mind and your taste buds. All menu items can be made vegan and gluten free, so prepare yourself for unlimited waffle bliss. Rumor has it that smoothies will soon be added to the already magnificent menu.
20. Pyro’s Pizza
1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
It’s shocking to see a wood burning pizza oven in a small moving eatery; Pyro’s Pizza brought an unprecedented niche to the Portland food cart scene. Order your pizza and then cozy up in Cartopia’s fire-heated seating area for a cozy outdoor experience. You can opt for the classic Margherita, or go for one of the specials like Quattro Formaggi. Make sure you treat yourself to one of the homemade soda flavors, like Basil Lime. Yum!
Portland’s Rarest Food Cart Finds
Portlanders are always looking for ways to make mundane acts like eating lunch into interesting and fun activities to be shared with friends. This list acts as the rundown on food carts that you won’t find elsewhere. Enjoy your meal!