If you haven’t yet heard about Portland’s street-eats scene, clearly you’ve been living under a rock. Hundreds of trucks, trailers and food carts, poised on corners or clustered in “pods,” dot the city’s landscape. And they’ve captured the attention of eaters and critics across the land — as you may have noticed if you’d read Kyle Wagner’s take in Sunday’s Seattle Times travel section.
Early this month I made a pilgrimage to Portland, where (gulp) I failed to eat at a single mobile unit. But trust me. I’m going back, soon. And there’s even a street-cart map to show me the way. That and a “been there, ate that” TripTik from my professional colleagues in Portland, and elsewhere.
My pal Michael Bauer at the San Francisco Chronicle, gives the big thumbs-up to the pork cutlet sandwich from The People’s Pig, while the Houston Chronicle’s voracious Alison Cook bestows her blessings on the schnitzelburger at the Tabor Czech cart (best eaten, says she, with a side of halusky). So taken was he with the street-eats during his fab foray west, Brett Anderson of the New Orleans Times-Picayune gave Portland a big Twitter shout-out, tweeting “Portland, Oregon has, by far, the best street food I’ve ever had, and, so far, the worst street musicians I’ve ever heard.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Vettel was recently spotted marveling over PDX-podstops, since “It’s Hell or Hoboken for Food Trucks” in Chi-town. And in Atlanta, food chronicler Christiane Lauterbach has made it her manifesto to put the (street) cart before the horse so that her city might become more like Portland. As for Seattle? We’re still trying to put pedal to the metal with our mobile food-force, but national recognition for a favored few notwithstanding, Portland’s got us hammered.
Mobile Chowdown, Seattle-style.
But hey! It’s not all about the meals-on-wheels. Driving the streets of Portland, it seems like every corner, and every neighborhood, is home to one fabulous restaurant-find or another. Two weeks after heavy lifting (of my fork, that is), I’m still fueled-up by the pheasant potpie at Beast; the housemade bacon and lamb rillettes plucked from the charcuterie board at Ned Ludd; and the Burmese red curry with eggs eaten at brunch at Tasty n Sons (with a cinnamon-scented chocolate donut-hole on the side).
Burmese red curry, with a choco-treat: Tasty? I’ll say.
I raised my cholesterol level (and culinary consciousness) smoothing smoked-pork-fat spread (garnished with crystalized brown butter!) over warm rye rolls at Castagna; sipped a killer cocktail at Cafe Nell; and slurped a half-dozen oysters on-the-fly at Eat An Oyster Bar.
Oysters, from near and far, at Eat; at Tasty n Sons (and everywhere else in Portland), they’re proud of their provisioners.
After hitting hipster haunts and haute hotels, marveling at some of the best bread I’ve eaten in eons, and smacking myself for not stopping to pay homage to the cart-attack that’s got everybody talking, I couldn’t help but think: “Roadtrip!” — though I hadn’t even left yet.
The last thing I ate before blowing north on I-5: these perfectly shucked oysters, at Eat.
Anyway, I’ve got to ask: When you go to Portland, what’s on your must-hit list?