We were excited to pre-purchase our tickets for the 2010 Eat Mobile Food Cart Festival even before they were on sale, and so it was no surprise that we planned to show up 30 minutes early to start snacking on our 30 samplers from the 30 carts right at the opening bell. The event sold out (capped at 1200) people, and even though they spaced it over 2 1/2 blocks under the Morrison bridge it still got very difficult to navigate through lines just to get from cart location to another after just an hour after opening. Portland people do love food carts.
First stop was Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwiches, which I passed on because it’s relatively close to where I live. I’ve had their sandwiches twice: not as good as Best Baguette, but then again this is a cart not a restaurant, and they still are able to offer 8 sandwiches (Best Baguette offers about a dozen, but they also can offer freshly baked bread and other pastries since they have more space at a brick and mortar location). If you are looking for banh mi sandiwiches in the downtown area, I’m not even sure there is anywhere else in the city proper as they are pho houses that I’ve seen.
Next was Sip, a cart offering organic vegan juices and smoothies. I confess I went back for their tastings of their green smoothie with kale, spinach, and some citrus fruits like apple or orange or lemon) twice. Their location at Division and Powell in the neighborhood of the People’s Food Coop isn’t an area I go to, but they plan to have a second mobile (actually mobile like driving around) in the summer and are also adding some food to their menu, so I hope to find them again. A lot of the food carts that people seem to fawn over involve pretty unhealthy food that is often rich and savory, but it doesn’t always have to be that way and it’s great to support food carts that are also tasty but even good for you.
Micro Mercantes were cutting up their jalapeno cheese, pork, and chicken tamales for tasters, and I doused my pork one liberally with my favorite green chili and enjoyed it quickly as I was trying to move through carts quickly before the rest of the line behind us caught up. Even though I linked to their official website, there isn’t much information on it, but it does communicate one tidbit many may not know: this cart is actually a coop for Latin women to help economically empower them through their tasty tamales. Their presence is at various farmer’s markets and their cheap $2.50 homemade tamales helps them establish a community via housing, healthcare clinics, a credit union, and community centers. I’m not sure which farmer’s markets they’ll be at this year (I know they are not at the ones downtown), but I know they are at the markets closer to OHSU, one at the Pearl, and several more on the east side of Portland. How can you not want to at least get one tamale knowing this every time you see them?
PBJ’s Grilled was one that I saw on the list but had not heard of- and it turns out it is because they are still at the “coming soon” state. .
It took a while to understand their selections though: and their write-ups on the table were not very illuminating. The more you document on a big sign the less you will have to explain! And make it big so that by the time someone comes up they already can pick out what they want instead of processing under pressure. There’s the process manager in me thinking how I would set up a cart. Although I don’t think the tasting versions had all these ingredients, the regular offerings off their future menu include the “Good Morning” had blueberry jam, apple wood smoked bacon, 100% maple syrup, PBJ’s peanut butter, while the “Wildflower” had peach jam, wild flower honey, PBJ’s peanut butter, the “Pumpkin Pie” is a sweet dessert-ty concoction of pumpkin butter, Two Tarts caramel sauce, pie crust, PBJ’s peanut butter. I still prefered the “Spicy Thai” with orange marmalade, sriracha, fresh basil, curry, PBJ’s peanut butter and the “Betty” which will be Gruyere cheese, bread and butter pickles, white pepper, sea salt, PBJ’s peanut butter. I’m going to try to make it to their opening, we’ll see if I get caught on some work call or if I can continue my investigation.
F’s favorite and his People’s Choice vote was Asaase Ital Palace, African-Carribean food that is vegan/vegetarian: I had to admit their “fish” did taste like fish. I only had a shared bite of Fat Kitty Falafel, where they were already behind in the first 20 minutes as they struggled to produce their freshly fried falafel in time to meet the crowd. But, their falafel deserves the buzz it gets. Addy’s Sandwich Bar was trying to offer 5 different types of tastings, which was quite ambitious… for what at the opening was a one woman operation. The “line caught Oregon tuna with capers, red onion, cornichon and house mayo” was good, as was the rich “country pate with dijon and cornichons) and the “duck confit with cranberry relish”.
And, I appreciated their large signage and line of preppers in their area… so I guess I was also awarding them my appreciation of a good setup. The first food picture is . . Thank you Nuevo Mexico for bringing sopapillas to Portland (at Mississippi and Skidmore).
I kept glancing to my right at the equally long line (Pyro Pizza, Taqueria Los Gorditos, and Nuevo Mexico were all right next to each other), which was Taqueria Los Gorditos, offering Mexican vegetarian and vegan.. All three still boasted the same long lines of patient people a couple hours later- but were not out of food, unlike others I had skipped then/went back later but were out, like Bombay Chaat House, Mono Malo, and Sawasdee Thai.
The Carne adovada is when my hands started getting super messy, but the People’s Pig is what sealed it. A long line that wrapped around chairs and tables hinted at what was to come: a piggy looked on as people line up for The People’s Pig offering of cuban pulled pork taco as a taster.
I was getting pretty full at this point, but still had room for
I forgot to capture the photos of Whiffies, but their bbq beef with mozzarella was pretty good- and since Nuevo Mexico’s sopapillas are a bit harder for me to get to location-wise, Whiffies is a fine substitute of fried goodness sponging up flavor, just in fried pie instead. They won the People’s Choice Award for Eat Mobile 2010. Rather then selecting one of their sweet versions of pie (like the peanut butter with chocolate chips I tried), go for fruity frozen ice-pop like offerings of Oregon Ice Works (they are working with Whiffies but will be opening their own cart soon). Their raspberry was so chunky with raspberry I had to chew it, while the lemon was like a perfect summer tart lemonade. Although I appreciate the audacity and coolness of Fifty Licks‘ offerings of hand made ice cream in flavors that include Tahitian Vanilla, Stumptown Coffee, Maple Bacon (all three of these are winning combinations!) and Red Bull Cola, I can’t help but prefer the fruity ice more as a cool clean refresher that doesn’t have the cream of Fifty Licks. I don’t want to think about how many calories I’m having…