This year, the location for the fifth annual Portland Food Cart Festival, Eat Mobile Festival 2012, moved a few blocks over to the OMSI parking lot. This gave this festival of one admission price ($18 for General Admission and $47 for Pre-Tasting VIP which gives an extra hour before GA) and then graze at each of the carts (1 sample a cart) the physical space to expand to three rows of 52 carts. In the middle and back row (towards the waterfront), there was also room for cocktail tables and sitdown tables, with butcher paper stamped Eat Mobile 2012, in order to eat, another great improvement. But, the row without tables, the one closest to the street, was the most comfortable to move around thanks to the lack of tables (though this left people sitting against the chain link fence they put up surrounding the parking lot) so it was easier for lines to each cart stand to logistically be queued in a straight line. They still seemed to be oddly pinching on the number of garbage cans, which seemed far and few between.
One of my first stops because I recall good things about their cart last year was PDX Six Seven One, serving Guam food. They had a meat and veggie option: the veggie option of Linechen Gollai, Spinach served ina spicy citrusy coconut milk, and a meat option of Estufao, Carlton Farms pork shoulder simmed in a marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, onions, garlic, and bay leaves served with white rice. PDX 671 would go on to win the Judge's Choice Award. Their cart location is at D Street Noshery.
The one I actually voted for though for People Choice award was Briskets, who offered two options of brisket- and sides of mac n cheese, maple bacon beans, slaw or potato salad. I wish they had a sign up which had advertised their awesome sample concoction… I was already on my 2nd glass of wine and the list of details eluded me when they told me verbally. But, it was awesome. They are only open M-F for lunch at their NW 19th and Quimby location though, so I'm not sure how I will get to them for more given I work in Beaverton.
I really liked Timber's Doghouse PDX (located @ SE Woodstock) too- they had an amazing setup with their sexy ladies in their red tank top black skirt uniform, and a table that included dog water bowls and unicorns. Their sampling of burger (meat or veggie, pictured is veggie sample) with fresh greens topped with what they dub "Momentary Indiscretion" (they have a clever menu- this burger topping equals grilled mushrooms and onions, chantarelle salt, asiago, roasted garlic, and truffle aioli) was one of my favorite samples too, but unfortunately ran out pretty quickly: when I came back with friends with the regular admission entrance, there was nothing left.
Another one I enjoyed was the Mini Monte Cristos (they also offered Empanadas of spinach and gruyere with black olives) from BLT- Breakfast Lunch Today (NE Alberta).
I liked the cute setup of the sign for Bagel & Box (located at N Lombard), which advertises their Brunch Bindle of 1/2 dozen bagels, 1/2 lb of cream cheese, 1/4 lb smoked salmon salad, sliced tomato/cucumber/red onion, 1/2 dozen donuts, a quart of home fries, a quart of fresh OJ, and a checked table cloth… how adorable is that? I want an excuse to get one now. They were one of the few carts that really shined in taking advantage of Eat Mobile to advertise… it obviously worked for me! Their offering of an apple cream cheese with rosemary, white pepper, and bacon bagel bite also convinced me that their bindle will be tasty enough to offer at brunch. Later I saw them offering tastes of their home fries, but I had already had my 1 sample.
Other Misc Photos:
- Batavia's Indonesian cuisine (from the 3rd and Washington downtown cart pod)
- Visiting from Corvallis, OR was Creperie du Lys, offering both a sweet and savory crepe bite of either chocolate hazelnut spread or smoked salmon spread with sour cream and capers.
- Buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy and smoky collard greens from Blues City Biscuits (from D-Street Noshery cart pod)
- Oregon Bay Shrimp ceviche from El Gallo Taqueria (SE Woodstock)
- Little bites of dessert from Sweet Jane's at the front table of the Mara's Ladle food cart (SE 41st Hawthorne)
- Shut Up and Eat's famous meatball sample of their Italian comfort food (SE 50th) never disappoints
- Hog Time's fries with pulled pork and queso fresco and a touch of spicy aioli (from the 3rd and Washington downtown cart pod)
- The Oregonzola fries at Violetta, courtesy of their rolling mobile truck version "Etta" (Violetta is located at Director's Park, Etta by definition travels around since it's an actual food truck, not a cart that theoreticaly can move…
- I stopped at Fifty Licks as usual for ice cream… but also discovered a love for a new ice cream food truck, Scoop (N Killingsworth). I did have two of these- both the Salted Caramel and the Strawberry Balsalmic, both excellent. They also offered Trailhead Expresso and Basil Pineapple Sorbet to round out the four flavors
- Taco Pedaler is an actual cart on a roaming bike that pedals to a location to deal out their locally sourced tacos… they bike pulling these carts you see them prepping on behind!
- An actual conversation that took place between us and some strangers: "Hey, where did you get that chicken wing" "Oh, these spicy garlic chicken wings are from ::pointing:: These Guys" "From where? ::looking around behind:: which guys?" "Yeah… the tent there that says THESE GUYS" "Oh… ha ha…" These Guys Brooklyn cart (SE Milwaukee) offered samples of their smoked meats via smoked Carlton pork shoulder and spicy garlic chicken wings
- 808 Grinds (Sw 9th Washington downtown cart pod) offered their 808 Fried Chicken and 808 Crunch (Chex Mix concoction)… one in my eating party found their concept for their 808 crunch apparently somewhat revelatory because he mentioned it several times afterwards as future inspiration. I just had enough going on as I had to restrain myself from taking a second portion of their fried chicken when I went back in line with my friends and there was a line behind me of others anxious awaiting for their truck doors to swing open so they can have their bite of fried wonderfulness.
- Lardo's generous sampling of their pork meatball banh mi- people were lining up almost the length of an entire row to get their hands on these. (Lardo is located at the Good Food Here cart pod)
- The Mini Sandwich Shack (SE Powell) generously was offering four options of sandwiches
Most of these carts are not used to having to prep and serve over 2000 people a day, and here at the Eat Mobile festival the attendance easily was over that, and all within 3 hours. This sweet cart of Breakfast Lunch Today was hand rolling individual empanadas in the last hour of the festival, trying to still feed hungry interested patrons. Because I sympathize with all these small business owners having to create all this food and so quickly getting in the weeds when the general admission opens, I purposely did not visit some carts that I already have tried their food- such as Pizza Contadino, Oregon Ice Works, Koi Fusion, PBJ's, Emame's Ethiopian, Gaufre Gourmet, Somtum Gai Yang, Flavourspot, Brazi Bites, The Dump Truck…
There are also other samplings I did not photograph, such as the always tasty healthy juice shakes of Sip, the beer chili of Robb's Really Good Food, spicy chicken of Cackalack's Hot Chicken Shack (awesome name), and clam chowder of Chowdah, the lil ice cream of Fifty Licks… all of which I really enjoyed despite lack of photographic evidence.
Thank you to all the food carts and Willamette Weekly for putting together this event again, of which proceeds benefit Mercy Corp's Northwest's local economic development program that assists entrepreneurs in securing funds for small businesses (including food carts). I also appreciated Vitamin Water providing complimentary thirst quenching for all the food, and the music provided by the DJs and the performance of the Pynnacles kept me rocking.