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The question: Which is more appealing, a food cart meal on the go, an extravagant destination dining experience, or something in between. Portland has it all.
The best food starts with vegetables.

The best food starts with vegetables.

I asked several people who know enough about food to cook something worth eating.

The answers are very Portland.

They walk by fast food places and keep moving. Why call them restaurants when their meals never spoil if left out, like the latest slam on McDonald’s.

I don’t bust on the Mac because once upon a time a Big Mac meant you arrived in The City. That’s how it is when you come from a place too small for a franchise.

At first the question included food carts or Saturday Market food stalls. No fast food, chains, farmers markets, or old fashioned oat bags.

First Answer:

“I love food carts. Great variety and so many are open late and weekends.

“Saturday Market stalls are only open Saturday and Sunday during market hours, and then closed for months.

“Food carts are all over the place, too. Any bare quarter block is fair game for a food cart court. I’d like on closer to my neighborhood.”

(Does this person ever cooked, or know how to cook. Do they eat out of boxes and frozen bags? If so, the food cart is a step toward a better diet. And they might learn to cook what they like from their favorite cart.)

Second Answer:

“Food carts or stalls? I like Saturday Market. It’s the open space I like. You can see everything.

“And the environment. There’s music or some act instead of a bus mall or sidewalk. I love Portland, but a sidewalk is still a sidewalk.

“There’s something else about Saturday Market. They have two beer wagons. What’s better on a perfect day than original food, a good beer, and the river?”

(Do people like watching their food being cooked? They want to get out of the kitchen, but still keep an eye on the process. I still believe in ‘Cook it and they will eat.’) 

Third Answer:

“My kids live downtown. Food carts are a part of their culture. It’s not what’s for dinner every night, but a good back-up if you need it.

“Great food, great variety. Now my kids know the difference between Thai food, Chinese food, and Vietnamese food.

“They try out new recipes on us when we visit, and we visit more often. If their recipe bombs, we still have food carts.

“Saturday Market food is good when we’re down there, but we don’t go out of our way for it.”

Fourth Answer:

“Oh, carts by a long shot. They’re the most progressive food in town. If Saturday Market food stalls were going to hit it as big as Portland food carts, it would have happened by now.

“In fact, I was thinking of starting a cart. I’ve got a trailer to build on. I’d sell hotdogs. Who doesn’t like a great dog?

“If Starbucks can teach people to pay four bucks for a cup of coffee, and we throw down five for a pint of local beer, then they’d spend more for the right dog.”

Fifth Answer:

“You know, it doesn’t matter where I eat. What matters is what I eat, if that makes sense. If I order a burger, that’s what I want, not some beef filler from a dust pan.

“I don’t like being fooled. I’ll spend the money on food as long as I don’t have to sit next to a fat man impressing his date by ordering the most expensive thing on the menu, then leaving it half uneaten and declines a doggie bag.

“If a place is all about showing up at my table in starched whites and no order pad because you have a great memory, then I’d better get what I order. All show and no go is no recipe for returning customers.


Portland street food splashes from coast to coast. Even the mighty Pok Pok relates to street food, Northern Thailand street food, and we’ve leaned to pay for that privilege. Where else can you find authentic Thai-style corn on the cob?

Where else but Portland can you find Portland street food? Not Beaverton, or Gresham.



About David Gillaspie
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