I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of moving to Portland….worried I was going to go hungry after living in (arguably) the food capital of North America – New Orleans, for five years. But a bitch named Katrina persuaded me it was time to go, and after searching high and low, Mrs. BDB and I chose Portland as the new promised land for us.
On some levels, it has been a rough transition, on others, most notably food, not so much. My previous experiences in Portland were limited to business meetings in airport hotels, but having lived here for two years now, I really am in food heaven.
While Portland is the cneter of the universe, pretty much, for the organic and sustainable food movements, it also (to my and everyone else’s surprise) seems to be the center of food innovation in the country, and that innovation is led by the food cart scene, which has been written about ad nauseum by every blogger, major newspaper, and food periodical out there.
And well it should be. Aspiring local and distant chefs are getting their start inexpensively and creatively by launching a food cart biz, and, if (when) they reach a certain level of success, are able to parlay their cart success into a free-standing restaurant. It happens more often than one might think.
While Portland is about as a homogenous of population as one can find in the US (that says a lot coming from a boy from Minnesota), the food cart scene provides nearly everything single ethnic offering (as well as mash-ups of same) as one can imagine, whether it’s Hillbilly Bento, cheeseburger Chinese dumplings, bangers and mash, hundreds of varieties of Mexican/Latin, or the plethora of Scandinavian offerings. In all my travels, I’ve never seen (in the U.S) so many places that offer Scandinavian food, (and I went to a Norwegian-based college). Even in the largest cities in the country, one is usually limited to the IKEA cafeteria if one wants to sample this kind of fare!
Living in Hong Kong, I learned the city had 60,000 food establishments, including restaurants and street vendors. Portland has a minuscule fraction of that, but some days, to me, the city seems to have more than I could visit in a lifetime, and each week, there are one or two new offerings cooler than before.
Whether your eclectic tastes or curiosity runs to “waffles only” or “vegetarian bbq”, there’s a place to satisfy you here.
It reminds me of a television show I saw last nite, the people were talking about the internet as the great uniter. The internet makes us feel not alone. A (sic) quote was “if you want to reenact the Boston Tea Party dressed as Star Wars characters, with the internet, you can find the ten other people in the world that also dream of that.”
Such is the case with Portland food. But you won’t just find ten people who think the idea of a cheeseburger stuff steamed Chinese dumpling is fascinating….. you’ll find a long line of people each noon who share your obsession.
If you are visiting Portland for the first time, and want to explore the cart scene, there is no better resource than the Food Carts of Portland website, which allows you to search by cuisine, neighborhood, hours, and more. These are the “go to buys” for all those major newspapers, TV networks, and bloggers that come to town to check us out. So they should be your first stop, as well. (the pic is from their website, too).