Portland's first tapas cart hit the streets a few months ago, and owner James Crawford's delicious, bite-size takes on the relaxed Spanish cuisine are the perfect ambassadors of the friendly food. Mono Malo's menu consists of bocadillos (little sandwiches) and sides like patatas bravas (tasty fried potatoes in spicy tomato sauce) and arugula salad with roasted beet.
If you're feeling especially famished, try raciones, a combination of four tapas for less than 10 bucks. The $5 estofada is a regularly changing stew, but if last month's heavenly spiced lamb, apricot and garbanzo bean concoction was any indicator of things to come, plan on getting soup with that sandwich. The hamburguesa ($4.50) is heaven on a bun, and the chicken villeroy (battered organic chicken breast with romesco on Grand Central campagnolo) is nothing to sneeze at. Stop by this tasty addition to PDX's food scene and watch Crawford prepare it all from scratch with local goods.
And speaking of new additions, all the food carts in "Area 23," the Northeast 23rd Avenue and Alberta Street pod that houses Mono Malo, are newcomers to Portland. After this month's opening of A Streetcar Named Inspire, an actual streetcar serving fresh juices and smoothies, the small lot is now full with four mobile eateries. Aside from Mono Malo and Inspire, there's Solar Waffle Works (delicious waffles, powered by the hot goodness of sunlight and served by nonprofit folks) and Fuego de Lotus, a delectable Venezuelan cart whose owner, MarchFourth drum player Michael Kennett, founded Area 23 back in September 2009. As if a space filled with delicious street food weren't enough, Area 23 is striving to be a place of community and creativity. It's currently in the process of creating dinner shows, short independent film nights and even a vegetable garden.
- Order this: Hamburguesaâ$4.50: a fresh, slider-size take on the classic beef sandwich, with sweet Spanish slaw and zesty paprika aioli.
- Best deal: Montaditos, deliciousâbut tinyâbreads with toppings. Choose from boquerones-and-potato or garlic-and-portabella, $1.
- Iâll pass: Serrano ham and manchego croquettes, $4. Oh, theyâre definitely good, but why eat good when you can eat phenomenal?
Mono Malo is located at the corner of Northeast Alberta Street and 23rd Avenue, 964-0126, monomalotapas.com. Noon-8 pm Tuesday-Thursday, noon-10 pm Friday-Saturday, noon-6 pm Sunday. $ Inexpensive.