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October 20th, 2010 BEN WATERHOUSE | Special Section Stories
 

Top-Flight Food Carts

Five reasons Portland has the nation’s best street food.

Top-flight Food CartsIMAGE: cameronbrowne.com

Artigiano
Rachael Grossman and Tyler Johnston’s bright red trailer serves handmade gnocchi, ravioli and fettuccine, along with a half-dozen sandwiches and salads, to a loyal legion of Woodstock diners in the parking lot of the Joinery furniture workshop. The noodles ($9-$11) are as good as any you’ll find at the city’s finest Italian restaurants, but we keep skipping them in favor of the braised pork sandwich with caramelized fennel and onion and aioli ($6). It’s piggy heaven on a baguette. 4808 SE Woodstock Blvd., 781-3040, thepastawagon.com.

The Frying Scotsman
We feel a little jilted now that James King has navigated his converted camper, which once resided a block from our office, downtown. But we understand why: King’s extraordinary fish and chips, inspired by the former oil-rig cook’s homeland of Ayrshire, Scotland, must be shared with the world. The fries are crisp and the fish approaches the platonic ideal (I endorse the snapper, $7.50). But beware—eating a portion on your own may force a midafternoon nap. Southwest 9th Avenue and Alder Street, 706-3841, thefryingscotsmanpdx.com. 11 am-4 pm Monday-Friday.

The People’s Pig
There are, at present, seven items on the menu at Cliff Allen’s shiny yellow truck. All are sandwiches. All cost $8. All are made of pork on ciabatta. One need only choose between porchetta, coppa, toscana, sopressata and three flavors of pulled pork. This is always a difficult decision—they’re all good, and big enough that eating more than one is unthinkable. I almost always go for the porchetta, which is adorned only with greens and lemon. Why? Because eating one feels like waterskiing on a lake of lard while a chorus of angels sings “The Final Countdown.” That’s why. Southwest 2nd Avenue and Stark Street, site.thepeoplespig.com. 11 am-3 pm Monday-Friday.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai
“It’s just chicken and rice,” my sister-in-law said. True, in the sense that beer is just spoiled barley. But “Nong” Poon Sukwattana’s Thai boiled chicken is like poultry from another plane of being, infused with heady flavors of garlic, ginger and chiles. It’s the only dish Nong serves from her cart—big, hearty portions of it, wrapped in butcher paper—and it is so good there’s no reason she should ever expand the menu. Southwest 10th Avenue and Alder Street, 971-255-3580, khaomangai.com. Nong’s opens at 10 am Monday-Friday and noon Saturday, and closes when the food’s gone.

Wy’east Pizza
Operating an 800-degree oven in a 35-year-old camper with barely enough room to stand upright sounds crazy. But leave it to a guy named Squish to take the heat and turn it into gold—Wy’east’s crisp, lightly charred 12-inch pies rival any restaurant’s. Our favorite is the Three-Fingered Jack, topped with kalamata olives, mushrooms and red onion. Call in your order ahead of time; Wy’east can only cook one pizza at a time, and the wait tops 40 minutes some nights. 3131 SE 50th Ave., 701-5149, wyeastpizza.com. 4:30-9:30 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 4:30-8:30 pm Sunday (or until the dough runs out).

 
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