* The Baowry
North Charleston Avenue and Ivanhoe Street, twitter.com/baowrystjohns, 11:30 am-8 pm Monday-Friday, 1-8 pm Saturday-Sunday. Cash only.
Unlike most carts in town, the Baowry sits all by its lonesome, a maroon wooden box on a spur of road between busy Lombard and Ivanhoe, a single paper lantern hanging from its roof. On my visit there was only one bao dish on the menu (and it was gua bao-style—the dough folded over the filling rather than enclosing it in a ball, as years of dim sum had conditioned me to expect), but with such a mouthwatering array of various Korean and fusion treats such as banh mi, Korean sliders and pan-fried noodles, I was hardly disappointed. Be sure to save room for the addictive side dishes included with every entree, as the rice with tangy ginger-scallion sauce is worth the trip alone. KAT MERCK.
BEST BITE: Steamed buns with soy-molasses pork, $7.
CHEAPEST BITE: Everything's $7, but it's enough food for two.
Big Top Waffles
Mississippi Marketplace, North Mississippi Avenue and Skidmore Street. 10 am-6 pm Wednesday-Sunday. Cash only.
Newly reopened after code difficulties at its previous down-lucked, strip-bar-dominated locale on Foster, this circus-themed cart has traveled to yet another circus: the mess of carts (and occasional farmer's fare) at Mississippi Marketplace. The menu's cheap, the available toppings are plentiful, and the Fire Eater ($5), with onioned and becheesed chili over a cornbread waffle, is a beautifully sideways downmarket comfort food, just like something you might find at the fair. Otherwise, though, I'd stick to the sweet Belgian waffles, which crisp up nicely under gooey onslaughts of fruit, cream or Nutella: The 10-grain savories are a bit rubbery and tend to dull rather than enhance their often inventive toppings, making me dearly wish I'd gotten a crêpe instead. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BEST BITE: The strawberries-and-cream-laden Tattooed Lady ($4)
is like Wimbledon dipped in chocolate, over a Belgian—Justine Henin, perhaps.
CHEAPEST BITE: It's all cheap, people. It's waffles.
Boolkogi Korean BBQ
Southwest 5th Avenue and Oak Street, 810-8968. Lunchtime Monday-Saturday. Cash only.
Since making their Portland debut two years ago, Korean tacos have amassed adherents across the city. And why not? Earthy, slightly sweet corn tortillas laden with spicy, saucy Korean barbecue—count me a convert. The tacos at Boolkogi Korean BBQ are a bit smaller than some of their rivals around the city, but the minimal toppings—shredded cabbage, crunchy bean sprouts and the all-important cilantro—allow the meat to star. The pork and chicken verge on the sweet side, but the beef has rich, savory depth. All tacos are drizzled with sauce the color of a prison jumpsuit, tangy but not overpoweringly fiery. And three for $5? Eat up. REBECCA JACOBSON.
BEST BITE: Go for the boolkogi beef in a taco ($2), burrito ($6) or rice bowl ($6).
CHEAPEST BITE: Single taco (choice of beef, pork, chicken or tofu, $2).
* Bora Bora
15803 SE Division St. 10 am-8 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 9 am-8 pm Sunday.
Sure, it might be a bit of a trek from downtown, but if smoky-sweet meats conveniently wrapped in warm tortilla envelopes and topped with tongue-toasting salsas sound at all appealing, this Latin smokehouse-in-a-truck is absolutely worth your time. Although the names of some of the menu items, like "vampiro" (nachos with meat, $2.50) and "la llorona" (carne asada, chile verde and onion covered in melted cheese, $4.50), may leave you puzzled, the accompanying salacious pictures of food piled high should equip you to point and simply say, "I want that." Tacos start at $1.15, but your first order should be the "pollo al carbon" ($8), half a chicken roasted to order on a grill across the alley, served with rice and beans. AILIN DARLING.
BEST BITE: Tacos ahogados, fried and drowned in salsa roja, $6.
CHEAPEST BITE: Taco ($1.15).
Built to Grill
232 SW Washington St., twitter.com/builttogrill. 11:30 am-4:30 pm Monday-Friday (or until the food runs out). Cash only.
This is where you go to feel like Lady and the Tramp: honest-to-goodness, fine-dining-caliber Italian fare is served only streetside, amid Southwest 3rd Avenue's limitless supply of traveling crusty-punks and their hungry dogs. But it'll still feel romantic for solo diners, if only between your palate and the sweet harmony of fresh-chopped basil and tomato balancing out a creamy vodka sauce (penne alla vodka, $7); clams and linguine with parsley, shallots and chili ($7); or delicately breaded calamari with lemon and aioli. The portions are terribly generous, which is this standout cart's only real fault: Unless you get there early, the friendly couple behind the window may have already given everything away. Then you'll really feel like a tramp. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BEST BITE: Just about the best gnocchi in town, hands down, for a mere $7.
CHEAPEST BITE: Everything here should probably cost $20, but it doesn't; it's all six or seven bucks. And yet you still want price-slashing advice? Some coupons or something? Pish.
Mississippi Marketplace, North Mississippi Avenue and Skidmore Street, 705-5273. 11:30 am-3:30 pm Tuesday-Sunday, 11:30 am-8 pm Friday-Saturday.
Less can sometimes be more when it comes to a good burger. If you hanker for the smoky, bloody taste of a plain and simple burger, Burgatroyd's got a quarter-pound Highland Oak beef burger with your name on it. But you might find that the palette of gourmet condiments, from pancetta to giardiniera, persuades you to treat your patty like a painter's blank canvas. If you're gripped by indecision, specials like the pesto burger can relieve you of creative responsibility. RACHAEL DEWITT.
BEST BITE: Blue-cheese burger with poblano chili ($5.50).
CHEAPEST BITE: A large basket of fries is $2.50.
Burgers or Bust Cafe
Northeast 23rd Avenue and Alberta Street, twitter.com/burgersorbust, 706-207-1612. 11:30 am-8 pm daily, depending on weather. Cash only.
Say goodbye to carnivore's guilt: Burgers or Bust Cafe serves an amazing all-organic, free-range patty that cannot be beat. The peppered bacon cheeseburger and Belgian-style fries may add inches to your waist, but they won't add weight to your soul. This cart not only serves certified humane meat, but for those who don't partake, the owners offer a damn fine veggie burger, gluten-free buns and fresh veggies. The school bus, revamped to accommodate groups in booths, is perfect for families, rain or shine. It'll replace all your bad school-bus memories with good ones. TIFFANY STUBBERT.
BEST BITE: Peppered bacon cheeseburger ($7.95).
CHEAPEST BITE: Regular fries ($2).
* Brown Chicken, Brown Cow
Roaming, see bcbcpdx.com. Spring hours: 11 am-3 pm Tuesday-Saturday.
Hot, steamed meat shoved between ample buns. Gooey melted cheese. Rich juices drizzling down your chin and dropping into your lap like hot, salty raindrops. Brown Chicken, Brown Cow caters to the food-porn crowd beautifully (saying the cart's name quickly sounds exactly like a porn cue). Like the missionary position, the menu is simple—there's a beef cheeseburger ($6) and a chicken burger ($7) with cheddar or blue cheese and the option to add goodies like bacon or avocado for a buck. Simplicity is key, and complex seasonings and perfectly squishy buns are enough to keep you coming back like a sex addict to the Oregon Theater. AP KRYZA.
BEST BITE: The steamed beef cheeseburger done up with bacon ($7).
CHEAPEST BITE: The steamed beef cheeseburger done up with, er, cheese ($6).
Chili Inside Chili Outside
Q-19, Northwest 19th Avenue and Quimby Street, 693-7700, chiliinside.com. 11 am-2:30 pm Monday-Friday.
Specialization is what makes us civilized—modern agriculture, division of labor, all that. By this account, Chili Inside Chili Outside is the most civilized of food carts: Not only is everything chili, but the chili doesn't even have beans; it's all meat. You call it Texas chili pride, I call it proof of advanced human life. (Technically, you can get burgers and dogs here without chili, but this regresses you.) In any case, the chili is spicy, it is meaty, the buns are firm enough to stand up to the chili, the cornbread comes equipped with jalapeños inside, and you get your Frito chili pie in an actual Fritos bag. These people really know what they're doing, and I think you should listen to them. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BEST BITE: Go for the classic chili dog, with green onions on top. It will complete you. (Which is to say, it will form a beautiful cast of your colon.) $5.75 cheap.
CHEAPEST BITE: Salad? $3? Fries for a buck? Get some chili. $5.25 cheap, with cornbread.
* CrÃ¨me de la CrÃ¨me
Good Food Here, 4290 SE Belmont St., 701-9203, twitter.com/thefrenchbus. 11 am-3 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-7 pm Friday-Saturday. Cash only, ATM on site.
A lot of le fuss gets made of the fact that this Frenchified vintage bus serves escargot, but skip the snails for Bianca Benson's big, gooey croque monsieur ($7) and excellent French dips ($7) packed with Gruyère, caramelized onions and roast beef dunked in housemade French onion soup. Oddly enough, one of the best things on the menu is the side salad that comes with the sandwiches: fresh mixed greens tossed with oil and vinegar and sprinkled with grapefruit zest. C'est magnifique. KELLY CLARKE.
BEST BITE: French dip followed by housemade lemon-curd-and-lavender tart.
CHEAPEST BITE: Cucumber and Brie baguette ($5).
Sellwood Corner, 7875 SE 13th Ave., 442-0922, curbsidegrillpdx.com. 11:30 am-6 pm Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 am-5 pm Saturday-Sunday. Cash only.
Fire on the Mountain, meet your competition. For just over a year, Sellwood's Curbside Grill has been frying up meaty treats covered with sauces varying in spicy fortitude ($5.25 for six), though the best is the tangy sweet chili. Not content to stay above the avian torso, Curbside offers thigh-meat sandwiches like the pesto-cream-cheese-slathered Green Cheese ($5.50), stuffed into a Fleur de Lis ciabatta bun with the option to add tots or seasoned fries for $1.50. Orders are made fresh, so expect a 10-minute wait…which can be painful, given the titillating aromas wafting from the blazing fryers. AP KRYZA.
BEST BITE: The G Bird ($5.50), a messy concoction of chicken, Monterey jack, Gorgonzola and veggies.
CHEAPEST BITE: Six wings ($5.25).
Southwest 3rd Avenue between Stark and Washington streets, 317-4448, dcvegetarian.com. 11 am-4 pm Monday-Friday.
Like an AOL screen name circa 1995, this cart's handle sort of says it all: The proprietors moved here from Washington, D.C., and they sell vegetarian food. More specifically, DC Vegetarian vends meat- and (by request) dairy-free sandwiches big enough to put color into even the wannest vegan's cheeks. The Italian sub ($5.50) is solid, and although the housemade seitan in the steak and cheese sub ($5.50) doesn't quite carry meat's weight, the grilled veggies pick up the slack. Prices don't range higher than $5.75, so splurge on a vegan peanut butter cup ($1.50) for dessert: The extra-salty peanut butter and smooth fudge are doing beautiful things together. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.
BEST BITE: Vegan peanut-butter cup ($1.50).
CHEAPEST BITE: The BLT is probably the most bang for your bacon ($4).
Doo Dah's BBQ
5051 SE Foster Road, 775-1903. 11 am-8 pm Wednesday-Saturday, noon-6 pm Sunday.
This drive-thru barbecue cart is not, despite what you might guess from the address, at the Carts on Foster pod, but two blocks east in a gravel lot next to Speedboat Coffee. Owner Shane Barbeau passes Kansas City-style sandwiches (pulled pork or brisket), smoked kielbasas and wings to drivers, cyclists and peds alike through the window of the bright-red wooden trailer, but the real work is done in the attached shed, wherein lurks an enormous smoker tricked out with chrome panels and big-rig exhaust pipes. The superb pulled pork is very smoky and not heavily sauced, and tastes like spicy carnitas. The brisket came a little less fatty than I like, but very beefy and spicy. Do pay the additional buck for slaw. Both the pulled pork and the brisket are available by the pound, should you want to feed a crowd. BEN WATERHOUSE.
BEST BITE: Pulled pork sandwich ($4.50).
CHEAPEST BITE: Side of smoked beans ($1.75).
Southwest 4th Avenue and College Street, 896-3493. 10:30 am-6 pm Monday-Friday.
Dosirak is bento's kissing cousin—a simple Korean box lunch—and simplicity is exactly what you get here: one of four permutations of sweet teriyaki chicken, mandoo dumplings, sticky brown or white rice, and iceberg salad with miso dressing. Here's a tip: Eat all of them. They're textural complements, downright made for each other. The teriyaki's earthily charred on the outside and juicy on the inside, the miso salad is brightly light and crisp, the dumplings expand with obscene softness in the mouth and the brown rice comes sticky and nutty. If you want some added heat, ask for the spicy vinegar sauce and skip the generic sriracha, unless you really are the sort of horrible person who puts ketchup on everything. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BEST BITE: The No. 1 combo ($6) covers all your bases: chicken, dumpling, rice, salad. Welcome home.
CHEAPEST BITE: For $2 less (that's $4), you can get dumplings but no chicken, or chicken but not dumplings. Why you would do this is anyone's guess.
* The Dump Truck
Southwest 11th Avenue and Alder Street, twitter.com/dumptruckpdx. 11 am-4 pm Monday-Friday.
Can you really stuff everything inside a dumpling? That's the motto of the Dump Truck, the high-set bright yellow cart in the Alder pod, and it lives up to the boisterous claim by sticking a hunk of rare beef, bits of bacon and gooey nacho cheese inside a delicate steamed wrapper. The bacon-cheeseburger dumpling is just as gross as you'd expect, but the others fare much better: Mr. Ma's special pairs pork with scallions and a sharp bite of ginger, though it's a little salty when dunked in the vinegar-heavy dipping sauce. Dumplings aren't rocket science, so stick with the basics if you want a good snack. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
BEST BITE: Mr. Ma's special, light on the dipping sauce, $6.
CHEAPEST BITE: The $5 sampler lets you choose three of the dumplings on the menu.
* Eat This!
Southwest 9th Avenue and Washington Street, 348-1866. 11 am-3 pm Monday-Friday.
Some folks are just nuts about flatbread. They'd wrap their own mothers in flatbread if they could, these people. I never understood what was so special about the stuff...until I saw the dude at Eat This! hand-rolling the bread for my chicken sandwich on the spot. Then I understood—this bread was going to be fresh. At Eat This!, the whole process, from rolling out the dough to slathering it with fresh ingredients (spinach and roasted scallions on the chicken sandwich), took Mr. Flatbread less than 10 minutes. The danger here, especially with the cart's more nuanced sandwiches, is that the delicious bread sometimes overshadows the toppings. So order the boldest-looking sandwich on the menu and hold on to your hat. CASEY JARMAN.
BEST BITE: The mushy roasted-vegetable hash with double cream Brie ($6.50).
CHEAPEST BITE: They're all $6.50, but that beef brisket number looks like a winner.
El Cubo de Cuba
Southwest 10th Avenue and Alder Street. 11:30 am-4 pm Monday-Saturday. Cash only.
A delicious meal, no matter if it's from a fancy restaurant or a food cart, should take a little bit of time. So waiting 10 minutes for a plate of Cubo de Pollo—a guava-marinated chicken thigh and wing served with Cuban rice, black beans and salty tostones (fried plantains) that practically melt in your mouth—sure beats packing the same bland turkey sandwich for lunch. The classic Cuban sandwich is also impeccable, a sweet slab of bread smashed thin and filled with mojo-marinated pork, ham, Swiss cheese and tart pickles. Get the batido de trigo (a wheat milkshake that tastes like blended sugar cereal) for dessert and die happy. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
BEST BITE: Cubo de Pollo ($7.50).
CHEAPEST BITE: The 12-ounce batido de trigo shake, made from wheat cereal, is $2.50, and a side of tostones is just $3.
* El Gallo Taqueria
4804 SE Woodstock Blvd., 481-7537, Facebook. Noon-7 pm Tuesday-Saturday. Cash only.
The parking lot of a luxury furniture maker seems an odd place to get a taco, but there it is—El Gallo, a rooster-adorned trailer with a covered seating area and an evident affection for distressed type. Owner Jake Brown, who's done time in the kitchens of Genoa and Meriwether's, hails from Nevada, as does the most impressive offering: the Nevada Tostada is an 8-inch circle of fry bread beneath a hillock of beans, meat, cabbage, pickled onions, pico de gallo, cotija cheese and "citrus crema." It's as if someone deep-fried a really good torta. There's no graceful way to eat the thing, so just dig in with your hands and keep shoveling until it's all gone. If you're in a less extravagant mood, El Gallo's tacos are very good—Brown makes all the tortillas to order. BEN WATERHOUSE.
BEST BITE: A plate of chicken, carnitas and chorizo tacos ($6).
CHEAPEST BITE: Tacos are $2 each.
El Masry Egyptian
Southwest 3rd Avenue and Washington Street, 515-6444. 11 am-8 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11:30-4 am Friday-Saturday. Credit cards accepted.
This is not your typical Mediterranean cart. This maroon Egyptian cart stands as a beacon to the starving as they enter downtown from across the Morrison Bridge. The portions of traditional Egyptian fare, including falafel, stuffed grape leaves, kofta kebabs and gyros, are huge. The regular-sized gyro is as big as an Olympic torch, and the piles of onions, beef, tomatoes and yogurt sauce can stuff two people or feed three, comfortably. With most sandwich and plate options ranging from $5 to $8, the size of lunch doesn't have to hurt your wallet. TIFFANY STUBBERT.
BEST BITE: Gyro ($6.99 regular, $8.99 extra large).
CHEAPEST BITE: Mahalbya (rice porridge, $1.99).
* Emame's Ethiopian
Southwest 9th Avenue and Washington Street, 762-3029. 11 am-3 pm Monday-Friday. Cash only.
With all the Ethiopian restaurants scattered around town, it's somewhat baffling that there's only one cart serving the traditional food of Africa's second-most-populous nation (thanks, Wikipedia!). No bother, though: Even if there were Ethiopian food carts on every corner, Emame's would still be worth going downtown for. Its doro watt ($6)—the country's national dish (thanks, menu!), spicy chicken divinely spiced and stewed in hearty berbere sauce—is salivary, especially when sopped up by the injera, the spongy traditional flatbread served with every meal. Get there early, though: By the end of the initial lunchtime rush on the day I visited, nearly every item was sold out. MATT SINGER.
BEST BITE: Siga watt (swap doro watt's chicken for beef, $6).
CHEAPEST BITE: Sambusa (a pastry shell stuffed with beef or lentils with green peppers, onions and herbs, $2).
Good Food Here, 4290 SE Belmont St., facebook.com/eurotrashcart. 10 am-8 pm Monday-Saturday, 10 am-1 pm Sunday. Cash only.
Not to be confused with common trash, Eurotrash serves European cheap eats with flair from a bright pink-and-teal truck at Good Food Here. From the Trashy B, a breakfast waffle with bacon baked inside, to Fishy Chips, breaded anchovies fried and served with aioli, this is a flavor rainbow to overwhelm your palate. Other goodness includes a prawn baguette, filled with Portuguese curried prawns, cilantro slaw and curry sauce; Oregon Doner, a falafel waffle with hummus, feta, cucumber, tomato, carrot and "trashy" sauce; and chorizo and chips, with Portuguese-style chorizo, giardiniera peppers, chips and aioli. TIFFANY STUBBERT.
BEST BITE: Trashy B, a bacon waffle with two eggs ($5).
CHEAPEST BITE: Fishy Chips ($5).
Northwest 4th Avenue and West Burnside Street, gaufregourmet.com. 7 am-3 pm Tuesday-Friday, 9 pm-late Friday-Saturday. Cash only.
I know you love FlavourSpot—so do I. But this little waffle cart on the graveled edge of Chinatown is a whole other sweet and savory beast. Chefs Charlene Wesler and Michael Susak specialize in Belgian Liège waffles, which eschew batter for a yeasted brioche-style dough and pack every bite with crunchy bits of pearl sugar. Yeah, different, and positively wonderful: The sugar-ball-studded dough lends the waffles a chewy, caramelized texture that forms an excellent base for everything from bittersweet mocha chocolate sauce to goat cheese with honey-roasted pistachios ($5.75-$6). And Gaufre's maple bacon waffle ($4.50) is just plain ridiculous, like a Voodoo Doughnut creation with exponentially more crunchy edges. KELLY CLARKE.
BEST BITE: Try the savory specials: a meatball sub waffle ($6.50) translated to a gut buster of spicy marinara and giant savory balls luxuriating on a bed of cheesy bread griddled in the waffle iron.
CHEAPEST BITE: The plain Liège with powdered sugar ($2.50) is sweet perfection.
Gin Northern Thai
232 SW Washington St., 432-0610, facebook.com/ginthaifood. 11 am-5 pm Monday-Saturday. Cash only.
Gin Northern Thai has been dolloping creamy stews atop fried noodles for nearly a year. Cuisine from the mountainous northern region of Thailand has some bells and whistles not frequently served at the majority of Thai spots throughout Portland. The rich, soupy curries poured over noodles or rice at Gin Northern Thai bear pickled mustard greens, slivers of lime and fresh shallots that reveal themselves in geyserlike bursts of flavor. RACHAEL DEWITT.
BEST BITE: Khao Soi Combo (chicken drumstick and stew beef, $7).
CHEAPEST BITE: All chicken or tofu dishes are $6.
1540 N Killingsworth St., 289-2029.
9 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-4 pm Saturday. Cash only.
If you have to eat at a Mexican-food cart parked outside a dingy gas station on a disreputable intersection—and who doesn't sometimes?—you must proceed cautiously. At Gonzalez Taqueria (formerly La Chiquita and other names), knowledge is the difference between bliss and gut rot. Steak goods like carne asada and barbacoa are gristly messes, especially when stuffed into a soggy burrito ($5) with bland rice and beans. Oh, but the tacos ($1.50) are a dream, packed into two tortillas and served piping hot with seasoned chicken, tender lengua or sweet al pastor. Knowing is half the battle, especially when your bowels are the front lines. AP KRYZA.
BEST BITE: Chicken tacos ($1.50 each)
CHEAPEST BITE: Ditto.
* Happy Grillmore
232 SW Washington St., 369-3981, happygrillmore.com. 7 am-2:30 pm Monday-Friday.
The owners of Happy Grillmore say they were inspired by another downtown food cart, Starchy and Husk, to riff on the title of a favorite flick when naming their cart. And they didn't take the blockbuster theme lightly—every item on the menu, composed exclusively of sandwiches, is named after a character from an Adam Sandler movie. RACHAEL DEWITT.
BEST BITE: The John Clasky, with applewood-smoked bacon, avocado, fried egg, havarti cheese and arugula on Fleur De Lis multigrain bread ($7).
CHEAPEST BITE: The Henry Roth Spam musubi, a Hawaiian snack that consists of Spam wrapped in seaweed ($2).
Herb's Mac & Cheese
D-Street Noshery, 3221 SE Division St., 928-7559, herbsmacandcheese.com. Noon-8 pm Wednesday-Sunday. Cash only.
This ain't molecular gastronomy; it's straight-up mac 'n' cheese. This round former shaved-ice cart boils up wheat penne and tops it with a properly goopy four-cheese Mornay sauce (regular $4.50, double $6). From that point, it's all up to you. Top it with chunks of chicken, bacon or bits of pepperoni, spice it up with pickled jalapeños or go double cheesy with sharp Asiago or blue-cheese crumbles (toppings are 50 cents to a $1 each). All the to-go tins of mac get a trip under the broiler for a welcome bit of color. Herb's isn't worth a hike across town, but on a rainy day it's a cheap, satisfying way to warm up. KELLY CLARKE.
BEST BITE: Jalapeño, chicken and buffalo-wing sauce mac ($7).
CHEAPEST BITE: Plain mac ($4.50).
Hog & Hen
Southwest 4th Avenue and Hall Street, twitter.com/hogandhen. 11 am-3 pm Monday-Friday. Cash only.
I'm the kind of guy who gets stressed out from too many food options, so ordering at Hog & Hen is quite a relief: There are just two items on the menu, one vegetarian special and one for the meat-eaters. The only other decision to be made is whether to go large ($6) or small ($4). A small red beans and rice or mac 'n' cheese, replete with sausage chunks and little bread crumbles, is plenty, especially with an extra piece of fair-to-middling cornbread (just 50 cents a chunk). Service is speedy, as the daily items are pre-made and sitting in a Crock-Pot or keeping warm in the stove. So it's a quick, cute and delicious meal you don't have to stress out about. Dreamy! CASEY JARMAN.
BEST BITE: Menu items change weekly, but the mac 'n' cheese was top-notch.
CHEAPEST BITE: It's all pretty damn cheap, but if you're running on change, buy some 50-cent cornbread.
À La Carts, Southeast 50th Avenue and Ivon Street, 891-1283, twitter.com/kingswingspdx. 11 am-9 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 am-2 am Saturday,
11:30 am-11 pm Sunday.
A very new cart devoted to all things battered and fried, King's Wings slings baskets of shockingly large chicken wings ($4.50 for six, they get cheaper the more you order) in a neighborhood already renowned for the fried birds at Pok Pok and Reel M' Inn. King's holds its own against these giants; the wings are very good, and the hot sauce (one of a dozen available sauces) is very hot. But the main reason I'll definitely be returning to King's for my NBA playoffs party is the onion rings ($3.50-$5): big, beer-battered and cooked to sweet tenderness without so much as a hint of burning. I would happily eat them by the bucket. BEN WATERHOUSE.
BEST BITE: King's Rings ($3.50-$5).
CHEAPEST BITE: Small fries ($1.75).
Good Food Here 4290 SE Belmont St., 971-269-6868. 11 am-3 pm and 5:30-8 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 11 am-8 pm Friday-Saturday.
Been bingeing on bacon? Cleanse your system with some virtuous vegan fare at this lipstick-red Belmont Street cart. Try the golden beet ravioli ($8), delicate beet slices sandwiching garlicky pesto and cashew-pine nut "cheese," capped with herby marinara. It's a perfect warm-weather dish. The real standout here, though, is the housemade walnut meat: chopped walnuts blended with tomatoes, cumin, paprika and chili. The walnut-meat tacos (two for $5) are a delightful blend of textures: crunchy nuts, smooth tofu-cilantro sauce and chewy corn tortilla. Topped with avocado, grilled veggies and shredded raw beets, it's an unusual flavor combo, but it works. REBECCA JACOBSON.
BEST BITE: Walnut tacos (two for $5).
CHEAPEST BITE: Walnut tacos or the Blessings Raw Wrap (veggies and pesto or hummus wrapped in a chard or collard leaf), each $5.
9694 SE 82nd Ave.; 600 SE 146th Ave. 9 am-1 am daily. (82nd Avenue location reviewed below.)
Taqueria La Catrina is fast building a Portland empire, with multiple food carts and now even a stand-alone restaurant downtown. But it's not about the tacos (although the tacos are just fine, like tacos always are). No, it's all about the "Tortas Gigantes" advertised on the sign. And oh man, are these sandwiches gigante. While the small ($6.50) is already bigger than some children, the $10 large version of their everything-including-the-kitchen-sink Cubano is literally impossible for a single person to finish, just like John Candy's colon-shredding steak in The Great Outdoors. Torta sandwiches are also available in hammy "Hawaiian" form, or with any of the meat toppings available for tacos—along with stewy tomatoes, onions and guacamole. Go ahead: Get fat. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BEST BITE: I'm partial to the spicy-sweet torta al pastor, especially when the plentiful sauce turns the bread halves into soft, dipped bread sticks ($4.50).
CHEAPEST BITE: Tacos are a buck and a quarter.
Crystal Food Garden, 7525 N Richmond Ave., noon-8 pm Tuesday-Thursday, noon-3 am Friday-Saturday.
In his lime-green cart between rumbling North Lombard Street and the Crystal Temple spiritual community center, Dustin Wilmeth, a.k.a. Lebaneser Scrooge, tinkers with beef and garbanzo beans, arranging lunch boxes with one of each of his six Lebanese delicacies. Wilmeth opened his cart this February under the stated premise of providing "gourmet-priced food at comfort-food prices," and he delivers. The One of Everything option ($8) includes hummus that comes served in a small dollop wrapped in pancakey Lebanese mountain bread, and a warm fatayar (a savory hand pie), which is best washed down with one of the thick, sugary imported Lebanese fruit sodas. RACHAEL DEWITT.
BEST BITE: Yabra Areesh (grape leaves stuffed with hashwa beef stew, 75 cents each).
CHEAPEST BITE: Hummus, housemade lebna cheese and stuffed grape leaves are 75 cents each.
Roaming, see twitter.com/lucysoriginal. 9 am-2:30 pm Thursday-Tuesday, 10 am-2:30 pm Sunday. Cash only.
On the surface, Lucy's Original looks like just another hamburger cart. But it's what's on the inside that makes it special—specifically, what's inside the burgers themselves. Here, the cheese is actually cooked into the meat. They call them "inside-out burgers," and every bite brings a burst of gooey joy. Wacky! Regardless of where the cheese is located, though, Lucy serves up some of the juiciest slabs of beef in town, like the So-Cal ($7), which is grilled in mustard and comes so slathered in onions it practically slides off the bun. Take note: There is a "secret menu" à la the king of regional fast-food chains, In-N-Out. MATT SINGER.
BEST BITE: The Messenger (topped with blue cheese, bacon and apple butter, $7).
CHEAPEST BITE: Lil' Lucy ($3).
Namu Killer Korean BBQ
Good Food Here, 4290 SE Belmont St.; Southwest 9th Avenue and Montgomery Street, namufood.com. 11 am-7 pm Monday-Sunday. Cash only.
Get the sweet horseradish sauce. On everything. If you don't believe me, request a sample squeezed onto your index finger—it's encouraged before ordering, as it's got kick. The menu isn't huge at eight dishes long, but you can't say Namu lacks variety. The cart offers breakfast and four different sauces (barbecue, teriyaki, peanut, sweet horseradish) so there are 32 combinations to choose from. The vegan bowl offers the best bet for your buck and belly and includes a variety of available sides tucked into brown or white rice and covered in the sauce of your choosing (again, get the sweet horseradish). A word on the ribs: While the barbecue sauce is a perfect ratio of sweet, salty and spicy, what's underneath is mostly charred fat and what isn't borders on impossible to cut and chew. NIKKI VOLPICELLI.
BEST BITE: The vegan bowl ($5).
CHEAPEST BITE: Fried-egg sandwich ($4).
Mississippi Marketplace, 4233 N Mississippi Ave., 330-7616, nativebowl.blogspot.com. 11:30 am-3 or 4 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
In a way, Native Bowl isn't native at all: Each of the NoPo cart's menu options is inspired by a decidedly nonindigenous cuisine, from the Far East flavors of the Broadway Bowl to the Hollywood Bowl's Near East essences. In other ways, though, Native Bowl is as Portland as it gets: It's an all-vegan food cart, for Pete's sake, and its dishes are even named after North and Northeast Portland streets. Mississippi Avenue's bowl ($6 regular, $7.50 large) taps Southern tastes—ranch dressing, two types of barbecue sauce, and show-stealing soy barbecue curls—to represent American cooking among Native Bowl's otherwise foreign fare. USA! USA! JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.
BEST BITE: The Mississippi Bowl ($6 regular, $7.50 large).
CHEAPEST BITE: Everything's the same price.
Off the Griddle
À La Carts, Southeast 50th Avenue and Ivon Street, 989-3908, facebook.com/offthegriddle. Noon-8 pm Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, noon-9 pm Friday-Saturday.
Off the Griddle's veggie burgers don't pretend to be meat—and thank goodness for that. The rice-based patties, packed with leeks and mushrooms, are dense, nutty and satisfying. A tad mushy, sure, but still an excellent base for the host of vegan and vegetarian toppings. Skip the fake cheese. The imitation blue cheese had a weird, cottony dryness to it, and not much flavor either. Opt instead for a burger topped with expertly prepared tempeh bacon or go big with the Messy Bessy, a chaotic heap of avocado, caramelized onions, a fried egg, cheddar cheese and even chewy potato rounds. Knife and fork advised. REBECCA JACOBSON.
BEST BITE: Messy Bessy, $8.
CHEAPEST BITE: Vegan B.L.T. (tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato and vegan mayo), $4.
* Oregon Ice/Soup Works
D-Street Noshery, 3221 SE Division St., 880-8229, twitter.com/oregoniceworks. Noon-8 pm Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, noon-9 pm Friday-Saturday.
When Portland's weather forecasters start inaccurately predicting snow, Oregon Ice Works owner Kevin Bell switches to a hot soup-and-sandwiches menu and slaps a temporary-looking "Soup" sign on his cart's side. Thanks to Bell's attention to detail, the cart's winter offerings aren't as slapdash as its winter signage—for the delicious Philly roast pork sandwich ($8), he uses Italian long hot peppers actually from Philadelphia. Even so, Bell doesn't front: "Oregon Soup Works" is a front. "What we really do," he says, "is ice," and when he thaws a marionberry ice out of hibernation, I taste what he means. Made from nothing but locally grown marionberries, organic cane sugar, lemon juice and water, it's a natural, West Coast take on Italian ice that'll only get more refreshing as warm weather approaches. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.
BEST BITE: Ice, ice, baby; $3 adults, $2 children under 10 (available April-October).
CHEAPEST BITE: Ditto.
* Over the Top Wild Game Burgers
À La Carts, Southeast 50th Avenue and Ivon Street, 360-7124, twitter.com/overthetoppdx. Cash only.
The menu at this artfully decorated cart, adorned with slightly surreal paintings of totem poles, changes unpredictably. Three features, though, are constant: There will be burgers, they will cost about $9, and they are unlikely to contain beef. Despite the name, Over the Top does not serve exclusively wild meats—rabbit, lamb and emu have made appearances—but its burgers are unfailingly unconventional. An elk burger is usually on offer, with butter lettuce, provolone and caramelized onions. It's large, the size and shape of a generous jelly doughnut, and just as red in the center. Elk is an intimidating meat, and the provolone doesn't quite stand up to the gaminess of the patty. Better is the water buffalo patty, which tastes like grass-fed beef that never saw a feedlot, with a thick slice of house-smoked bacon, feta and spinach. All burgers come with Tim's Cascade chips or a fresh apple slaw, which is, possibly just for the irony of it all, made with vegan mayonnaise. BEN WATERHOUSE.
BEST BITE: Water buffalo! ($9)
CHEAPEST BITE: Tempura-battered beets, $3.
Pastrami on Rye
PSU pod, Southwest 4th Avenue between College and Hall Streets. 11 am-2:30 pm Monday-Friday. Cash only.
Oy gevalt! My plan to open a Jewish food cart (a back-up in case this writing thing doesn't work out) is kaput; Pastrami on Rye—open, it turns out, nearly a year now—has the chosen cuisine covered. The cart's namesake sandwich ($5.25) is a perfectly peppered paragon, and its veggie Reuben ($5.25) daringly but rewardingly eschews fake meat for sautéed mushrooms and swiss. The potato knish ($3.25), a kind of dumpling, left me feeling consoled that I at least wasn't the only one Pastrami on Rye had beaten to the punch: Knishes are the perfect drunken snack, and the cart is serving them before any bar in town. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.
BEST BITE: Potato knish ($3.25).
CHEAPEST BITE: Cup of matzo-ball soup (comes with slice of challah, $3).
* PDX 671
North Station, 2730 N Killingsworth St., 971-570-0945, pdx671.com. noon-2 pm Tuesday-Friday, noon-"sold out" Saturday. Cash only.
Amid the various flat tires, jury-rigged campers and dubious paint jobs of the North Station cart pod, PDX 671 certainly stands out with its sleek new silver trailer and professional-looking palm tree logo. Specializing in the food of the Chamorro, the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands ("671" is Guam's area code), this cart offers a short list of simple yet deceptively filling meat dishes and sides. For a taste of everything, try the small Fiesta Plate ($5.25-$6.25; $8.75-$11.75 for two pieces of meat), the main feature of which is either a marinated grilled chicken thigh or flanken-cut short rib. Add a side of Chamorro flatbread ($3), grilled to blistery-charred perfection, and you've got yourself one hell of a lunch. KAT MERCK.
BEST BITE: The lumpia (3 for $4.50), deep-fried spring rolls filled with Tails & Trotters ground pork, are satisfyingly crisp and juicy.
CHEAPEST BITE: Side of achiote red rice, $1.75.
Dreamer's Marketplace, 2737 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., pepperboxpdx.com. 9 am-3 pm Tuesday-Saturday. Cash only.
New Mexicans tend to be fiercely devoted not only to their sparsely populated desert state, but also to its chili-centric cuisine. Happily for them, the Land of Enchantment's gastronomy is in capable hands: those of Pepper Box owner and native Albuquerquean Jim Wilson. Pepper Box's most popular item is the breakfast taco ($3, two for $5), a surprisingly filling egg, potato and cheese scramble seasoned with red or green chili and folded into a housemade tortilla. Better, though, is the El Tocino ($4, two for $6), a quesadilla sandwich that spices up bacon with green chili and chipotle cream. JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG.
BEST BITE: El Tocino ($4, two for $6).
CHEAPEST BITE: Red-chili-glazed carrots ($2 small, $3.50 large).
Southwest 4th Avenue and Hall Street, 709-1662. 11 am-5 pm Monday-Friday.
The line on this place is that its fare is closer than most Portland options to real Thai street food. I've never been to Thailand, so I can only tell you that the $6 green curry here, served over rice noodles rather than rice, is gut-bustingly awesome. Bring a date if you want to actually finish the thing. The $6 pad see ew is a little salty and slimy and otherwise gooey, which is, incidentally, exactly how I dig my Thai food (although naysayers, who find the noodles squidlike and disturbing, abound). Little bonuses (free lunch on your birthday! Reusable containers! Text-ahead orders!) might just give Poompui Thai the edge over its nearby competition. CASEY JARMAN.
BEST BITE: The $6 green curry noodle is delectable.
CHEAPEST BITE: Does dessert count? Because the $4 mango sticky rice is incredible.
Rip City Grill
Southwest Moody Avenue and Abernethy Street, 544-2374, ripcitygrill.com. 10 am-2 pm Monday-Friday. Cash only.
The grilled chicken sandwich ($5) is great. The three-cheese grilled cheese ($3.50) is delectable. But the real draw for Rip City Grill is the amazing tri-tip steak sandwich ($6), which draws crowds to the one-man cart parked in the endless construction zone of the South Waterfront. Huge chunks of rare meat are piled high on a bun (add 50 cents for cheese), and extras like caramelized onions, bacon and avocado are a steal at 50 cents to $1. The 10-minute-plus wait is well worth it (though Rip City takes phone orders), especially when the meaty ambrosia arrives piping hot. AP KRYZA.
BEST BITE: Tri-tip steak sandwich ($6).
CHEAPEST BITE: Three-cheese grilled cheese ($3.50).
Rotissol and Greens
Southwest 9th Avenue and Alder Street, 505-8222. 11 am-4 pm Monday-Friday.
I prefer to think that the homey light purple of the Rotissol cart is the red, white and blue of the Puerto Rican flag all mashed up together like the ham and the pork loin, the Swiss and the cheddar, the mustard and pickle of its flagship 'Rican-style Cubano sandwich ($6.50). The cart is a recent addition to the Alder pod, and the young married couple who run the place charmingly treat it as their own personal baby (if you could fit a rotisserie inside your newborn baby, that is). Beyond the Cubano, the rest of the sandwich fare is more restrained but always full of care, herb and spice. Bien a fuego, as they say, although I mean it more literally than most. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
BEST BITE: The Cubano. But get it in the massive $10 meal deal with garlic bread, a sunflower-seeded veggie salad and the hearty soup of the day.
CHEAPEST BITE: Split the above, with a friend. It's huge. Or get the half-meal deal for $6.50.
North Station, 2730 N Killingsworth St., 928-2796, scooppdx.com. Spring hours: 5-7 pm Thursday-Friday, noon-3 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Sweet, sour, salty—Scoop is pretty much the scourge of dentists everywhere, but for ice cream lovers, it's bliss. Amanda Rhoades' handcrafted organic ice creams, such as the Salted Caramel and Oatmeal Brown Sugar, are amazingly rich in the cone ($2.75 and up) or in a thick-as-oil milkshake topped with frothy whipped cream ($4.50-$5.50). Housemade waffle cones (75 cents extra) are crisp and flavorful, and floats ($5) come with a variety of sodas, from traditional root beer to black cherry. Finding the tiny cart is easy. Just look for the trail of discarded teeth leading to the oasis of oral decay. AP KRYZA.
BEST BITE: The Black & Tan, a rich milkshake mix of chocolate and salted caramel ($4.50-$5.50).
CHEAPEST BITE: A single scoop of any flavor ($2.75).
* Shut Up and Eat
À La Carts, Southeast 50th Avenue and Ivon Street, 577-5604, shutupandeatpdx.com. noon-7:30 pm Sunday-Monday, noon-8:30 pm Wednesday-Thursday, noon-9:30 pm Friday-Saturday. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
I'd shut up, really, I would, but I just can't keep from moaning. Oh, mama, these sandwiches are heaven! The sweet Italian sausage ($8) with peppers and cheese, that's pretty good, but the thin slices of roast pork ($8), mustard greens and roasted pepper, covered in melted provolone and Parmesan, all stuffed in an overflowing 9-inch roll soaked through with juices? I haven't had a lunch this fine, I tell you, since the last time I was in Philadelphia. I only wish I'd saved room for the panzerotti—I do love me a deep-fried pastry. When you go, call ahead; sandwiches this good take some time to make. Or don't call, and pass the time playing cornhole with Shut Up and Eat's boards. BEN WATERHOUSE.
BEST BITE: Thin-sliced roast pork ($8).
CHEAPEST BITE: Panzerotti ($4).
* Slice Brick Oven Pizza
D-Street Noshery, 3221 SE Division St. Noon-8 pm Tuesday-Thursday, noon-9 pm Friday-Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
Slice Brick has got your cheese, your pepperoni, your trusty veggie margherita. All reliably thin, crispy, sprawling triangles of housemade dough and sauce. But go beyond the typical pizza frontier and you won't be disappointed. Prosciutto, soppressata, arugula, fontina and mass amounts of mushrooms await. The pizza alla vodka in particular is a masterpiece: Juicy grilled onions, fresh mozzarella and thin strips of sausage smothered in vodka sauce—yeah, you'll want more than just a slice of that. Get a pie: $18 for a 16-incher, $8 for 10-inch. Slice also encourages creativity with the "Build Your Own" ($2.75 plus 75-cent veg and $1.50 meat toppings). CAITLIN MCCARTHY.
BEST BITE: Pizza alla vodka ($3.50 for a slice).
CHEAPEST BITE: Cheese slice ($2.75).
430 SW 3rd Ave., 459-8681.
8:30 am-4 pm Monday-Friday. Cash only.
Sonny Bowl is slim and unassuming, in size and in atmosphere, but it packs a serious gastronomic punch. Quietly vegan (even a devout carnivore might miss the fact), it offers three variations on the rice-bowl-and-veggies theme: The One adds black beans, salsa, green chilies and a perfect cilantro-lemon sauce; the Two is sweet and tangy, with a pineapple curry sauce over chickpeas, almonds and raisins; and the Three marries a crisp kale salad with barbecued soy curls for a bowl that will have you reconsidering the make-up of most Southern comfort foods. Marvelously, Sonny Bowl leaves you light and satisfied. Perhaps those vegans are on to something.... CAITLIN MCCARTHY.
BEST BITE: The Three ($5).
CHEAPEST BITE: Any of the three bowls at mini size ($3).
Taqueria Antojitos Yucatecos
Southeast 102nd Avenue and Stark Street, 867-2328. 11 am-8:30 pm Sunday-Monday and Wednesday-Thursday, 11 am-9 pm Friday-Saturday. Cash only.
Tired of Mexican food? Well, you clearly have some sort of appetite disorder. Admittedly, though, in a city with so many options for decent tacos and burritos, a sense of overkill can set in. In those times when something different is desired, this unassuming little cart specializing in the provincial dishes of the Yucatan Peninsula is a godsend. You can get the standards as well, but they're not the stars here. In lieu of tacos, try the panuchos, a crispy tortilla with black beans fried on the inside and topped with shredded chicken, lettuce and pickled red onions. MATT SINGER.
BEST BITE: Torta de cochinita pibil, a sandwich stuffed with pork slow-roasted Yucatecan style ($5).
CHEAPEST BITE: All panuchos, salbutes (another popular street food made with fried tortillas) and tacos are $1.35.
Southwest 3rd Avenue and Stark Street. Lunchtime Monday-Friday. Cash only.
How does a Thai cart make itself stand out among the masses in Portland? Especially one tucked away across the street from the pod at Southwest 3rd Avenue and Stark Street? Thankfully, Thai Tea doesn't resort to a butt-stupid pun in order to get attention. It simply serves up authentic, high-quality southern Thai cuisine—the crispy basil tilapia ($7.95) is particularly boss—and lets the people come to it. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the cart also serves seemingly bottomless portions of said cuisine. Six bucks gets you a massive helping of pad see ew that you'll swear multiplies with each bite. MATT SINGER.
BEST BITE: Peanut-sauce curry ($5.95).
CHEAPEST BITE: Pork pot stickers (six for $3.50).
Viking Soul Food
Green Castle Food Court, 1930 NE Everett St., 704-5481, vikingsoulfood.com. Noon-8 pm Tuesday-Thursday, noon-9 pm Friday-Saturday. Cash only.
Apparently when the Vikings weren't conquering they were cooking. This Airstream, nicknamed Gudrun, specializes in a cross between tortillas and crepes called lefse that act as a base for all kinds of skinny Norwegian burritos. Chow on hearty, oddly sweet "Norse" meatballs with pickled red cabbage and funky Gjetost cheese sauce, or get a sugar rush with crunchy roasted spiced pecans and oozy lemon curd ($3.50-$4.50). The best roll-up might be the salty smoked salmon spiked with dill crème fraiche, lightly pickled shallots and watercress. KELLY CLARKE.
BEST BITE: Smoked-salmon lefse, $4.50 (two for $8).
CHEAPEST BITE: Plain lefse with butter and local honey ($2.50).
* Wet Hot Beef
Southwest 10th Avenue and Washington Street, 360-609-9008, wethotbeef.com. 11 am-4 pm Monday-Friday. Cash only.
Despite boasting one of the least appetizing names in the mobile biz—admittedly, the competition in that category is less fierce after this winter's closing of both Lucille's Balls and Bloop Oatmeal Cart—Wet Hot Beef serves up some solid, steaming cow. (How about that name, guys? Solid Steaming Cow?) Specifically, they serve roast-beef hoagies ($6.25-$7.50), the meat thickly chopped and dripping with jus. It's a sloppy 9 inches, but the cart smartly places it standing up in a 12-ounce paper cup, so you can chow down without getting a jus-y lap. (The place makes a lot of good decisions: crafting its own potato chips and ginger soda, for starters, then surviving the winter belt-tightening by relocating downtown from an eastside pod.) I recommend getting the Piedmontese beef accented with pickled carrots and caramelized onions, which contrast the whole wet hot thing with crisp snap. The cart describes this as the "dressed" option (as opposed to "naked" or "indecent," which adds a cheese sauce), but it's best not to think about it in those terms, probably. Naming things is not what Wet Hot Beef does best. AARON MESH.
BEST BITE: A sandwich with some beef and pickled veggies ($6.75).
CHEAPEST BITE: A sandwich with some beef but no veggies ($6.25).
7909 SE 13th Ave., 971-227-7610.
11 am-6 pm Tuesday-Sunday. Cash only.
Sushi out of a vintage silver Airstream? Yes, please. This Sellwood cart dishes up mondo sushi rolls (your best bet is the 13th Street, packed with tempura shrimp, avocado and cucumber, and crowned with salmon and a zigzag of piquant mayo, $6) and Asian-inspired entrees, including intensely garlicky Szechuan green beans ($5) and lightly fried, panko-crusted ginger chicken ($6). For an unusual edible, try a $1 tea egg—hardboiled, cracked and soaked in black tea and spices. With hints of vinegar and licorice, it's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's sure to enliven taste buds you never knew you had. REBECCA JACOBSON.
BEST BITE: Happy Cabbage, chicken served over cabbage in a sambal-laced coconut sauce, is tangy, fiery and sweet, all at once ($6).
CHEAPEST BITE: Cucumber or avocado sushi roll ($3).