You can drive to Cartlandia, but you probably shouldn't. Not just because this "bike-centric food-cart superpod" on Southeast 82nd Avenue is 3 gallons from much of Portland, but because the best food cooked at this lot near the restive Clackistani border should only be consumed after a lengthy trip on the neighboring Springwater Corridor bike trail, which goes right by the pod on its 22-mile route from the Eastbank Esplanade to the town of Boring.
What should you order? Partly, that depends on how far you want to pedal. If you're willing to roll to Boring and back, get the fundamentalist steak sandwich from Cheesesteak Nirvana, a slab of marionberry strudel from Cake on a Hot Tin Roof and a beer, if the tented bar is open.
With a heavy stream of cyclists set to start riding past Cartlandia, 8.5 miles from downtown, we decided to check out the pod's newer carts and a few old favorites. Here's what to eat, depending on your chosen turnaround point.
Mile 9, I-205
Tofu Cilantro Tempeh Wrap ($7)
The Good and Evil Wrap Co.
Good edges out evil at this cart, which is evenly divided between antioxidant-rich hippie foods and gut-busting lard bombs. Our "Good" wrap was more salad, heavy on crisp spinach and tart cranberries but very light on soy products. It still bested the "Evil" black-and-blue steak wrap ($7.50), filled with fatty steak that had been breaded and fried, bacon and blue cheese.
Mile 10, Powell Butte
Pork Adobo ($7)
Kusina sa Gulong
Philippine cuisine was influenced by Asian, Austronesian, Spanish and American food and can be quite complex. But serving from a tiny cart kitchen, Kusma sa Gulong keeps things simple with stewed meats and rice. The pork adobo is cooked in a garlic-soy sauce to almost dry. The adobo's color was far duller than the bright orange chicken afritada ($7), but the flavor was not.
Mile 14, Linneman Station
Cheese and Onion Pasty ($6)
London Pasty Company
If you need some quick carbs or to please a picky-eating child, grab one of these potato pasties. While the British hand pies can often be filled with spicy curries and rich stews, this one is basically a giant Mrs. T's pierogi, filled with mashed potatoes that take some flavor from a little onion and cheese.
Mile 17.5, Hogan Road
Cabbage Rolls ($5.99), Manti ($6.99) and Vetrushka ($2.49)
Traditional Russian Cuisine
This is not actually Portland's first Russian cart—a long-forgotten downtown cart opened and closed in 2008—but it's the only one now open. Cabbage rolls stuffed with ground beef, onions and plump rice under a creamy drizzle, and large lamb-filled manti dumplings are deeply satisfying, while the vetrushka, a sweet, puffy pastry filled with a buttercream-like cottage cheese sauce, was one of the best bites we got. Try the salsa-like borscht ($2.99 for 16 ounces) so you can better laugh along with Yakov Smirnoff jokes.
Mile 21, Boring
Country Breakfast Rodeo Dog ($5.75)
Deb's Blazin' Grill
The surprise breakout hit of our visit was Deb's country breakfast rodeo dog. A Deb's dog (we tried both beef and elk—the beef was better) is topped with scrambled eggs, bacon strips, tater tots and cheddar. A slathering of peppery country gravy is what really ties it all together. It's like a complete Waffle House breakfast smashed together—with hot dog—but it'd be a great brunch after a long, early ride.
EAT: Cartlandia, 8145 SE 82nd Ave. 11 am-10 pm daily, though each cart's hours vary.