Pulehu Pizza started out as a joke among friends: quitting their day jobs, moving to the beach and grilling pizzas for a living. And then Pierre Prevost and Annabelle Eastling, owners and pizzaiolos of Pulehu, actually did it. Eyeing a more inspiring culinary scene after four years of grilling beachside in Hawaii, the partners moved from Maui to Portland, opening a downtown cart last April. With Prevost’s French background and Eastling’s Hawaiian roots, they combined forces and brought their grilled pizza “made with Aloha” and super-thin, crackery crust.

"Pulehu" is Hawaiian slang for grill, and the cart is equipped with a massive one. That's where the magic happens, over an open flame. "We started with a grill because we couldn't afford a proper wood-burning oven, and by the time we could, we realized we could never reproduce the same pizza in one," Eastling says. "It's been a great surprise for us." And a surprise it is.

The delicate, almost flaky crust is thinner than a saltine but with a similar crunch. It's surprising in a good way, with a soft and doughy center. The meat lovers pie comes loaded with pepperoni and sausage from Sheridan Fruit Co., sitting atop the perfect amount of red sauce, a sprinkle of local cheeses and subtle garlic. This 8-inch pie ($7) is mighty in flavor but dainty in size—hell, I could've eaten three of them. If hungry, consider opting for the $15 12-incher. The rich truffle-oil mushroom pie ($8) is made with homemade ricotta cheese, sauteed mushrooms smothered in mouthwatering truffle oil.

In addition to the savory pies, Pulehu also offers seasonal desserts, including a $6 pie with fluffy sugar, sour cream, baked pears and dollops of melted chocolate garnished with crushed walnuts. It's light, slightly sweet and terribly satisfying.

After years of hopping around Maui, cooking for block parties and an array of festivities, Eastling and Prevost are comfortably embracing Portland and the unexpected success of their golden grill. "There are so many talented and interesting people involved in this food-cart scene," Eastling says. "It keeps us on our toes."

  • Order this: Eight-inch meat lovers ($7).

EAT: Pulehu Pizza, 432 SW 3rd Ave., 915-6869, pulehupizza.com. 11:30 am-3 pm Monday-Saturday, 11 pm-4 am Friday-Saturday.