March 6th, 2002 Eric Larson | Special Section Stories
 

Lord of the Carts

     
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Hobbits love to eat, drink and be merry, and Portland's food carts make handy pit stops for our hairy-footed friends. Follow along as WW's resident hobbit tours the fellowship of the carts spread about this town's Middle City.

We always knew he had hobbit in him. His hair swings in his eyes, and he has a lust for all that is bountiful and good. After finding out his "family" name through the Hobbit Name Generator at www.chriswetherell.com/hobbit/, Eric Larson decided to embrace his inner hobbit. Eric went forth as Fredegar Brandybuck of Puddletown to tour the soggy, foggy streets and catch up with the grub at Middle City's culinary carts.

One overcast morning, Fredegar--with tummy a-grumblin' and first breakfast on his mind--happened upon a smiling, mustached gent humming a song in the slightly dingy area known as Morecart Corner located at Southwest 5th Avenue and Oak Street.

A Taste of Poland

Here, the proprietor, Dion, makes foodstuffs from his faraway land. Three varieties of handmade sausages (Hunter, Garlic, 100-Percent Smoked Beef) are the draw. Fredegar fell face first into a combo with garlic sausage that came loaded with onions, kraut and spicy mustard, plus a bellyful of densely stuffed potato cakes, steaming potatoes and carrots, a creamy potato salad, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and a mighty dollop of sour cream on top. All for $6. Quite satisfied for the moment, Fredegar shook Dion's hands and continued on his way.

Philly on the Phly

Eager not to offend the neighbors, Fredegar rounded off his breakfast with the next cart's feature: a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich (half for $2.95, full for $4.95). Red and green peppers, mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese, are piled onto a toasted hoagie roll, their flavors blending together. While a sandwich is meant to be portable, Fredegar found his belly and hairy feet decorated with drippings from the cheesesteak. You might arm yourself with many napkins, warns Fredegar.

Pivoting west, our friend rolled along until he saw a sunlit clearing surrounding a parking lot. Kissing his burgeoning belly and feeling brave, he approached the culinary delights of Updowntown, a collection of carts at Southwest 9th Avenue and Alder Street. Perfect for second breakfast, thought Fredegar.

Altengartz German Brand Bratwurst

Specialty spiced sausage is the name of the game here. Fredegar's came tucked in scrambled eggs and smothered in cheese--a rich, melted mixture of Chardonnay, garlic and Swiss. After sneaking a cup of joe from their full espresso menu, Fredegar continued, wide-eyed and grinning, ready for more.

Chinto's

A Middle City staple, this Mexican cart offers everything under the sombrero--tacos, burritos, enchiladas and tostadas--and is rejoiced far and wide for its authentic take on South of the Border. The steam pouring out nearly obstructed Fredegar's view one of his favorite words: fajitas. After a chat with the friendly proprietors, a plastic clamshell container appeared, filled with a beautiful mess of Spanish rice, spice and chicken chunks for $6; no cumbersome tortillas were to be found.

Taste of India

After splashing his bare feet awhile in the fountain at nearby O'Bryant Park, Fredegar was ready for elevenses. He ordered the meat-inclusive five-course daily special (there's also a veggie option) from Taste of India's full menu. His chicken, tandooried and curried, was served with rice and a huge, steaming piece of naan to assure that he would soak up all the splendid sauce. There were even some spiced up veggies tucked inside, and all for $4.50. This perked his pointy ears right up.

Crossing the mighty Burnside into Ritzy Hollow (known by many as Northwest), where the trees are greener and the people fairer, Fredegar stumbled on a lunch spread beyond his dreams.

Don Nicola's

Fredegar nearly missed this babe of the densely populated Middle City cart world: It's just a few months old and lives cuddled up to the side of Powell's Books at Northwest 11th Avenue and Couch Street. The proprietor serves up supersized meatballs dripping with a thick and spicy tomato sauce, stuffs them into a fresh and flaky 6-inch sub roll, and wraps the whole thing in foil. It's bigger than a dwarf and just $5.

Phil's Uptown Meat Market

Only one mouthwatering choice is available at this cart at 17 NW 23rd Place: A grilled teriyaki chicken kabob served on a steaming bed of soft and sticky white rice. Fredegar added some teriyaki and chili sauce, shelled out $4 and licked his sweet and tingly lips all the way to his pony. This isn't anything fancy, but considering it was Fredegar's seventh meal that day, it provided a bland but comforting snack. Pure enough (and low-fat enough) for an elf.

Fuego

Grooving to some Jerry Garcia tunes emanating from the cart at Northwest 12th Avenue and Hoyt Street, Fredegar circled his order on a small pad of paper. His veggie burrito came as ordered, wrapped in a steamed whole-wheat tortilla. The bean 'n' rice fixings with just a touch of yogurt had him crying, "OH! Delicious!" to passersby. The 10-minute wait and $4.25 were very small prices to pay for this healthy and filling meal.

Next, as the sun opened through the clouds, Fredegar wandered up to the PeeEssYou campus in search of brain food to accompany his afternoon tea.

Honkin' Huge Burritos at PeeEssYou

The names says it all. The tremendous weight and size of Fredegar's "medium" burrito nearly anchored him to the cement. One of the oldest carts in Middle City, Honkin' Huge so loads you up with beans and cheese you might not make it though the door of your hobbit house. With chopped tomatoes on top and more than a dozen hot sauces to choose from, Fredegar was overwhelmed in every way.

Basha's Mediterranean Cuisine

One word at this PeeEssYou cart: Baklava ($1.50). Another: Falafel ($3.50), spicy and filling. This food from the land where wizards walk is transformed to rib-sticking armor into the rainy climes of Middle City.

While the sun shone, Fredegar basked on the benches of the Greenswath. Then, as dusk gathered and dinnertime approached, he crossed the river the elves call Uillam‘t into Eastsideshire, where carts are sparse. But still he did not fail in his quest.

Pardo Taqueria

Two tacos, two bucks. Too good. The nose-drippin' red sauce at this stop at Southeast 7th Avenue and Division Street had Fredegar begging for a drink of water.

Taqueria El Paisa

Fredegar battled the language barrier at this ultra-authentic, ultra-cost-effective taqueria at Northeast 60th Avenue and Killingsworth Street, which offers all the options and more. $3.50 bought a burrito con carne asada that turned out to be the size of a sword and was served with a deliciously hot verde sauce. The flour tortilla may be the best in the land. Look for octopus and shrimp options on the weekends.

After his day of mighty feasting, Fredegar had to be air-lifted home on the back of an eagle because his small legs could no longer support his weight. He squeezed into his hole (thank goodness for round doorways, he thought) and lay down in his bending bed, happy as a hobbit can be (and that's very happy). And he slept long and well.

When he awoke the next day, he was Eric again. And he was hungry.


Cheap Eats 2002 Index:
The Restaurants
Hooked on Pizza
Lord of the CartsHooked on Pizza
Lord of the CartsJohn Street Cafe
no fish! go fish!
Purple Parlour
Soup and Soap
Thai Ginger
THE MISSISSIPPI PIZZA PUB
The Original King Burrito
Waddle's

Northeast Portland
American Dream Pizza
Beaterville Cafe
Bella Faccia
CaliÕs Sandwiches
Cameo Cafe
Cannon's Rib Express
Chaba Thai
Chez What? cafe
Dahlia Cafe
Divine Cafe
Doris' Cafe
Du's Grill
El Sombrero
Groundswell Cafe
Horn of Africa
La Bonita
la buca
La Sirenita
LaurelThirst Public House
Leaf and Bean Cafe
LUNA ON BROADWAY
McMenamins Kennedy School
Milo's City Cafe
My-Canh
ole! ole!
Pastini
Peanut Butter & Ellie's
Queen of Sheba
Stanich's
The Dog House
The Savory Tart
Violet's Cafe
Vita Cafe
Yam YamÕs southern style barbecue


Northwest Portland
Accuardi's Old Town Pizza
Byways Cafe
Cameo Cafe
Escape from New York Pizza
Fellini
Fong Chong
Foothill Broiler
Fuller's Coffee Shop
Golden Horse Seafood Restaurant
HOT LIPS
House of Louie
In Good Taste
Justa Pasta
Ken's Artisan Bakery
la buca
Le Happy
Little Wing Cafe
Low Brow Lounge
Marco Polo Garden
Mio Sushi
Nancy Lee's
Pearl Bakery
Richie B.'s / TributeÕs
Stepping Stone Cafe

 

Southeast Portland
BRIDGEPORT ALE HOUSE
Cafe Lena
Campbell's Bar-B-Q
Claudia's
Cup and Saucer
Delta Cafe
Dots Cafe
Edelweiss Deli
Fat Albert's
Flying Pie Pizzeria
Golden Jade Restaurant
Hoda's Middle Eastern Cuisine
Holman's Bar & Grill
J & M Cafe
Jarra's
Johnny B's
Juniors
Kalga Kafe
Kay's
La Calaca Comelona
La Cruda
Limelight Restaurant & Lounge
Mad Hatter Lounge
Mama's Corner Cafe
Mar's on Hawthorne Deli
Michael's Italian Beef & Sausage co.
Nicholas' Restaurant
Nick's Famous Coney Island
no fish! go fish!
Papaya Thai
Paradox Cafe
Philadelphia's
Produce Row Cafe
San Felipe Taqueria
Tabor Hill Cafe
Taqueria Uruapan
The Lucky Labrador Brew Pub
Toney Bento
Utopia Cafe
VINCENTE'S GOURMET PIZZA
Ya Hala


Southwest Portland
chef's corner deli
Congress Center Cafe
Crowsenberg's Half & Half
El Grillo
Esan Thai
flying elephants
French Wrap
Gandhi's
Georgian Room
Good Dog/Bad Dog
Goose Hollow Inn
HOT LIPS
Macheezmo Mouse
Morning Star Espresso
New York, NY
no fish! go fish!
ole! ole!
ROCCO'S
Rovente
Sahara Deli
Stanich's
Stickers Asian Cafe
Thai Peacock
The Original Pancake House
The Roxy
Todai
Wu's Open Kitchen

Suburbs
Cactus Jack's
Flying Pie Pizzeria
Fryer Tuck Chicken
Giant Drive-In
HOT LIPS
House of Asia
i love sushi
Marinepolis Sushi Land
Noodles
ole! ole!
PIZZA BELLA
Skyline Restaurant
Stickers Asian Cafe
Thai Peacock
The Lucky Labrador Brew Pub
Wu's Open Kitchen

Browse by Cuisine

African
Horn of Africa
Jarra's
Queen of Sheba

American
Beaterville Cafe
Byways Cafe
Cafe Lena
Cameo Cafe
chef's corner deli
Chez What? cafe
Claudia's
Congress Center Cafe
Crowsenberg's Half & Half
Cup and Saucer
Dahlia Cafe
Divine Cafe
Fat Albert's
flying elephants
Fryer Tuck Chicken
Fuller's Coffee Shop
Georgian Room
Giant Drive-In
Good Dog/Bad Dog
Goose Hollow Inn
Groundswell Cafe
Holman's Bar & Grill
In Good Taste
J & M Cafe
John Street Cafe
Johnny B's
Juniors
Kay's
Leaf and Bean Cafe
Limelight Restaurant & Lounge
Little Wing Cafe
Mama's Corner Cafe
Mar's on Hawthorne Deli
McMenamins Kennedy School
Milo's City Cafe
Morning Star Espresso
Nancy Lee's
New York, NY
Nick's Famous Coney Island
no fish! go fish!
Peanut Butter & Ellie's
Pearl Bakery
Philadelphia's
Purple Parlour
Richie B.'s / TributeÕs
Skyline Restaurant
Stepping Stone Cafe
Tabor Hill Cafe
The Dog House
The Original Pancake House
Utopia Cafe
Violet's Cafe
Waddle's


Cambodian

House of Asia


Chinese

Fong Chong
Golden Horse Seafood Restaurant
Golden Jade Restaurant
House of Louie
Marco Polo Garden
Wu's Open Kitchen

Continental/French
CaliÕs Sandwiches
French Wrap
Ken's Artisan Bakery
Le Happy
The Savory Tart

German
Edelweiss Deli

Hodgepodge
Fellini
Kalga Kafe
Paradox Cafe
Vita Cafe

Indian
Gandhi's


Italian
Justa Pasta
la buca
Michael's Italian Beef & Sausage co.
Noodles
Pastini

Italian / Pizza
Accuardi's Old Town Pizza
American Dream Pizza
Bella Faccia
BRIDGEPORT ALE HOUSE
Escape from New York Pizza
Flying Pie Pizzeria
HOT LIPS
LUNA ON BROADWAY
PIZZA BELLA
ROCCO'S
Rovente
THE MISSISSIPPI PIZZA PUB
VINCENTE'S GOURMET PIZZA


Japanese

i love sushi
Marinepolis Sushi Land
Mio Sushi
Todai

Middle-Eastern
Hoda's Middle Eastern Cuisine
Nicholas' Restaurant
Sahara Deli
Ya Hala


Pan-asian

Du's Grill
Stickers Asian Cafe
Toney Bento

Pub Grub
Dots Cafe
Foothill Broiler
LaurelThirst Public House
Low Brow Lounge
Mad Hatter Lounge
Produce Row Cafe
Stanich's
The Lucky Labrador Brew Pub
The Roxy


Russian

Mama's Corner Cafe


South of the Border

Cactus Jack's
El Grillo
El Sombrero
La Bonita
La Calaca Comelona
La Cruda
La Sirenita
Macheezmo Mouse
ole! ole!
San Felipe Taqueria
Taqueria Uruapan
The Original King Burrito


Southern

Campbell's Bar-B-Q
Cannon's Rib Express
Delta Cafe
Doris' Cafe
Soup and Soap
Yam YamÕs southern style barbecue

Thai
Chaba Thai
Esan Thai
Papaya Thai
Thai Peacock

Vietnamese
CaliÕs Sandwiches
My-Canh

 



 
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