We came, we stood in lines, we ate our weight in tasty samples. More than 1,300 hungry Portlanders descended on the Kenton neighborhood last Saturday for Eat Mobile,WW's second annual food cart festival. And all the net proceeds will go to local non-profit Mercy Corps NW. (Scroll all the way down if you just wanna check out a slideshow of the event).
Although some would be festival goers were deterred by the block-long line that soon formed to get in to Eat Mobile HQ at the fabulous arts space Disjecta soon after doors opened at 5:30 pm, the hundreds that waited and enjoyed the warm sunshine were rewarded with tastes from 17 local carts, from hot, fresh FlavourSpotwaffles to Al Forno Ferruzza pizza, plus Bridgeport brews and cocktails.
The place was packed by by 6 pm, with a happy frenzy of people shoving fried risotto balls from Garden State and wee samples of smoky barbecue from LeRoy's Familiar Vittlesin their maws while waiting in line for a falafel from Al Herre at Fat Kitty or a shot of chowder from the folks at SoupCycle. While one U-shaped line of carts held court in the Disjecta parking lot, another seven hunkered inside the art space, along with a DJ spinning happy summer tunes and a pair of gents from House Spirits shaking up cocktails as fast as hungry cart lovers could drink 'em.
Juice spot Sip, winner of Eat Mobile's unofficial "cutest faux cart built out of plywood" award.
After rushing around to try each and every cart, our panel of judges (WW Assistant Arts Editor Ben Waterhouse, Two Tarts baker Kir Jensen, Ten 01 pastry chef Jeff McCarthy, Mercy Corps NW Executive Director John Haines, Art Institute of Portland culinary program director Ken Robin and local foodie/writer Mike Thelin) gathered in the a back room to tally their scores, argue over taste and choose a winner for the fest's first-ever Carty Awards.
Their number one pick?Junior Ambassadors, Portland's "Mostlandian" ice cream cart. Cart owner Rudy Speerschneider has long been known as an ice cream wizard, creating insane flavors, from vegan asparagus to maple bacon and smoked salmon ice cream for his followers. "Wow," he told the crowd after accepting his cart-topped trophy. "Next I'll try and make vanilla."
But the biggest winner of the night? That had to be the Grilled Cheese Grill, which snagged festival goers hearts and the festival's People's Choice trophy with its unctuous oozy-gooey delish grilled cheese sandwiches—especially the "Jamie," a mascarpone, Nutella and banana stunner on grilled cinnamon swirl bread. The best part? As of Saturday, the cart wasn't even open yet. Owner Matt Breslow quit his job managing a Hot Lips Pizza last week and had his whole extended family helping out at Eat Mobile. "Tell them that he went to film school!" insisted the cart's head helper, Breslow's feisty mom Ellie, who flew in with dad Michael from New Jersey to lend a hand. "I worked at a beach club shack for years in Jersey," Matt shrugged when asked about his grilled cheese prowess. "I made tons of 'em and just learned from there."
Grilled Cheese Grill owner Matt Breslow and his cheesy posse.
The Grilled Cheese Grill officially opened at 1027 Northeast Alberta St. today (check out the website for regular hours). They're open until 9 pm tonight, which means I may have to detour on my way home for an excellent "Kindergartner"—that'd be American or Cheddar on white or wheat, $4 (The PreSchooler comes with the crusts cut off).
But back to the fest: as the evening wound down, fest-goers with full bellies meandered inside to listen to the spiraling rock of the Mimicking Birds, which was occasionally obscured by the shouts and groans of harried Blazers fans watching the first playoff game out near Eat Mobile's picnic tables. Soon, the crowd drifted off, some snagging one last Altengartz mini-brat with sauerkraut for the road. Or for the walk across the street to the Dancin' Bare. Either way, they left smiling.
WW's already busy planning our epic next installment of food cart tastiness: Eat Mobile 2010. If you have any feedback or suggestions on how to improve the event, please email Jess Sword at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And here's a big Eat Mobile '09 slideshow to get your hungry all over again.
A big thank you to the more than two dozen volunteers who helped make Eat Mobile 2009 a success, as well as the festival's awesome sponsors: Bridgeport Brewing, 94.7 KNRK, House Spirits and Scion. And, of course, thanks to all our participating food carts for making Portland such a great place to eat on the cheap!