This was supposed to be the year the Portland food cart broke down.
Last spring, our cart pods looked like they would all be tilled under by developers, from Hawthorne’s Cartopia to Belmont’s Good Food Here. At TechfestNW, phone-app entrepreneurs debated whether they were obliged to save the food-cart pods they love, because they caused the gentrification that put them at risk. (We’re in favor.)
That panic is suddenly a distant memory. Portland’s food-cart scene is now healthier than ever—as is our cheap-food scene in general. Both of those iconic pods escaped the mixed-use ax, while the new Tidbit Food Farm and Garden pod on Division Street is already one of the city’s favorite beer gardens. Our favorite five new food carts include makers of Pueblan mole, octopus balls from Japan and foie gras burgers made according to great-grandma’s recipe.
The almighty New Mexican green-chile cuisine and crispy-skinned Latin rotisserie chicken have suddenly exploded in Portland, and solid taquerias suddenly exist even in the central city. Even chichi Division Street gets an old-school rock-’n’-roll pizzeria, and hangs on to the city’s best fried chicken and jojos. Beaverton Sub Station’s Chuck Wilson (pictured above) has been slinging his meat-stacked classic subs for 34 years, and they’re still delicious.
This Cheap Eats guide by Willamette Week remains, as ever, dedicated to the proposition that Portland has some of the best low-cost food in the nation. Amid the more than 160 restaurants featured here, you’ll find tofu and tempura-battered walnuts in a Chinese brewpub on the page after German sausage made to grandpa’s specs, both familiar comforts and a call to adventure. We hope, with this guide, we’ve given you a to-do list for the whole year. Happy eating.
—Matthew Korfhage, 2015 Cheap Eats editor.