1. Midtown Beer Garden
431 SW Harvey Milk St., we.are.expensify.com/midtown-beer-garden. 10 am-10 pm daily.
The large selection of food carts at Southwest 5th Avenue and Harvey Milk Street now officially has a brand that was rolled out in late August at a grand opening party in an effort to revive a beleaguered part of downtown. The naming and redevelopment of Midtown Beer Garden was a joint project between software company Expensify (which happens to sit across the street from the pod) and ChefStable. There are 25 carts, both old favorites and newcomers, but we’re most excited by the addition of permanent restrooms, a zhuzhed-up ambience and Fracture Brewing beer.
2. Smokehouse Chicken and Guns
55660 NW Wilson River Highway, Gales Creek, 503-359-9452, smokehousecng.com. 9 am-9 pm Friday-Sunday. When a beloved food cart finally goes brick-and-mortar, the opening is usually surrounded by a great deal of fanfare and a Christmas-like countdown clock. Not so for Chicken and Guns. The Cartopia pod staple very quietly launched its first full-service restaurant this past spring, and did so in Gales Creek—miles away from any of its regulars. The trek to the roadhouse-style diner is worth it. You’ll, of course, find the cart’s famed wood-fired birds and crispy potatoes (the guns), but also an expanded menu that includes burgers, locally grown vegetable-based sides, and weekend brunch.
3. White Pepper Burger Thursday
7505 NE Glisan St., whitepepperpdx.com/burger-thursday. 5-9 pm Thursday.
Most of the week, the kitchen at this 10-year-old Northeast Portland catering company is a quiet prep space by day, while some evenings its tasting room hosts weddings and corporate dinners. But on Thursday nights, White Pepper transforms into a neighborhood hangout serving burgers. We’ve sampled them all, and the standout of the bunch is the Classic Burger. The stack is everything you want a Big Mac to be but never is: two housemade patties, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, mustard and mayo, with ketchup on the side. No one element stands out; it’s just a harmonious combination that makes for the perfect summer meal.
4. Dolly Olive
527 SW 12th Ave., 503-719-6921, dollyolivepdx.com. 11 am-3 pm and 5-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-3 pm and 5-10 pm Friday-Saturday.
This month, The Wall Street Journal declared we’re “becoming a nation of early birds,” and it’s hard to argue with that point since Portland’s nightlife has never really rebounded from the pandemic. If we are all turning in earlier these days, might as well make the most of lunch, a meal that’s never been as leisurely as brunch nor as elegant as dinner, yet you can apply both of those adjectives to the midday meal experience at downtown’s Dolly Olive. Lunch service began in May and includes items that would suit just about anyone’s tastes, from a farro salad to a slow-roasted rosemary prosciutto-and-Gruyère panini to a crispy chicken confit. You can even pretend you’re at a fancy dinner and order a salted caramel cannoli for dessert—a move we highly recommend.
5. Chaat Wallah
7157 NE Prescott St., 971-340-8635, chaatwallah.com. 3-9 pm Monday-Friday, noon-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Deepak Saxena’s food cart has found a new home outside Upright Brewing’s second location in the Cully neighborhood. Chaat Wallah began operating out of 503 Distilling’s lounge inside the Iron Fireman Collective building, but that arrangement only lasted a few months. Thankfully, the business reemerged and is now offering a killer happy hour deal: $2 off all sandwiches and $1 discounts on Upright beer from 3 to 6 pm Monday through Thursday. Now you have a tough decision to make: masala pulled pork, tandoori tuna salad or lamb smash burger?