Restaurant Guide 2013: Best & Only

Food carts with the best or only version of their cuisine.



Corner of Southwest 6th Avenue and Columbia Street, 752-7333,

Food in the tiny Central American nation of Belize—best known for bungling the John McAfee murder investigation—is simple to a fault, with Belizeans actually distinguishing between "rice and beans" and "beans and rice." The Love Belizean cart on 6th keeps it almost that simple. The centerpiece of the menu is a box with stewed chicken with rice, beans and salad ($6). The chicken is roasted until its skin is black and its flesh moist and peppery, pairing well with dirty rice that tastes strongly of coconut milk. The cart also carries the full line of Marie Sharp's hot sauces, which are considered a national treasure. And get the pineapple upside-down cake, which has a wonderfully moist crumb and a crispy, crackly bottom that's a joy to fork.


3441 N Vancouver Ave., 284-4575,

Once you pinpoint the tiny island nation of Mauritius (moh-RISH-us) in the Indian Ocean, its culinary rendezvous makes sense: The island has been influenced by sailors from France, Africa, India and China. This culinary kitchen sink hits a sweet spot with eclectic concoctions of rice noodles fried in turmeric and cumin, topped with chicken or potatoes. Shyam Dausoa serves up mounds of portobello burry, plus flat bread called dholl puri, taro fritters, rice noodles and chicken curry. Ask for Mauritian spice in the island fever curry sauce—it'll clear your nasal passages.


Southwest 9th Avenue and Alder Street, 706-3841,

You'll know the fish at this cart is prepared by someone actually from the Revolution's losing side when you encounter often-dour chef James King. The Scotsman knows his trade, though, serving our town's best and biggest fish-and-chip plates at a bargain price. His downtown cart offers huge planks of tender, flaky white cod ($8.50) in a light batter that's golden like the sun and gets better with vinegar. The chips are large, jojo-style spears that taste even better covered in curry sauce ($3).


609 SE Ankeny St., 740-2907; 411 SW College St., 432-3286; Southwest 10th Avenue and Alder Street,

When she opened her first location in the pod at 10th and Alder, Nong Poonsukwattana offered only one dish: khao man gai, which is tender chicken served on a bed of sticky rice with a side of soybean sauce. Now, Nong also has a second cart and a tiny room on Southeast Ankeny, with Sriracha-braised chicken wings ($6.50) and a pork variation of her famous khao man gai ($6.50). The original is still the star, a deceptively simple chicken and rice dish that comes alive with an explosion of ginger, chili and garlic.


950 SW Washington St., 489-8432,

Natives of the nation of Georgia are known both for quick hospitality and equal speed at giving you the knife. At Kargi Gogo, the knife comes with a fork. Run by two former Peace Corps volunteers, the cart serves Georgia's national dish, khachapuri ($6), a grilled cheese sandwich with partly pickled Georgian cow-milk cheeses melted into toasted flatbread. Khinkali ($6) are broth-filled teardrops of meat-filled dough that must be bitten into and slurped from upside down. The garlicky badrijani ($6) is like a vegan version of bacon-walnut hors d'oeuvres, savory strips of eggplant and pops of pomegranate seeds. A "supra" containing a bit of each item on the menu is available for $8, and it's the best option.


8145 SE 82nd Ave., 754-0619,

Cartlandia's Traditional Russian Cuisine is not Portland's first Russian cart—a Russky pioneer opened and closed in 2008—but it's the only one now. Cabbage rolls stuffed with ground beef, onions and plump rice under a creamy drizzle, and large lamb-filled manti dumplings are deeply satisfying, while the vatrushka, a sweet, puffy pastry filled with a buttercreamlike cottage cheese sauce, was one of the best bites we got. Try the salsalike borscht so you can better laugh along with Yakov Smirnoff jokes.


239 SW Washington St., 737-8268.

Despite its questionable location tucked behind the rear end of Mother's restaurant, Indonesian food cart Batavia's countered front is seemingly always packed during the summer with three or four Indonesian women catching up on their day while drinking tea and eating wondrously spicy beef rendang that gives no quarter to the bule—it's the dry version rather than the saucy Malaysian, and it tastes like sweet, rich fire. There are also spiced hard-boiled eggs, gado-gado chicken-peanut stew and mie ayam, Indonesian chicken noodle soup. And, yes, the soup is a comfort even next to Mother's. 

PDX 671

5221 NE Sandy Blvd, 971-570-0945,

The western-most piece of U.S. soil, Guam sits in the middle of the Pacific, just east of the Phillipines. And like better-known Filipino cuisine, there's a heavy-handed Spanish influence on the bright native island fare. The best example of that is the Nengkanno' Gupot, smoky grilled chicken with rice and a punchy soy, chili and citrus dressing called Fina'dene'. There's a big Asian influence, too, as shown in the Kélaguen Mannok, a cold chopped chicken salad slathered with lemon and grated coconut.

WWeek 2015

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