Touring Portland's Bar Carts

Two years after food carts won the right to sell booze, we tour Portland's bar carts.

It's easy to forget now, but booze carts were hard-won.

Back in the spring of 2012, Cartlandia owner Roger Goldingay asked for an annual liquor license for his pod on Southeast 82nd Avenue. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, on the advice of state lawyers, approved. The city of Portland, in what will likely go down as a low point for former Mayor Sam Adams and current City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, sued the OLCC in an attempt to force the State of Oregon to treat food carts unequally under the law. The city lost.

Booze now flows at more than one-third of Portland's food-cart pods and, we found from a survey of the new crop, it's a pretty chill scene. Think shandys and hammocks, not drunk and disorderly tweens.


Scout Beer Garden

Good Food Here pod, Southeast Belmont Street and 43rd Avenue. Noon-9 pm Monday-Thursday, noon-10 pm Friday-Sunday.

Eat at: Namu Korean & Hawaiian, Cackalack's Hot Chicken Shack, Viking Soul Food (back from Helgafjell!).

Sure, you're only a block from the Horse Brass—but who wants to be stuffed into a dim British pub on a bright July afternoon? Tucked in the shady back corner of this small pod, Scout gets a badge for a beer selection that would impress at most brick-bound taverns, including, on our visit, Gigantic double IPA, Laurelwood Green Mammoth DIPA, Great Divide Yeti and Breakside Dry Irish Stout. This 2-month-old beer cart needs better glassware—even Applebee's won't serve you an imperial stout in a shaker pint—but big trees, tarps hung with string lights and long picnic tables make for a nice atmosphere. MARTIN CIZMAR.

The Hoppy Camper

Northeast 23rd Avenue and Alberta Street. 4-9 pm Thursday, noon-9 pm Saturday, noon-7 pm Sunday.

Eat at: Uncle Tsang's Kitchen, Garden Monsters.

The best beer selection on Northeast Alberta Street might be at a cart pod—from well-selected stalwarts like Laurelwood's Free Range Red and Firestone Walker's classic Pale 31, to welcome rarities like Awesome Ales' 4:19 IPA, to far-flung head-scratchers-for-a-food-cart like an Orval Trappist and a German Schofferhofer grapefruit wheat. On a hot, sunny, sweaty, sort of gross day, I recommend ordering the Pale 31 with a $5 plate of hot-pepper gizzards from Uncle Tsang's Kitchen in the same pod. It is exactly what I imagine summer to be like, in faraway places I have never been. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

St. Johns Porch

Cart pod at Kruger's Farm Stand, 7316 N Lombard St., 4-9pm Wednesday-Friday, noon-9pm Saturday, noon-8 pm Sunday.

Eat at: Che Cafe, Farmfood, Chowdah.

With a hammock and several comfy sofas and chairs, St. Johns Porch is the ideal beer garden for a food-cart pod. The six beers on tap, most from Captured by Porches, are $4 a pint, with a few guest offerings at $4.50. Chefs working at the nearby food courts take breaks to pick up beer when work slows. A pint of apricot IPA, which is to say a Mason jar filled with half black IPA and half apricot ale, is a welcome companion as you sink into the hammock on a lazy summer evening. JOHN LOCANTHI.

Captured by Porches

Southeast 28th Avenue and Ankeny Street pod, 509-954-2136. Noon-9 pm Thursday-Sunday.

Eat at: Burrasca, Steak Frites, Guero, Wolf & Bear's.

Our love for this little food-cart pod is well documented, not least of which by the Italian spot Burrasca's perch as our Food Cart of the Year for 2014. The Captured by Porches bus is just one more perk for the best pod in its weight class in Portland. Although, take note: If the sky starts spitting, the bus might not open. Expect three serviceable brews from Captured by Porches, plus three guest taps, but take full advantage during the summer of the bus's fetish for sour ciders, including the oft-tapped 2 Towns Ciderhouse Rhubarbarian. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

Pod Bar

Carts on Foster, 5205 SE Foster Road. Open until 5 pm Sunday-Monday, until 9 pm or later Wednesday-Saturday.

Eat at: The Angry Unicorn, Road Runner Bar-B-Q.

Two watertight rooms are great in winter, but now it's time to toast the huge patio. Pod Bar has Trivial Pursuit cards with questions about the Soviet Union on the tables, and a dartboard with just one dart. The bar ends up with some odd and interesting kegs from Lincoln City's Rusty Truck, and always has several ciders on tap. If you haven't had what you ordered, the bartender will insist you try it before spending $3.50 on a plastic pint. MARTIN CIZMAR.


The Blue Room

Cartlandia, 8145 SE 82nd Ave., 358-7873. 10 am-2:30 am daily.

Eat at: Cheesesteak Nirvana, Maine Street Lobster.

Don't settle for the Cartlandia beer garden. Park your bike, order your lobster roll and bacon maple bar and take it into the Blue Room, a squat little building whose parking lot the pod calls home. In addition to a low stage for live music, a 1975 Timbers jersey on the wall and a friendly staff, the cozy pub has a smartly curated, always-rotating tap list of West Coast beers—we washed down our dry-rubbed ribs from Da Fat Boyz BBQ with a Hop Valley Citrus Mistress and a refreshing raspberry cider. When high rents drive everyone out to 82nd, this is where we'll all be hanging out. TREE PALMEDO.


3302 SE Division St., 860-3419, 5-9 pm Tuesday-Saturday.

Eat at: Artigiano.

This sleek, red cart shoots for the feel of a high-end Italian eatery, even though it's tucked between two houses-turned-offices on a particularly busy stretch of Division Street. No other carts are needed here—the hearty rigatoni with spicy pork ragu is filling enough. Artigiano serves real Italian food on real plates, and on select evenings, a jazz trio stops by, helping the white-canopied dining area feel a bit more like a restaurant. If you're trying to imbibe, they've got Italian red, white and prosecco, as well as Peroni and Indian Wells' Amnesia IPA. Or, you can pay the $12 corkage fee and bring a bottle from home. TREE PALMEDO. 

Note: The price of beer at Pod Bar has been corrected in this story.