1986 NW Pettygrove St. (brick-and-mortar), 689-3794; Southwest 1st Avenue and Columbia Street (cart), 689-3794; gastromaniapdx.com. Lunch Monday-Saturday, early dinner Monday-Friday.
Quietly, Bulgarian-born chef Alex Nenchev is one of the most ambitious people in Portland food. But where some would-be restaurateurs spend time courting investors, Nenchev instead courts a loyal base of customers through dogged hard work, low prices, attentiveness to his ingredients and a constant incremental growth both in menu offerings and his locations: He's gone from zero to food cart to both a downtown cart and Slabtown brick-and-mortar in the space of just a couple years. Each of Gastro Mania's gyros—whether lamb, chicken, salmon or tuna—is cooked fresh to order, not from spit or hot plate, and the herbs and spices that flavor them are equally fresh. And yet they still cost a mere $7 with a Greek side salad. Look out for octopus, swordfish or foie, but my current obsession here is a plate of tender brisket ($10.50) made impossibly rich with a drizzling of porcini sauce, laid across a bed of polenta.