Stop the Reddit. Stop the Facebook. Stop the Twitter and the single-tear emoji.

Stop saying Portland food and culture dies a new death with the closure of each central-city food-cart pod.

Stop saying it, because it isn't true.

The food-cart boom that began in the mid-2000s was a wondrous thing. We filled the parking lots of a flat-broke city with food—on seemingly every available surface—from wood-fired pizza to chicken-and-rice Thai.

But it's made you lazy, Portland. In your heart, you know that the best Mexican food in the area isn't at any of the 16 seemingly interchangeable burrito carts downtown. It's where it always was—amid the communities such food truly serves.

Our 2016 Cheap Eats guide to Portland's wild variety of great low-cost foods—all under $15 and mostly under $10—is devoted to finding the best food wherever it exists, at any of the 161 mini-mall restaurants and pop-up grills and, yes, food carts, from Gresham to Hillsboro, or from Vancouver to Lents.

This is not a guide to bougie $12 sandwiches, $13 hamburgers and $14 personal pizzas—although we'll still tell you where to get the very best of those.

Instead, we've tried to find the best Vietnamese and Russian and Mexican food where it actually lives—whether guisados and tacos al pastor in the back of an East Portland tienda, kick-ass Indian dosas in a Hillsboro mini-mall, pierogies amid the strip clubs of Gateway, or seemingly every variety of Southeast Asian fare in the best little strip mall on 82nd Avenue.

But the state of the food cart remains strong—and we heartily toast our new favorites in this issue.

For the first time, we've named two Carts of the Year.

One of our favorite two carts this year is a Latin chicken cart to rule them all, in the Hawthorne Boulevard pod that arguably kicked off the entire boom.

At our other Cart of the Year, a New York-bred, Australian-trained barbecue chef serves the city's best Texas ribs in a pawn-shop parking lot that might as well be the end of a dirt road.

Portland has plenty of great food where you don't expect it—and plenty of classics you maybe never knew existed.

Here is the road map. Now get eating.

—Matthew Korfhage

Cheap Eats editor 2016