Joining the Food Cart Scene

Joining the Food Cart Scene
Steve Albert

Several weeks ago, Allen Levine, who runs the Cafe at the J, launched Garbanzo’s, a food cart located in the MJCC’s parking lot. Garbanzo’s features a menu that is vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and halal, with items that include falafel, grilled eggplant, grilled portabello, and the kafta “beyond burger” – all available as pita sandwiches or plates, which include vegetable salad, tahini, hummus, baba ghanouj, cole slaw, potato salad, and tabouli. The cart is open Sundays – Thursdays from 11 am – 7 pm, and Fridays from 11 am – 5 pm.

Garbanzo’s joins an impressive and well-established tradition of food carts in Portland. At last count, the city boasted over 600 of these tiny kitchens. The Portland food cart scene is legendary, having received rave reviews from countless reviewers, including Bon Appetit magazine and CNN, which wrote, “With an abundance of fresh and local ingredients, this is a city where street food rivals the finest restaurants.” During the current pandemic, food carts offer a particularly appealing option to those who wish to dine out, but are reluctant to eat in a restaurant. 

Many food carts exist in groups called “pods,” and some of the most well-known pods can be found downtown. These include the 5th Avenue Food Cart Pod (324 SW 5th Ave.), and the 3rd Avenue Food Cart Pod (at SW 3rd Ave. & SW Harvey Milk St.), as well as the PSU pod at SW 4th & Hall. But food carts and food cart pods are ubiquitous throughout the city. The East Side has many, including Cartopia (1200 SE Hawthorne Blvd.) and Hawthorne Asylum (1080 SE Madison St.), and the Hillsdale and Multnomah Village neighborhoods have a growing number, as well. I live in Multnomah Village, and in recent months, I’ve been doing my best to try out as many local food carts as I can.

Those looking for kosher meat should check-out Holy Smokes Righteous Eats, a food cart located at 3975 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. which features a wide range of sandwiches (roast beef, pastrami, smoked brisket, smoked chicken, turkey, as well as entrees that include beef ribs and chicken. Holy Smokes also offers vegetarian items, including smoked BBQ jackfruit, salads, and vegetarian chili. The cart is open Sundays – Thursdays from 12-6:30 pm, and Fridays from 12-3 pm.

The closest food cart pods to the MJCC are the Hillsdale Food Cart Park and the Multnomah Village French Quarter. In Hillsdale, you can find Desilicious (Pakistani), Taco City (Mexican), Phat Cart (Bento), Pad Kee Mao (Thai), and Sushi Lover PDX (sushi). The pod is located by Wilson High School, and with school opening virtually this year, there are shorter lines and more available seating at lunch time, this fall.

The French Quarter features a variety of boutiques selling tea, sweets, soap, plants, etc., as well as a food cart pod. The food carts include: Bird in Hand (beer), Bluebird (Thai street food), Silva Café (coffee and pastries), Taco Express (Mexican), Yoshi’s (sushi), Big Elephant Kitchen (Indian) and The Cluck Truck (southern fried chicken).

Have I made you hungry? You’ve got lots of options! Check out the local food cart scene!