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If you’re new to Portland, then I suggest getting acquainted with the food cart scene as soon as you can! Portland has over 600 food carts all over the city. Which means there’s something to try no matter what you’re craving, and with such a diverse selection it’ll help cure you of any homesickness that may feel from time to time. If you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for, you can check out the various food cart pods, which are areas where large numbers of food carts come together.
Some of the more popular pods are Cartlandia, 5th Ave Food Cart Pod, Piedmont Station Food Carts, Happy Valley Station, BG’s Food Cartel, & Portland Mercado but there’s many more so take a quick search around your area. This list isn’t going to be your typical boring list of food, it’s the best AND most interesting food you should try in Portland! With over 600 options how could you ever pick something boring anyways?
Let’s start with the absolute MOST recommended spot that’s on everyone’s list. Nong’s Khao Man Gai is a Thai restaurant that only sells Khao Man Gai and variations of it. This dish includes poached chicken with rice that’s been simmered in chicken stock and Thai herbs, served with an assortment of vegetables and accompanied by a light organic chicken broth. If you love ginger, garlic & chilli, this is the perfect dish for you! They have 2 locations (a cart & a restaurant) and both are amazing.
If you want to experience the taste of Columbia right in Portland then you have to try this place. They serve up traditional dishes such as empanadas, arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), and arepas. They offer a lot of delicious options and most of them are gluten-free. You can even satisfy your sweet tooth here and get their Colombian Tres Leches cake (yum!).
You’ll know you’re at the right spot when you see the big yellow school bus. You can never go wrong with grilled cheese (unless you don’t like cheese and bread…) You won’t be disappointed with the amazing and unique creations they’ve come up with. Don’t worry if you’re super picky you can also get a plain grilled cheese or you can build your own creation.
They specialize in Scandinavian dishes with a soulful twist and Lefse. And you HAVE to try the Lefse, which is a flatbread that looks like a tortilla but it’s lighter and made from potatoes. You can enjoy Lefse with either a savoury take or have it on the sweeter side. You’ll also find some traditional Norwegian dishes but reimagined with a modern touch, the food style is very reflective of the couple that owns the restaurant. I recommend visiting them earlier in the day as they do sometimes sell out of Lefse and other dishes.
Mathilde is one of the warmest and friendliest women you’ll meet, and she’s the chef and owner here cooking up Haitian and Caribbean dishes. One taste of her food and you’ll feel the comfort and soul of Haiti. The soups are delicious and flavourful with traditional flavours, and the roasted chicken plate is definitely worth ordering! She also sells an amazing hibiscus & ginger brew that will keep you coming back for more.
Gumba (pronounced Goombah) is a low cost, high-end dining experience. Their food is Italian inspired but goes far beyond typical Italian food. They sell amazing HANDMADE pasta and rotate their menu daily, which means you could technically go there every day and try something new, BUT you might still be full from the previous meal! And be warned since everything’s handmade they do sell out quite frequently!
Apizza (no that’s not a typo) is a naturally leavened coal-fired, charred bottom pizza, with a slight chew and large oblong shape. This style of pizza comes from Newhaven and has now made its way to Portland. But they don’t just do pizza, sometimes they make tacos, or just whatever they feel like having that day. If you’re a pizza connoisseur, then you should definitely add this to your list of pizzas to try.
This Austin inspired BBQ taco cart sells breakfast and lunch tacos. They smoke their meat onsite and even make their own tortillas using lard. These tacos started out being sold regularly in the restaurant, then turned out to be such a hit, they opened a separate location to sell tacos out of! They don’t just sell tacos though, they also serve up sandwiches and an array of sides. P.S.I’d also recommend trying the original Matt’s BBQ too.
Another amazing Thai spot, that’s located in Cartlandia. Here you’ll find classic Thai dishes like Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai, Mongolian Beef & various curries. Every dish is packed with flavour, however, if you don’t like spicy food it might be a little hot for you.
Experience the flavours of the Caribbean without taking a trip over there. Be warned after trying this delicious food you might just spend all your time planning a trip out to an island. They serve a fusion of Caribbean meets American food. Incredible flavours and lots of options to choose from no matter your dietary choices or restrictions. You get to build your own Calypso bowl and they have delightful sides like plantain chips and eggrolls. BONUS they also sell vegan donuts on the weekend (and how can you say no to that??).