Portland's Food Cart Scene: Top Picks

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Roll up your sleeves and tighten those belts, foodies, because we're about to embark on a culinary adventure that's as bold, innovative, and downright delicious as it gets. We’ve covered New York, LA, and other key locales, but today, we’re headed to the Pacific Northwest. 

That's right; we're diving fork-first into Portland, Oregon’s legendary food truck scene. 

With countless food carts adorning the streets of this vibrant city serving everything from Korean to BBQ tacos to fried chicken, Portland has become a mecca for food lovers worldwide, serving up a smorgasbord of flavors as diverse as the city's own culture. Whether you’re looking for delicious brunch in a peaceful outdoor seating area or the best Chinese crepes you’ve ever had, there’s a food cart in Portland for you.

In Portland, the best food carts in the city aren't just leaders in a trend — they're a way of life. The creations of Portland’s food cart owners are a testament to the city's creative spirit, a celebration of its cultural diversity, and proof that good things (especially mouth-watering meals) do come in small packages. 

With each cart offering its unique spin on cuisines from around the globe, every meal is a new journey waiting to unfold.

1. Nong's Khao Man Gai

When it comes to Portland's food cart scene, Nong's Khao Man Gai is as legendary as they come. Starting from a humble single cart in 2009, it has captured the hearts (and stomachs) of locals and tourists alike and has since expanded to multiple locations around the city.

The star of the show here is, of course, the Khao Man Gai — a seemingly simple Thai street food dish of poached chicken and rice, but oh, it's so much more than that. 

The chicken is poached to perfection, tender and flavorful, and the rice, cooked in the chicken broth, is a fragrant delight. But the secret weapon, the pièce de résistance, is the sauce. It’s a heady blend of fermented soybeans, ginger, garlic, thai chilies, vinegar, and sugar that's as addictive as comfort food gets.

Each order of Khao Man Gai comes wrapped in paper with a side of chicken soup, making it a comforting and filling meal. If you're looking to start your Portland food cart adventure on a high note, Nong's Khao Man Gai is a must-visit.

2. Matt's BBQ

Portland may be nestled in the Pacific Northwest and be best known for its beer gardens and breweries, but at Matt's BBQ, you're stepping into a slice of authentic Texas. Having consistently ranked as one of the best BBQ joints in Downtown Portland, Matt's BBQ has cemented its status as a top-tier food cart.

So, what's the buzz all about? Picture this: Smoky, succulent slices of brisket that have been slow-cooked to perfection over oak and pecan wood, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork belly, juicy jalapeno cheddar sausages (like a hot dog but way, way better), and tangy slaw. The TLC (tender loving care) put into each dish is evident in every mouthful.

Operated out of a humble cart in Northeast Portland, Matt's BBQ delivers big on flavor and experience. It's not just a meal; it's a barbecue love story served on a plate, making it a standout in Portland's vibrant food cart scene.

3. Frying Scotsman

From the heart of Scotland to the streets of Portland, the Frying Scotsman brings authentic British fish and chips to the Pacific Northwest, and let me tell you, it's a culinary match made in heaven. This food cart has built a loyal following with its golden-battered, ocean-fresh fish and perfectly crispy chips.

The Frying Scotsman is the brainchild of James King, a native Scotsman who’s committed to delivering the authentic taste of his homeland. Here, the cod, haddock, and even the more local red snapper are enveloped in a light, crispy batter that holds up under a good sprinkle of malt vinegar. The chips, chunky and golden, are the perfect sidekick to the main attraction. 

For those who crave an even deeper dive into British fare, there's haggis, a traditional Scottish dish made of sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, encased in a savory pastry.

Despite being thousands of miles away from the UK, a visit to the Frying Scotsman transports you straight to a seaside chippy, complete with the sounds, smells, and tastes that make the experience utterly delightful. 

This is the essence of Portland's food cart culture — food that not only fills your stomach but also takes you on a journey. So, ready to hop across the pond?

4. Bing Mi!

If you're yearning for a taste of something different, look no further than Bing Mi! This food cart puts a delicious spin on Portland's street food scene by serving Jianbing, one of the most popular street breakfasts in Northern China.

A Jianbing, for the uninitiated, is a savory crepe made from a batter of wheat and grain flour, coated with a layer of scrambled eggs and topped with fresh cilantro, green onions, pickled vegetables, and crispy wontons for that essential crunch. Bing Mi! elevates this delightful ensemble with their secret sweet and savory sauces, adding depth and complexity to each bite.

While Jianbing is traditionally a breakfast dish, Bing Mi! serves it all day, making it the perfect meal no matter when your cravings kick in. And for the extra hungry, they offer additional fillings like Chinese sausage, extra crispy wontons, and even a "double bing."

Bing Mi! is a culinary adventure and a breath of fresh air in Portland's food cart scene. It's an unpretentious yet utterly satisfying culinary gem that you'll want to revisit again and again, proving that in Portland, great food knows no boundaries.

5. Güero

Güero is a testament to the magic that can come from a humble food cart, having evolved from a small cart serving tortas into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. However, their original food cart location on Northeast 28th Avenue still thrives, reminding us where this local favorite got its start.

Güero’s culinary focus is on tortas (the hearty, versatile sandwiches of Mexico). They’re a force to be reckoned with. Imagine this: crusty rolls filled to the brim with ingredients like slow-cooked carnitas, refried beans, jalapeño, avocado, or poblano pepper, cheese, black beans, and pickled onion.

Their No. 3 Torta, featuring slow-roasted pork shoulder, has won accolades citywide, and for a good reason. The richness of the pork is perfectly balanced with vibrant salsa and topped off with crunchy cabbage. It's a symphony of flavors and textures in every bite.

But don't forget to grab a side of their chile-lime-dressed tortilla chips, and if the heat gets too high, their house-made horchata will cool you right down.

The folks at Güero have mastered the art of the torta, offering Portlanders a delicious journey south of the border. In a city buzzing with culinary excitement, this food cart-turned-restaurant continues to make waves, reinforcing the enduring spirit of Portland's food cart culture.

6. PDX Sliders

PDX Sliders has taken Portland's food cart scene by storm with its mini gourmet burgers that pack a big punch. What started as a small cart in Sellwood has now expanded to two brick-and-mortar locations, but the original cart remains a staple on the food cart circuit and a testament to their quality and charm.

PDX Sliders prides itself on sourcing local ingredients for its creations. Each slider (or full-sized burger, if your appetite insists) is named after Portland's iconic bridges. For instance, there's the Sellwood (beef, aged cheddar, lettuce, pickles, and “PDX” sauce) or the vegetarian-friendly Tilikum (quinoa patty, mixed greens, pickled onions, goat cheese, and garlic aioli).

Not in a burger mood? They’ve got you covered with their mouth-watering pulled pork sandwich or truffle parmesan fries. It's impossible to make a wrong choice here.

Each bite at PDX Sliders offers a taste of Portland — locally sourced, carefully crafted, and undeniably delicious. It's no wonder this food cart has gained such popularity in a city renowned for its culinary creativity. So slide into a stool at PDX Sliders and find out just how delightful dining in Portland can be.

7. Chicken and Guns

Who knew that wood-fired Latin chicken could be a game-changer? Well, apparently, the folks at Chicken and Guns knew because that’s exactly what they've been doing since they hit the streets of Portland. Nestled in the bustling Cartopia Portland food cart pod, Chicken and Guns isn't just serving chicken. No — they're creating an experience.

Their specialty is Latin-style chicken that's been grilled over a wood fire, resulting in a smoky, juicy masterpiece that’s hard to resist. The chicken comes with crispy potatoes roasted in chicken fat, a refreshing salad, and their addictive "crack" sauce.

It's not just about the food at Chicken and Guns. The vibe here is something to talk about too. The cart, built from repurposed materials, has a rustic, chic appeal, and the picnic tables scattered around offer a laid-back dining experience.

If you're seeking something familiar with a unique twist, Chicken and Guns is a sure shot. The food cart brings together quality ingredients, culinary skill, and a passion for bold flavors – a true reflection of Portland's dynamic food cart scene. 

So, when you hear the call of the Chicken and Guns, make sure you're ready to answer!

Get Ready To Chow Down in Cartlandia

As we wrap up this finger-licking tour of Portland's top food carts, one thing is abundantly clear: the city's street food scene is a culinary wonderland that's as diverse and dynamic as Portland itself. Portland is a foodie paradise, with offerings from around the world. You can find incredible Filipino, Korean, Mexican, Vietnamese, American, and more here from options not covered on our list.

These carts are not just serving up food; they're crafting stories, forging communities, and adding to the rich tapestry of the city's food culture.



What Is a Torta? What to Know About This Mexican Street Food | Spoon University

Haggis | Traditional Offal Dish From Scotland, United Kingdom | Taste Atlas

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