I remember years ago as Food Carts first started up and asking a friend to go to one. She was from California and down there they referred to all of them as roch coaches. I was unable to convince her that these were very different being trailers that stayed in one place. So it was not easy going in the early days for what became a Portland standard. They had to fight through the City just saying no, storefront restaurants saying no and early perception by the public saying no. Eventually the city moved from no to regulation, restaurants decided it was a different dinning experience and did not compete with them, bars and brew pubs deciding it was a way have customers stay longer and drink more by having food and yet not having the cost of a kitchen and the public finding these place were clean, safe, affordable and had unique, tasty food you could not find elsewhere. In the early days the only place you could get escargot in Portland was at a food cart. Now food cart pods are part of the fabric of Portland.
One of things that made this possible was the concept of the pod. A lonely single trailer sitting somewhere could be missed but six or maybe 40 would be hard to miss. It also allow people with different taste to dine together. Today having a good functional food cart pod in your neighborhood means your neighborhood has finally made it. Unless your in one of the very wealthy unhip neighborhood in Portland, they still looked down on them.
So pods are all over Portland. Downtown has several large Pods. But some of the smaller neighborhood ones can be nice with covered seating and other amenities and still a good variety of styles of food to choose from. Unfortunately the escargot cart is gone now. A victim of the parking lot it was in being turned into a new high rise apartment building.
There is not a good reference site for finding all of the food carts in Portland. These carts are mobile and parking lot are quickly being turned into high rise condos. The travel review sits have some info under the “best food carts in Portland.” But so far that is the best reference I have found.
Food Cart Tour
Example of a neighborhood food cart pod.
The food cart pod in the St. Johns neighborhood is a good example of how food carts have evolved and what they hold today. Although not the first in Portland it has gone through all of the stages. It began about 10 years ago in a different location. The first location held promise and pioneered the idea in a neighborhood that was not full of foodies and uncertain of the idea.After a couple of years that location folded and it moved to its current location. In the new local it shared space with a produce stand and began with just few carts. One if the attraction was an old school bus that severed micro brew beers. The bus first sat right off the street and then would move to the back of the parking lot. Soon no one was sitting inside the bus but they created a porch for folk to sit next to the bus. This porch would get covered and expand and with it came many more food carts. Now the food cart pod has all the amenities that a neighborhood pod is expected to have.
The pod now has a variety of different food carts. Each one is individually owned and the chief is bring their style of food to the public. There is a large common seating area so once you get your food you can gather with your friends. With the long dark wet winter covered, heat seating was needed. Different pods have handle this in different ways. With St. Johns this is where the Porch expansion has come in. They also have a fires pit that can be gathered around. They have also added entertainment to bring people in. Summer time they have live music. A few years ago they had movie night. The food cart pod seen continues to evolve and change. It is here now but there remain a question if it will be here tomorrow.