Food trucks aren’t exactly a new food trend, especially in America, where L.A.’s taco carts, Hawaii’s shrimp trucks and NYC’s curbside hot dog vendors may seem as common as Starbucks.
Still, much of the current popularity of food trucks in America can be traced back to Portland, where over the past few years, hundreds have popped up and spread throughout the city. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation ranked Portland as the top food truck–friendly city in America.
What’s most unique about Portland’s street food scene, however, is that many of the city’s food trucks and carts can be found at a collection of food cart parks called “pods.”
Dotted throughout Portland, these pods vary in size, with some hosting just a few food vendors and others more than fifty. Often the pods feature seating and other perks, like beer gardens. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of navigating a city’s street food scene or having to download an app to find nearby trucks.
Below, see a guide to Portland’s top food cart pods.
For a Family-Friendly Scene
Cartlandia in Southeast Portland is self-described as a super pod, and reasonably so, since it’s home to more than 30 carts.
Here, travelers will find everything from mobile versions of popular Portland food outposts, like Voodoo Doughnut, to carts dishing up all kinds of international cuisines, such as Mizu Ramen for Japanese, Kesone Asian FUSION (Laotian-Thai), Poco India, Pupuseria la Miguelena, Yum Yum Kebab, Taste of Mongolia and Ooh, Pasta! Cartlandia also has a sit-down restaurant and bar, Blue Room Bar.
Cartlandia gets the family-friendly designation for a number of reasons, such as indoor bathrooms, covered and patio seating, and a family- and pet-friendly beer garden. Plus, it’s located just off the Springwater Corridor, a 21-mile, paved, multipurpose route. Live music takes place here several nights per week.
Parking: You’ll find on-lot parking for both cars and bikes.
For the Be-All and End-All Lunch
Located in downtown Portland, Alder Street Food Cart Pod (639 SW 10th Avenue) is one of the city’s oldest and largest pods, taking up an entire downtown city block.
If there’s a food you’re craving, you’ll likely find it here, since it has more than 60 food carts. Among them is the popular Nong’s Khao Man Gai for Thai chicken and rice dishes, The Whole Bowl for vegan and vegetarian bowls, PDX Mac & Cheese Bar, Chez Dodo for a unique taste of Mauritian food, 808 Grinds for Hawaiian, and Bing Mi for Chinese crepes.
Food carts set their own hours here, but your best bet is between the lunch hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., since this is when most of the food carts are open.
Parking: Because of Alder’s downtown Portland location, parking availability is mainly metered street parking.
For Late-Night Cravings
Cartopia (1207 SE Hawthorne Boulevard) is the late-night food pod in Portland, with some carts staying open as late as 3 a.m. on weekends.
A few standout carts include Chicken and Guns, Potato Champion, Pyro Pizza, Tahrir Square for Middle Eastern food, and Kim Jong Grillin’ for Korean food. On Sunday nights during the summer (June through September), enjoy movie nights that start at 9 p.m., showing classic films like “Jaws.
Parking: Located just east of downtown Portland, across the Willamette River, Cartopia doesn’t have a dedicated parking lot, but you shouldn’t have trouble finding nearby street parking if driving.
For Weekend Warriors
BG Food Cartel is technically in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, and just seven miles west of downtown.
BG Food Cartel is the area’s newest pod and hosts more than 30 vendors. While many of Portland’s food cart pods are ideal for a quick lunch stop, BG Food Cartel is somewhere you could spend an entire afternoon, thanks to amenities like an open green space, a speakeasy bar that includes an indoor bar and outdoor patio bar, and live music.
Some of the favored food vendors include Abuela Chona for Argentinian, E-san Thai, Altengartz for German, Aybla Grill for Mediterranean and Marianas for cuisine from Guam.
Parking: Street parking is limited, but there are lots nearby, and the Beaverton Central MAX Station is located just a block away.
For Cozy Neighborhood Vibes
Located a few miles northeast of downtown Portland, Rose City Food Park has a more intimate, neighborly feel to it with its pod of 15 carts in a more suburban environment. Keep your eye out for the space’s brightly colored mural.
The neighborhood feel continues with amenities like a play area for kids and a welcoming environment for dogs. Plus, it’s Portland’s first food park to be 100 percent recyclable and compostable.
Food vendors include Vivi’s Yummy Rolls for Vietnamese, Let’s Roll PDX for sushi, Smak Dab’s for stuffed burgers, GF Chef (100-percent gluten-free) and La Arepa for Venezuelan.
Parking: Rose City Food Park has its own parking lot, and street parking is usually easy to come by when the lot is full.