clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Portland Reflects on the Impending Closure of the Alder Street Food Cart Pod

New, 1 comment

Portland chefs, diners, and writers share their memories, thoughts, and grievances as the food carts leave the lot between between Ninth and 10th avenues

Conner Reed/EPDX

This weekend, the food carts between SW Ninth and 10th, Alder and Washington, will serve their final meals, rolling away to new locations across town. As those food cart owners prepare for a new phase in their careers and lives, Oregonians are reliving their memories at the “mother pod,” from baby’s first jianbing to a life-changing meal at Nong’s. We asked Portland diners — from the casual eaters to the professional food writers — what they remember, what they’ll miss, and how they think Portland will change with the carts off Alder. This is what they said:

“The 10th and Alder Pod was the iconic epicenter of the food cart universe. It’s the place where I first saw them, ate from them, and fell in love with them. They were the very essence of what Portland was to me. The 10th and Alder pod was a goddamn dream factory, an integral part of a culture that helped convince me it would be ok to quit a soul-sucking job to try and make a living by touting that place and this culture to anyone who would listen.” -Adam Sawyer, food and travel writer

“I’ve probably eaten more than 100 meals at carts on the 10th and Alder pod, some for pleasure, some for utility, others for our annual food cart survey, which just hit its ninth year. Like everyone with half a brain, I spent a good chunk of 2009 and 2010 waiting in line for Nong’s Khao Man Gai, hoping there were still some fried chicken skins around by the time I ordered... The best thing I ever ate at the pod probably came from the People’s Pig, in those early days right after they moved into the old Spella coffee spot when Cliff Allen was still using Fleur de Lis ciabatta rolls for those phenomenal porchetta sandwiches that would drip lemon juice and pork fat onto the bricks at O’Bryant Square.” -Michael Russell, The Oregonian

“I walked by The People’s Pig in its very first iteration many years ago, and Cliff [Allen] handed me a slice of lard with lemon, salt & a pinch of arugula — that bite and what he still does blows my mind! I lived downtown, just a few blocks from the pod, for 10 years. I suppose my hope is that we continue to enable food incubators and small passionate business owners in a powerful way.” -Josh Meyer, former downtown resident

“I took my now father-in-law to People’s Pig seven years ago to ask him an important question. We have a very close relationship, but apparently not close enough at the time because I didn’t know that he’s the pickiest eater in the world. I bought him a porchetta sandwich, which was way too fatty and flavorful for him. I was triple lucky that day because I got to beat up two of those perfect sandwiches at once, and I earned permission to marry his daughter.” -Jordan Curtis, Portlander

“I grew up in Eugene, but as a teenager, trips to Portland often involved a quick bite on Alder. I remember grabbing many a cup of coffee at Ole Latte, enamored with their coffee suspension program. Years later, when I moved to Salem to be a restaurant critic, The Oregonian’s own Michael Russell took me out to lunch at the food cart pods. We had Persian food and talked shop, and now we’re friendly competitors and pseudo-regular dining companions.” -Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater PDX editor

“In 2012, I started dating a man who lived in the apartments kitty-corner from the pod. He only had mustard in his fridge, the argument being that for $5, he could have any food he wanted at any time, and this logic was hard to argue with. I remember smoking on the fire escape with Egyptian dance music in the background, courtesy of the cart on the southeast corner. I was living in a smaller town at the time, and the ability to indeed have any food I wanted, any time, on my meager salary was incredible.” -Kelly Williams Brown, Oregon-based author

“Honestly, I’ll never forget how mesmerized I was by Eggy Pocket’s Instagram videos. It was a mesmerizing process and created a craving that could not be satiated by anything I could find elsewhere. I remember when I finally ordered one how excited I was... so excited I devoured it even before it had time to cool down, thus barely tasting the food... (‘and here we see a common millennial animal in her natural habitat.’)” -Alli Fodor, Eater PDX contributor

“The real reality is, I never went to the carts because they were so goddamn expensive. It was so hard to figure out how to eat a lunch for under $3. You could always get a good salad roll there, but the one that made me go, ‘I don’t care how much it fucking costs,’ was Nong’s. Nong’s changed my life.” -Byron Beck, Portland-based writer

“It’s definitely sad to see the Alder Street food cart pod go. It was more than just an iconic destination for tourists and hungry locals alike — it was the sole livelihood for many of it’s immigrant owners. Nong started her ‘American dream’ in this food cart pod. If it were to relocate to the North Park Blocks, we think it would be an exciting addition to the Pearl District, as a food cart pod that size would help drive foot traffic and business to a generally underrated and underutilized area of the Pearl.” -Vanessa Ng, @foodbellypdx

“The strength of the food pod is the diversity. Downtown Portland won’t be the same.” -Nong Poonsukwattana, Nong’s Khao Man Gai

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Portland newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world