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Shady Pines, Portland’s All-Vegan Food Cart Pod, Has Closed Permanently

After less than two years, the food cart pod offering vegan takes on fried chicken, mac and cheese, ramen, and soft serve has closed

A roll from SushiLove, one of the carts at Shady Pines
Sushi Love / Facebook

Shady Pines Food Court, Portland’s only all-vegan cart pod located in the Cully neighborhood, has closed permanently. The food carts once parked at Shady Pines have either closed or are looking for a new home.

Founded by Fatsquatch owners Lukkah Churchill and Christine Neary — along with landlords Ashley and Lindsey Butler — Shady Pines opened with six carts in March 2020, right as the pandemic hit. Even though Portland is renowned as a vegan destination and for its food cart culture, Shady Pines was the only community of all-vegan carts, serving mac and cheese, ramen bowls, soft serve, and fried chicken in one lot, complete with outdoor picnic tables and indoor seating.

But Shady Pines struggled with much more than just the pandemic, according to its tenants; many of the pod’s cart owners expressed disappointment in the property management and the pod’s lack of access to basic amenities, such as lights, heat, and shade for the pod. “When we signed the lease, we were promised a lot,” says Ramblin’ Rose owner Mary Allen. “It really could be something special if the owners put in the effort.”

The Butlers contend that the pod offered a number of amenities, including grey water service, wifi, power, and outdoor lighting; they also noted that they provided rent relief to the tenants via a NAYA grant. “We provided every service required by the Multnomah County Health Service to operate a food cart pod. We went above and beyond by establishing a food cart pod location that had an amenity like the indoor seating area,” the Butlers write in a statement to Eater. Churchill and Neary have yet to respond to requests for comment.

Trying to prevent the potential closure of the pod, Armon Pakdel of Saff Ramen says the cart owners founded an informal tenants union, to advocate for their collective interests; however, it wasn’t enough to keep the pod afloat. Churchill and Neary eventually closed Fatsquatch on October 9, and Butlers took on full ownership of Shady Pines. On November 3, the new owners announced that Shady Pines would close in 30 days, after being open for less than two years.

The tenants of Shady Pines say they are overwhelmed with customer support following the announcement. On Instagram, SushiLove owners Ashley Craemer and Diandra Totten write: “[We] can’t quite put into words what an honor it has been to serve you for 4 years. We’ve felt so connected to this community in that time. With our customers, employees, and with our fellow food business owners.”

Some carts, like Dirty Lettuce, moved into new locations before the official pod closure. Others, however, have chosen to close entirely, or leave the city. Here is a breakdown of where all of the Shady Pines food carts are heading next.


Fatsquatch

Often dubbed a stoner food cart, Fatsquatch has been a fan favorite in Portland’s vegan scene since its early days on Belmont, serving meatless, gluten-free bites like deep-fried onion rings, fully loaded potato ribbons, and cheesy grits. The cart’s mascot, Uncle Squatchy, bid farewell to Portland in an Instagram post: “It’s been an amazing six years and we’ve made so many great friends. We’re grateful for all the love and support we’ve received from everyone and we’ll miss you all.” Fatsquatch closed for good on October 9.

Avocadamama

This Los Angeles pop-up landed a spot at Shady Pines when Taylor Solomon and Nathaniel Perales decided to bring its vegan mac and cheese to Portland. The chefs’ specialty is a velvety cheddar-like cheese sauce that they slather over pasta shells, dressed with toppings like barbecue jackfruit, buffalo cauliflower, and vegan blue cheese. Avocadamama’s final day in Portland was December 3; it will continue to operate in Los Angeles at Smorgasburg and other events.

Better Together

Better Together — the beverage cart that opened at Shady Pines in July — served beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as baked goods from Shoofly Vegan Bakery. The cart operated for just a few months before closing in early November. Owner Julianne Schwartz hopes to find a new pod to continue serving beverages and add some snacks to the all-vegan menu. Until then, customers can support the cart’s employees via GoFundMe.

Ramblin’ Rose

At Ramblin’ Rose, Mary Allen offered coconut-based soft serve as classic vanilla-chocolate swirls, botanical soda floats, and sundaes with Tume brownies. Allen had just closed for the season when the pod’s ownership announced its closure. The bright red vintage truck is now parked at General Industry; Allen has yet to decide if she will operate there or at an another pod when spring rolls around. Until then, Allen will be working to get her vegan soft serve into small businesses and co-ops.

Saff Ramen

Armon Pakdel and Zoe Lichlyter began Saff Ramen as a pop-up, combining their Persian and Japanese heritage in their speciality noodle bowl: tonkotsu-style corn ramen laced with saffron threads. Saff Ramen closed its cart at the end of October, but starting December 7, Saff Ramen will pop up weekly at SxNW on Mississippi to serve ramen, onigiri, and Better Together’s mochi until it lands a new cart location.

SushiLove

Former Sellwood favorite SushiLove specialized creative fish-free sushi, like the seasonal Autumn Reigns with roasted shiitake mushrooms and sweet potato ginger puree at its Shady Pines truck and Oregon City restaurant. Ashley Craemer and Diandra Totten served their last inari on November 28. “‘It doesn’t quite feel real’ is all Ashley and I can say. Y’all really showed up today,” the closing announcement on Instagram reads. “We’ll continue to work to try to sell the business so that this isn’t the end of sushilove.” The SushiLove brand, truck, and recipes are available for sale.

Shady Pines [Instagram]
What to Know About the New All-Vegan Food Cart Pod Opening This Month [EPDX]

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