For at least two decades, Portland has been known for its food cart scene, but 2021 seems to be a potentially massive year for the local industry. In 2020, Portland’s food carts used their natural malleability to adapt to the hostile food service climate, and Portland investors and developers noticed. The Collective Oregon Eateries pod continues to grow in Southeast Portland, and another pod is landing in nearby Montavilla later this year. But the incoming pod from the team behind Scout Beer has been a year and a half in the making.
Later this spring, a new food cart pod will open at the corner of NE 28th and NE Glisan with a set of around 10 carts. The pod will be split into a main food-court-esque space, with the main selection of food vendors, and a separate outdoor dining space, with the Scout counter facing into the seating for ease of beer access. The outdoor space will have seating for 75 with social distancing, covered with string lights and red umbrellas “so you can’t help but stop,” in co-owner Joe St. Martin’s words.
While some leases are still being ironed out, a number of carts have signed on, preparing for the upcoming opening. Below, we get into the nitty gritty of just a few of those carts; this story will be updated as more carts sign on.
Thai Me Up
Tyler Pathammavong — the owner of North Portland Thai spot Drunken Noodle and the Nob Hill food cart of the same name — is ready to switch it up. For a long time, Pathammavong has focused exclusively on a broad, traditional array of dishes Portlanders expect from their neighborhood Thai restaurants. But at his next cart, Pathammavong wants to try something new: Thai Me Up will specialize in Thai fried chicken, marinated in what he calls “massaman spices,” fried, and then served with sticky or coconut rice. Those fried chicken and rice plates will also come with a choice of house hot sauces, including nam prik and a tomato-based sauce he’s still workshopping. He’s also playing around with some grilled meat sandwiches, marinated in various Thai curries and served on baguettes, and will serve just a handful of crowd-pleasing noodles dishes — pad Thai, pad see ew, and drunken noodles.
Opening date: Soon after the pod opens
Piece of Planet
Chef Raveendra Nayar has cooked across the world, literally: Early in his career, Nayar cooked for Carnival Cruise Line, eventually landing in Miami. He helped open the first Swagat in Portland, has cooked the line at seafood spot Southpark, and after decades in the industry, he’ll soon finally open his own food cart. Piece of Planet will incorporate some of Nayar’s favorite Indian dishes from around the subcontinent, including a number of different filled dosas, four different types of biryani, jalfrezi, and a variety of seafood dishes that will change throughout the year. Those seeking something other than Scout Beer may also find things like mango smoothies and juices at Piece of Planet as well.
Opening date: Early June
Carts Moving In
One of the hot new carts in town, Poppyseed comes from another alumni of Portland institutions: Tim Willis, who spent time at Le Pigeon, opened the cart with Lissette Morales Willis, who came from Baker & Spice. Here, the two make dishes like a brisket sandwich with kohlrabi-carrot slaw, or duck country pate over parsnip puree with hazelnuts and cranberries. Morales Willis bakes fresh pain de mie for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and for dessert, the cart packages sticky toffee pudding sundaes and brownies topped with lemon-cardamom caramel.
Brewery cart Scout Beer started as a cart, and now, it’s become the jumping off point for a number of carts. Its beer cart in this new pod will have 12 taps, as well as an old-school fridge filled with things like White Claw and Rainier. The cart will face directly into the seating area, so people can easily grab a drink while they eat without re-entering the main pod.
Updated June 9, 2021, at 10:44 p.m.: This story has been updated to remove carts that have withdrawn from the food cart pod.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of the owner of Taquiza Vegana. It is Nicholas Eiser Vela, not Nicholas Eiser.