Dinger’s Deli, the vegan food cart best known for its satisfying sandwiches packed with house-made faux meats, has permanently closed on Belmont after a successful three-year run. The cart announced its closure on Instagram yesterday.
“Dingers Deli was hosted by a wonderfully awesome and beautiful food scene,” owner Brian Steadham writes in a closure announcement. “I love y’all, & I’m so proud of what we did!” The post went on to announce that the cart would open as usual at 11 a.m., and vegans rushed out to score one last sandwich. Within a few hours, Steadham had sold out, signing off with a “Thank you, I love y’all!!!” in a second Instagram post.
When the cart opened in February 2018, its hefty sandwiches were met with rave reviews from vegans and non-vegans alike. Instead of using popular faux meat brands, Dinger’s Deli specialized in house-made fillings — wheat-based ham and salami, garlic-fennel veggie meatballs, and pulled jackfruit — to create vegan versions of meatball marinara subs, cheesesteaks, French dips, and Cuban sandwiches. On social media, Dinger’s Deli became well-known for its shots of sandwich cross sections and playfully over-the-top use of emojis — Steadham closes almost every caption with a whole slew of emojis, from the alien to the crystal ball to the heart-eyed cat.
When the pandemic hit, Dinger’s Deli offered takeout and delivery out of its Belmont cart and had a brief stint serving sandwiches and bowls at Century. The cart continued to sell out on a regular basis — just like in pre-pandemic times. But Steadham was feeling the emotional and physical toll of working through the pandemic, and wanted to create some space for rest and new ideas. “I put a lot of heart and soul into the place, especially after the last year, it was really taking an emotional toll on my body,” Steadham told Eater Portland. “It’s a long overdue break, to take a deep breath.” He says the timing worked out when he was approached to join a new project launching later this summer, where he will be exploring a different type of vegan food; for now, he’s keeping the details to himself. Steadham has been approached by multiple people about the cart — and even the Dinger’s Deli concept — and hopes to hand over the cart in its current location to another vegan business.
During his run with Dinger’s Deli, Steadham had the opportunity to travel and bring his food to vegan food festivals across the country, becoming a sort of ambassador for the local vegan community. Now, as more and more vegan restaurants, pop-ups, and carts land in Portland, Steadham is still cheering on the local meat-free food world. “The Portland scene kicks ass,” the chef says. “We should get the recognition.”