Despite its size, Lil’ America — a new food cart pod coming to Southeast Stark Street and Southeast 10th Avenue — will cover a lot of ground. Chefs at the five carts will pull inspiration from the Philippines, Guyana, and China, among other countries, accompanied by the current taco cart onsite, Los Plebes. Curated by the restaurant group Win Win (from the team behind North Williams Chinese restaurant XLB), the pod features carts that are owned by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ chefs exclusively, meant to reflect the rich diversity of the United States itself. But also, the aim of the pod is to create equitable and sustainable opportunities for folks in the food industry — beyond just creating a dynamic food cart pod. “The food industry has systemic issues and I don’t know what it’s going to take to overcome that,” Win Win’s Linh Tran told Eater in August. “But I do know that we need to start trying and I think that Portland is a perfect place to do that.”
Lil’ America, set to open before the year ends, will provide more than just carts: The pod will share a space with Fracture Brewing and Dos Hermanos, offering a quintessential Portland dining experience — beer and food carts. The complex will include indoor and outdoor seating, and will eventually host events, DJs, live music, and markets. Despite all the perks, the incoming food options here are worth getting excited over in their own right, from the established businesses to the carts brand new to the scene. Below, find the opening lineup at Lil’ America, including what we know so far about each cart.
This new project from former XLB sous chef Mike Bautista and Xrysto Castillo will sling Filipinx meets American fast food, which they describe as “a love letter to the in-between; a nod to our parents’ recipes as well as the fast food we begged them to buy us.” Think: longganisa burgers and poutine with adobo gravy.
Bake on the Run
This cart, run by mother-and-son team Bibi and Mike Singh, specializes in Guyanese bakes, light pastries which are actually fried, not baked. Once featured on Top Chef, the Singhs stuff their bakes with savory and sweet fillings like bacalhau (Portuguese salted cod) and Missionary Chocolate truffles, served alongside additional dishes like Guyanese-style chow mein and aloo-and-channa curry. The cart’s menu gives diners some insight on the South American country through dish descriptions.
Containers of Hainanese chicken rice — fortified with sauces like ginger scallion, lemongrass Thai chili, and sweet soy sauce — make their way out of the window at this chicken-centric cart, which also serves fried chicken, pan-seared chicken with black pepper sauce, and wings. The cart will soon add braised pork belly with soft-boiled soy sauce eggs to the menu.
Two Portlanders who spent nearly a decade in both sex work and the restaurant industry opened this queer- and Latinx-owned vegan coffee cart in the summer of 2021. The cart honors queer sex workers by donating money from their daily specials to nonprofits and mutual aid funds like PDX Stripper Strike, Cascade AIDS Project, and more. The cart serves vegan food and drink like hand-dipped corn dogs and oat milk horchata cold brew.
First-generation Korean American Sunny Hatch started Frybaby as a way to connect to his culture and expand the footprint of Korean cuisine in Portland. He fell in love with Korean fried chicken after a trip to Korea, and will serve the dish at his new cart. To accompany the star menu item, expect sauces like soy garlic, spicy gochujang, and snow cheese, plus banchan and sides like bo ssam collard greens and corn cheese.
Updated Tuesday, November 22 at 3:42 p.m.: This story was updated to include information about Frybaby.