The unnamed food cart pod on Southwest Fifth Avenue, between Southwest Harvey Milk and Southwest Oak streets, has stood in downtown Portland for more than three decades, a standby for downtown workers and tourists during lunch. This week, it takes on a new identity, reopening with 20 carts, live music, and seating for 300.
The Midtown Beer Garden, redeveloped as a partnership between financial services app Expensify and restaurant group Chefstable, will house all of the carts that previously sat within the pod — including Korean Twist, La Jarochita, and Gyro Place — as well as at least 10 new businesses. While the pod will open with 20 carts, at least five more will move in before the month ends. The new entrants at the pod include high-profile carts like Stretch the Noodle, as well as a bar cart from Fracture Brewing. The all-ages, dog-friendly pod is also home to a stage for live music and performances, picnic table seating for 300, permanent restrooms, plenty of live plants, and heaters and tents for the colder months.
In the spring, Expensify announced the food cart pod’s revamp and its collaboration with Chefstable, the restaurant group behind places like St. Jack, Ox, and Lardo. Chefstable also worked with restaurant group Win Win to open Lil’ America, the successful Southeast Stark food cart pod home to buzzy new carts like Frybaby and Makulít.
At the time, Expensify’s team emphasized the company’s interest in improving the pod’s “string of bad luck,” in founder David Barrett’s words. He was likely referencing the compounding impact of the area’s loss of foot traffic during the pandemic, cart owners’ consistent issues with vandalism, and the explosion of a food cart onsite. The updated pod now offers 24/7 security and a fenced perimeter, in an attempt to keep the pod secure for its owners.
The current list of carts includes:
The pod will throw an opening party on Sunday, August 20, with a headlining performance from high profile former Portland musician the Last Artful, Dodgr, as well as the Shivas and Boka Marimba. The party runs from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 431 SW Harvey Milk Street.