Portland is a hotbed of food carts. We’ve been to several in our part of town, but recently we decided to go on a Sunday field trip to do a taste test of some of Portland’s “best” carts. Unfortunately, we learned that most of the downtown carts we wanted to visit are closed on Sundays. This was a big surprise to us because the ones we usually go to are all open on the weekends. Note to self (and to you)!
Luckily, two of our top choices were open! First, we headed to SE 9th & Oak to Gonzo, reported to have the city’s best falafel. Most of Portland’s foodcarts are remodeled trailers in what are called pods — little neighborhoods of food carts — but Gonzo is a solo cart in the industrial district. We were surprised that it didn’t have any seating. When we ordered our food, we were asked if we were taking it to go or eating in base camp. Base camp? Turns out Gonzo is associated with Base Camp Brewing that’s right behind the cart, so you can eat your plateful of yum in the bar! Of course you can wash it down with a hometown brewed beer while you’re there. And they have indoor and outdoor seating. Bonus!
A great budget eating strategy is to share one item and then order something else if we’re still hungry. We ordered a falafel sandwich with fries ($8), and it was plenty of food. The fries were thick, handcut, and perfectly cooked. They were golden-brown and crispy on the outside, light, fluffy, and steamy on the inside. I give them second place for fries in Portland (after my all-time favorite cart, Potato Champion). They were delicious! They’re served with Israeli catsup on the side, which is a little more flavorful than regular catsup, although we couldn’t quite pinpoint why. Tasty, at any rate.
The falafel sandwich was gigantic and had plenty of toppings — lots of fresh chunks of tomatoes, cukes, and onions — and a hummus, tahini, and amba dressing. The only thing missing was some tzatziki. Still, it was excellent: there were were four good sized falafel balls, so we each got two, and that was perfect. I can’t imagine how one person could eat that whole sandwich and all those fries. Jeff had a full-flavored, smooth Alpenglow ale to wash it down. I had a throwback beverage, Bubble Up. Who knew it was still around?!?
This part of our field trip was definitely a success. We found a great new cart — and a new microbrewery! Our bathroom scale might not agree, but what does it know? For you, our readers, we are willing to sacrifice. Next week, you can read about the second half of our field trip up to Portland’s Alberta district. I’ll give you a hint — it was just as successful and much sweeter.
Have any favorite foodcarts in Portland or your own hometown? Leave us a note in the comments, and enjoy your week or your weekend!