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I like the food cart pods. It adds some funk to downtown and a good on the street vibe.
As a whole, the pods feel like a street fair as you mentioned. I have some concerns about the cleanliness of these carts, but I have not gotten sick yet, but I have eaten too much and had to take a nap at work!
The carts get folks out on the street and there is a lot of mingling and social stuff going on around the carts.
Yes most of the cartitechture is make shift, but they all seem to have their charm.
Great Blog Entry!

Paul Kaplan

I think Food Carts are such a great idea for reviving blighted urban areas, good work Portland!!


Agreed! The food cart scene is a great example of what can be accomplished when two factors are not part of the equation: 1) design considerations; 2) community involvement process. Imagine what else could be done, and money & time saved, if those two factors weren't so out of control in this town. Great post.


Agreed Brent , the Portland Process has destroyed the ability of folks to start small businesses.
The food cart thing is the smoking gun evidence. Massive Permit process and fees drove everyone away. Mr Mayor , try the fee holiday idea and get these cool food carters into all that empty real estate!

Mark Engberg

What about design review? Building safety? ADA? Building permits?
and taxes? I'm afraid food carts do not add to the economy or tax base. Most of the downtown carts are hard wired for electrical service. They operate like buildings. Shouldn't they comply like other buildings?


really - they are cool and yummy, but overpriced. you can get a similar plate of food at a place that pays rent and staff. $7 for a burrito when you pay $200/month to park in a lot, and the ingredients cost less than $1/each to make. Do the math the next time you shop - and consider wholesale? I love the idea and the scene, but like most things lately in p-town, the hip factor artifically inflates the price. For all that they save by this gig - I would expect a better deal and more competition.


No, Mark, they shouldn't. They are not buildings, and while many aren't "mobile" carts, they can be moved. When they start being made of brick and mortar and take up more than a parking space, then people in the restaurant business can start to whine about how they are getting 'preferential' treatment.

And ka, if you don't like them then don't eat at them. I can spend $5 at lunch, and have enough food left over for dinner. Yeah, some of the cart owners probably do ok, but they work crazy long hours to do so. If they don't, their product suffers, people don't eat at their cart, and they are forced to close up shop.

Like most things lately in p-town, the whining about change or progress or something different has become tiresome and doesn't accomplish anything. FFS people, it's food.


Paul, maybe you should calm down a bit-ka didn't state he didn't like them, just made a point re: the price and the kewl factor affect it, a perspective which I happen to agree with.

It's why I bring my own lunch and have ceased to patronize these places.

Brian Libby

The "kewl factor"? What's that?

I think it's totally okay to not be an active fan of food carts, or to be skeptical of how carts avoid the codes and restrictions of regular buildings. But there's no reason for getting hostile. The arrival of lots of street food in Portland has people excited and enthused, which is saying something when we're talking about an entrepreneurial explosion in the worst economy since the Great Depression.


Brian, I never stated that I was 'hostile' to food carts, I just feel as ka that the prices are not competitive relative to traditional establishments, and I don't patronize them due to their inaffordability. I happen to know folks that run foodcarts as well as folks that run traditional restaurants-each have their strengths and weaknesses. Food carts are the hip, new thing as of late here in PDX and the rest of the country, good on them, and I do like the fact they are thriving-I just simply cannot afford their prices. No need to get oversensitive and make the claim that I or others are 'hostile'

Brian Libby

Fair enough, Ebogan63. Your criticism is valid and I didn't mean to get "oversensitive" - although I'm really good at it! :)


Mark has it right. Why is that Portland makes exceptions for food carts and sticks it to brick&mortar establishments? How is that fair? Carts don't pay fees, taxes, SDCs, etc while the competing restaurant across the street does. Temporary? Hardly. A planner will bitch and moan about the window details on my new building and quickly spend my money by requiring all kinds of expensive changes, while turning a blind eye to a footcart shanty-town like at Hawthorne&11th. Where's the compliance? ADA? Fire code? Landscaping. Enough is enough. Its just abuse of the system, condoned by our corrupt City Council. Where's that "hit squad" Randy?


I had just had a short trip to Denver for the first time and was impressed with the city, roughly about the size of Portland or Seattle, it wasn't a huge city by any means. Walking around in its downtown was a major reminder to me that I think Portlanders often forget when it comes to these food carts, are some of them a little overpriced? sure, are some of them not that good? of course, but there are a good number of them that are affordable and have some really tasty food that offers a huge range of types of food, something that seemed to be lacking in downtown Denver.

Basically if these food carts were not there, then it would be nothing more than just another parking lot taking up space downtown.

In some aspect, carts are held to a standard, it is called costumers. They work long hours to provide a product and if that product lacks or their prices are not justifiable, then they are looking at closing down.

As for the design of carts, some of them look down right bad, but overall it gives the Portland street life a different aspect of street culture that is rarely found in other cities the same size as this.

Kelley Roy

Just wanted to let everyone know about our book, Cartopia: Portland's Food Cart Revolution. It will be out in early November and will be sold out of a 1972 mobile step van, at Powell's Books and through a series of events around the city and at the food cart pods. Our very own, Randi Gragg, wrote the foreward.

A book documenting – through stories and photography – the perfect storm of Portland’s independent culture, artisan economy, and foodie scene that created the street food revolution.

You can preorder your copy, follow our blog and learn more about all of the amazing Portlander's involved in the creation of this beautiful and information book here


Best burger in town. Violetta, 43rd and Belmont. Hands down, and well worth the $6. I've never had a burger that good at a sit-down place.

The 43rd / Belmont pod is a fantastic example of how a sense of place and community can spring out of a vacant lot. Very well done.


As a big fan of both cart food and architecture, I really dig Brian's feature on food carts and architecture. I own the 'BBQ Fusion' cart at 10th & Alder posted in one of his photos. I designed and built the cantilever awning myself to serve as both a design feature and to keep the customers dry of course! After completeion a year ago, I was approached by several food cart owners (includeing my next door neighbor) to replicate it on their carts. Now I have two of my neighbors harboring the same design built by themselves. Aside from the design, I used all green materials (natural stain, translucent cover for natural light and beautiful view of the huge trees overhead, insde, marmoleum floors, zero-VOC paint and an efficient water heater. In other words, I agree that it is awesome that food carts not only offer divers veriety of great food, but interesting and diverse architecture and use of materials as well.

Jeff Joslin

A little late after the fact, but a footnote about design review and related requirements.

While most carts are not "development" (as long as they've still got wheels and are self-contained), all the other site changes do consitute development. Increasingly, the carts are displacing required and/or pre-existing parking lot edge treatments, and more an more permanent improvements are appearing (canopies connected to the ground, decks...). All this stuff should be triggering reviews (both adjustment reviews to the decimation of the parking-lot requirements, and for the other permanent stuff, a lot of which is pretty crappy in terms of quality and construction). That we allow this stuff to run free makes it that much harder to make the case that we should sweat the small stuff on other development, even though the quality that results from that scrutiny is key to maintaining a quality urban environment.

All that said, it's impossible not to love the carts and the energy and inventiveness that accompanies them.

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