We all know that Portland is the heart of food carts. According to “This is Portland” by Alexander Barrett, there are at least a few hundreds of different registered food carts all around Portland. The reason why food carts are so popular in this city is because of expensive rent just like any one of us who cannot seem to afford easily. This slowly became a significance to the city and lead to different social growth within communities. You can now basically find food carts everywhere, even within residential areas.
Our adventure was limited to our 72 hours in Portland. As you can tell, we won’t be able to explore a lot of them with our limited time and appetite. However, we were able to try some of the highly recommended carts in downtown Portland.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
SW 10th Avenue and Alder Street
Nong’s menu is Thai chicken rice and that is the only thing they sell. You can order it in regular size $8.75USD, large size (which comes with liver) $13USD or the gluten free version $8.75USD. Add ons include liver $3USD, extra chicken $3USD, extra rice $3USD, extra sauce $0.25USD, and fried chicken skin $2USD.
Nong’s use fresh ingredient and make their food fresh everyday. If you are not familiar with Thai chicken rice, the chicken is poached with salt, sugar, ginger, garlic, shallots, and galangar and is usually served with rice that is cooked with chicken oil.
We ordered the large Chicken Rice and added Fried Chicken Skin. ($15 USD)
The chicken is tender and very flavourful. I love all the combinations of this chicken rice. Reminds me of the chicken rice I use to have in Asia. My sister told me I should had requested for all dark meat to get even tender and juicy chicken. I didn’t think without dark meat is bad but it might amaze me a bit more. Sav thought it was not as amazing. I judged him cause I think he had really high expectations and it just didn’t turn out the way he thought it would be. It wasn’t the chicken rice that was bad, it just wasn’t as good as he think it would be.
I agree that Nong’s is a must try. Whether it was up to expectations or not, I was glad that we get to eat their chicken rice. For your information, Nong’s also have a restaurant located on 609 SE Ankeny Street. My sister said the restaurant was not as good but they do have longer business hours and a bigger menu.
Thai Kee Mao
SW 10th Avenue and Alder Street
Thai Kee Mao was not a planned decision. We were just arrived in the area after a long drive and it was 3:30pm. There were only a few carts still open for business. I do not know the background about this truck but I tell you it was not a bad discover.
Just like any other Thai food carts in Portland, they have a lot of choices on their menu. Sav ordered the Crab Pad thai $8USD and a Thai Ice Tea $2USD. We were both very happy with the food and the beverage.
I would not say they have traditional Thai food but the food taste decent. The Crab Pad Thai is slightly on the sweeter end but it was cooked perfectly. It is something that I would definitely order again for just eight bucks.
That Thai Ice Tea though… I was so happy and satisfied. First of all, two bucks for a full size Thai ice tea? Please. We passed by so many different Thai carts and no one is selling their Thai ice tea for less than $4 USD. Sorry, I get excited for Thai ice tea. They are one of the best drinks you can ever have in this world. Realistically, it was also 32 degrees (feels like 36 degrees) and we were on the street eating hot food. That ice tea was heaven to us.
Let’s just say this is not a truck you might seek out on purpose. There are so many different Thai carts and also so many other choices around the area. This is not the one that would stand out to you. However, if you are craving for Thai food, I recommend this cart! If you don’t have the appetite or quota to try this truck, trust me, at least get the Thai ice tea here but not anywhere else. It’s so cheap it will make you laugh out loud!
The Grilled Cheese Grill
SW 10th Avenue and Alder Street
The Grilled Cheese Grill is one of the carts on the Portland’s best food cart lists.
Let’s start with a picture of me and my grilled cheese…
Excuse my manners but I think this picture sums up half of the story. Cheesey…
I ordered The Gabby $5.75USD. The Gabby is made with 3 cheeses – cheddar, swiss and mozzarella – on Portland French Bakery’s white bread. We have the option to add bacon for $1.75USD which we did not add. The grilled cheese portions were slight small. If an adult man orders this for lunch, he might need to order 2 of these just so he won’t starve an hour later. It is a pricy bite but we are talking about cheese. After all, cheese is expensive. Grill cheese itself was done perfectly. Not too buttery on the toast and has that nice crunchy texture you needed for a good grill cheese. Cheese could had use a little bit black pepper or seasoning to make it more tasteful but overall it is a good grill cheese.
Our friends ordered the Baby Cheesus $7USD. The Baby Cheesus is two slices of grilled white bread, 1/3lb burger with cheddar and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard. This is grill cheese version of a cheese burger.
Other than the grilled cheeses, you cannot left out the potato chips that comes with them. They are well seasoned with salt and black pepper. So flavourful and crunchy! Actually, I thought the chips were even more well seasoned than the grilled cheese which is weird cause I would want to order a side of potato chips on its own but wouldn’t care as much for the grill cheese.
I can see why the Grilled Cheese Grill is on the top of the food truck lists but it wasn’t that exciting. It could be because we ordered the wrong thing to try. Ours were just cheeses and it wasn’t that flavourful. Like I said, they done their grilled cheese right but if their potato chips were better than the grilled cheese then I’m not too sure if they will be on the top of my list. They do have a very big menu and you can also build your own.
Steaks Fifth Avenue
SW 10th Avenue between Oak and Stark Street
This was the first food cart we tried and the biggest reason was because Sav was starving to death and there wasn’t anything that looks like it will feed him well other than steak.
Steaks Fifth Avenue sells philly cheesesteaks since 1997. I’m sorry but anyone who had the American Cheesesteak Co. in Vancouver would not think Steaks Fifth Avenue has the good philly cheesesteaks.
We ordered a large Philly Cheeseseak $9USD, thin sliced sirloin steak grilled with onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. Finished with white American cheese on a horagie roll. It was not bad. It was flavourful and the bun is nice and soft just like the kind of bread I like. But there was nothing special about it. Not even when the both of us were starving to death.
Small cheesesteak is $7USD and medium is $8USD.
They also serve cheese burgers $6USD and double cheese burger $8USD.
Not what you want to try if you are a tourist. If you are a local, sure! $9USD for a large philly cheesesteak is better than $7USD for a small grill cheese if you just need to make sure your stomach doesn’t go starving. It is a deal.
Wonder how I spent 72 hours in PDX? Read more about this trip here. #natblogsPDX