Since leaving the kitchen of Andy Ricker’s now-famous Northern Thai restaurant Pok Pok, chef Nong Poonsukwattana has hit paydirt with a concept that’s the highest ideal of what a Portland food cart can and should be. It all started with the titular poached chicken and rice dish that’s topped with a magical pickled ginger sauce you have to taste to believe. And although Nong has since been featured on Chopped -- as well as every relevant best-of list -- her ability to remain humble and keep things simple is a trait that all but guarantees success for her modest operation, which now includes stripped-down brick-and-mortar shops in Inner Southeast and Downtown.
Where is it? Right there on Ankeny and 6th
It’s fitting that Portland’s most authentic East Coast-style pastrami sandwich is found in a food cart that’s branded with kitsch and colorful gore. Owner Melissa McMillan, who also runs the brick-and-mortar Chicago-style sandwich shop Sammich in Kerns, is a rockstar at smoking meats. Her knack for blending textures between bread is displayed perfectly on the cart’s eponymous sandwich, which features tender and smokey Montreal-style pastrami topped with smooth melted Swiss and crisp, briny sauerkraut.
Where is it? Find it at the intersection of N. Skidmore and N. Mississippi
Bing Mi, on SW Ninth & Alder, is exemplary of the Portland food cart experience, offering a few iterations of a classic street food staple that’s been honed to a venerable art form. In this case it’s jianbing, a Chinese crepe that’s folded, fried, and stuffed with ingredients like black bean paste, chili sauce, and pickled vegetables. It’s simple on paper, yet bold and complex as it crackles in your mouth. And the line that almost always eclipses that of other carts in this teeming micro-universe of food carts should tell you all you need to know.
Where is it? Find it on SW Ninth and Alder