Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Portland Food Pod Visit

43rd and SE Belmont, PDX
I can never visit Portland without a visit to some food carts. Food carts have become one of the main attractions of the city for visiting foodies. With over 400 carts throughout the city, there is something for everyone, from vegan to carnivore, Thai to Scandanavian, and everything in between. 

This visit I wanted to visit a food pod in a residential neighborhood. If you've read my article, Mobile Food Pods Revitalize Neighborhoods, then you know that I had already researched this topic from afar. I had not actually visited any of the pods in a residential area though, only downtown. I agreed to meet my friend, Brett, at the pod at 43rd and SE Belmont.

Brett is the Portland food cart expert. You've probably seen him on Eat St. and other shows about food trucks and carts. His website is foodcartsportland.com and he's probably eaten at every cart in the city. We met up to talk about nationwide cart/truck issues while I checked out a couple of the carts.


Lardo in customized little house
Unfortunately it was a Tuesday in the winter season. More than half of the carts were closed. I walked the lot to check out the fair and this pod had pretty much everything. There was coffee, sushi, Thai, burgers, chicken, vegan, Scandanavian, and more.

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Property owners are interested in carts because they generate revenue for an otherwise empty lot. They are still paying property taxes on an empty/parking lot whether it's occupied or not. By renting spaces to carts, they now have a revenue generating property instead of a revenue sucking one. 

This lot owner now has 14 or so paying tenants at a few hundred dollars a month each. She made her lot even more attractive by providing  electric and water hookups, porta potties, picnic tables, and awnings. Another entrepreneur has a business supplying ATM machines to lots such as this. Brett says there are a couple of pods that even supply grease dumps, like are required at restaurants and commissaries.

Being in a residential area, this pod closes at 10 pm each night. It has different traffic patterns than the downtown pods since it is not catering to office worker lunch crowds.

Rick, Lardo's owner
Above you see Lardo in the customized house trailer. Brett ordered a deliciously juicy banh mi sandwich. I ordered the Lardo dirty fries above. Much more than garlic fries, these had herbs, spices, bits of peppers, and pieces of pork belly. They have a nice kick to them and you gotta love pork belly. It was the best fries I've had in ages.

Viking Soul Foods Meatball Lefse Wrap
My other choice for lunch was from the Viking Soul Food airstream trailer. Here they took traditional Lefse, potato griddle cakes, and had a choice of fillings they rolled up in them. I opted for meatballs with Norwegian cheese sauce and sour cabbage. What a great item! There were about six small meatballs in this one little wrap with just the perfect amount of sauce and a bit of cabbage for crunch. 

This SE Belmont pod has been open for a year and a half. I asked Rick if he was open year round and he said he was, but during winter it was only a one man operation with him and his partner splitting the shifts. During the summer the business required two people working at a time.  Once school starts though, his revenue drops 50% and then down to about 30% in the coldest months of January/February. 

I'll probably stop at another pod tomorrow before I head back to Sac. But each time I come to Portland and see the abundance of carts I have to ask myself - why can't Sac have this too?  As I said in my other post, these are the places I'd like to see food pods.  How about you?

            Downtown Plaza where the ice rink sets up in the winter
            Oak Park
            Del Paso
            Natomas around Northgate and West El Camino


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