Food Carting in Portland, Part 3: Mississippi Street

Tamara Palmer
Garden State's grilled Alaskan cod, potato, and orange sandwich.
​One of Portland's newest food cart parking lots, or pods, is located at the Mississippi Marketplace in North Portland, and it might well be one of the most health-conscious collection of carts around, at least relatively speaking. About 80 percent of the pod's 10 or so vendors have vegetarian and/or vegan options, and most of the others offer healthy choices. One particularly hearty-looking spot for vegans is the Ruby Dragon, but we've had the misfortune to find it closed on our last two visits to Portland. Even the Sushi Tree cart has vegan selections.

We sampled a vegan main course, a towering "Hollywood Bowl" from Native Bowl heaped with lemon jasmine rice, za'atar, cart-made lemon tahini, chickpeas, red cabbage, and pita chips. It was unwieldy for street food (we had to ask for a second bowl to mix it all in) but it was a satisfying choice.

But we weren't there to be all vegan, so we followed it up with a delicate grilled Alaskan cod sandwich from Garden State, dressed with greens in mint vinaigrette and topped with slices of potato and orange, an unlikely combo we enjoyed. With two locations, Garden State is one of the city's quality success stories.

Tamara Palmer
Garden State.
​Of course, you can afford a little sin when you're being so good, and the Sugar Cube has inventive sweets that not good for diets. We were heartbroken that we didn't arrive in time to sample the Amy Winehouse, a brandy-and-orange-soaked yellow cupcake topped with chocolate ganache. It's served stabbed with a coke straw, a bump of Colombian sugar on the side.

"Where are we going to get our bump now?" we pleaded with the owner, hoping she had a secret stash in the back. But no, no, no.

We settled ― that's the wrong word, because it was delicious ― on a coffee caramel panna cotta instead, just tiny enough not to avoid sending us on a Winehouse-style sugar bender.

With nearly 500 licensed food carts, it's clear that Portland's regulating bodies have clued into an easier, more streamlined, and more affordable process, one that hasn't yet arrived in San Francisco. Portland serves as a national model for how street-food startups can benefit a whole community.

At the very least, let it be a lesson to anyone in San Francisco who owns a spare parking lot. A creative profit center could be right under their noses.

Mississippi Marketplace 4237 N. Mississippi at N. Skidmore, Portland.

Also in this series:

  • Food Carting in Portland, Part 2: Downtown
  • Food Carting in Portland, Part 1: Cartopia
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