XOXO: The Food Carts
Portland’s street food scene is among the best in the world, with over 400 food carts across the city. Like whales, Portland food carts gather in “pods,” averaging 5-8 but with the largest hosting more than 60 carts. If you’re coming from a city like NYC, LA or SF, you might think food trucks are the same thing, but there are some big differences — while food trucks need to stay on the move, Portland’s food carts are effectively permanent.
The benefit is that they can build word-of-mouth at a fixed location, and each cart pods develops its own unique community and vibe. For example, the 10th and Alder carts are a shantytown of international food sprawling across two city blocks, while the D-Street Noshery has intimate live performances and the city’s first cart serving craft beer on draft.
For a festival about independent art and technology, food carts are the culinary equivalent. The barrier to entry and costs are low, letting you experiment with new ideas and build a following without falling into deep debt. And several carts in the last year — like Lardo, Salt & Straw, and Nong’s Khao Man Gai — have leveraged their fan base to open brick-and-mortar restaurants.
About 75% of XOXO attendees are coming from out of town, many for the first time, so we wanted to do something special. So we’re closing down the street in front of XOXO on Friday through Sunday to build our own pod, with our favorite carts around the city. Three of them are even leaving their own pods, towing themselves out to settle in for all three days! Here's the full lineup:
PDX 671 — Named after Guam’s area code, chef Ed Sablan brings the Chamarro cuisine of his native home to Portland, a delicious and unique fusion of Filipino, Spanish, and Malaysian influences. Winner of this year’s Eat Mobile festival.
Cheese & Crack — Funded through a successful Kickstarter project, William Steuernagel makes handmade cheese and cracker boxes, along with charcuterie plates and housemade bitter sodas, out of an adorable reclaimed wood food cart. Perfect for snacktime.
Wolf & Bear’s — Middle-Eastern meets Pacific Northwest in Tanna TenHoopen and Jeremy Garb’s charming trailer with its own homemade porch. Entirely vegetarian, with many vegan and gluten-free options, the Sabich (a traditional Iraqi-Jewish breakfast) and Olea pita wraps are some of our favorites.
Bunk Truck — Launched just last month, this is the mobile arm of chef Tommy Habetz and Nick Wood’s sandwich empire of Bunk Sandwiches. Avoid gimmicky carts like Big Ass Sandwiches, and stick with the real thing: simple, high-quality ingredients on damn-good bread.
Salt & Straw — In one year, the handmade “farm-to-cone” ice cream by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek took over Portland, expanding from a single tiny cart to two retail stores and another on the way. Their constantly-changing menu allows for creative experimentation, with recent flavors like Aquabeet (Aquavit liquor with red beets), Amber Malted Plums, and Honey Balsamic Strawberry with Black Pepper. Don’t worry, they have chocolate too. (Friday and Saturday only.)
Violetta — Some of the best burgers in the city are served from this truck, which launched during the long development of Violetta’s downtown location at Director Park. The restaurant sadly closed its doors in May, but the truck fortunately lives on. Don’t miss the Oregonzola fries!
Nong’s Khao Man Gai — Taken from the street food of her native Bangkok, Nong Poonsukwattana only makes one dish: poached chicken & rice, wrapped in butcher paper and served with a spicy sauce. But it’s so insanely good, the lunch lines at her 10th & Alder location often stretch down the street. Last year, she opened two new locations to satiate the addicts. (Sunday only.)
Taco Pedaler — Melanie and Erica ride their three-wheel cargo bike around Portland, spreading their local and organic tacos across the city like modern-day Johnny Appleseeds. But instead of apple seeds, tacos. (Saturday only.)
The carts will be out all day Friday through Sunday, and open to the public! Come on out!
(P.S. Voodoo Donuts is for tourists.)