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Jun 23, 2009 08:16 PM

PDX food carts -- origins?

Working downtown this summer, I've been relying on food carts whenever I forget to pack my usual ham and cheese or PB&J sandwich. Although I've tried the better known foodcarts since moving to Oregon a few years ago, I have never really given much thought to them until now. I mean, yes, California has long had its roach coaches, but as far as I remember it has never had permanent food cart locations. Does anyone know the history behind food carts in Portland? I'd imagine it has roots in city regulatory reasons.

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  1. It seems to have its roots in a combination of regulatory reasons and that unquantifiable Portland culture zeitgeist. I was curious to find out and ran into this interesting web post:


    2 Replies
    1. re: MichaelG

      Good find! I suspected it had to do with regulatory reasons. I'm a bit surprised at the reported numbers though -- 387 licensed carts in Portland?!

      1. re: parabolicaer

        It sounds like a lot but just think of all the neighborhoods that have multiple carts or pods: Sellwood, Mississippi, 12th and Hawthorne, 4th Ave Downtown, 9th and Stark, PSU, etc.... Then there's little spots like the one next to Capt'n Ankeny's where a new fish taco cart just opened up next to the sandwich cart. It goes on and on...

      1. I think it also has a lot to do with the real estate market. The county health dept has been flexible enough to allow carts to exist, but it is also private property owners who have been willing to rent spots to cart owners. In downtown, there are a lot of parking lots that have carts at their edges - a way to squeeze extra income out of their lot. My guess is on the east side (esp in North PDX), many land owners are waiting to develop their land when the real estate market grows again and in the interim, have found that carts are a great temporary way to earn $.

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          1. I just got September's Bon Appetit and there's a whole spread on Portland's food cart scene. Here's a link to at least some of it.