Food Cart Capitol: First Impressions

June 25, 2013

Today I write from Portland. Not Portland, Maine, a mere three hour drive from home, where the sun shines and the breeze cools your shoulders, while the birds whistle and the cold ocean waves slap the rocks on shore, and I sit looking out to the lighthouse, indulging in lobster, the best there is, sweet and just hauled in from the water, served with clarified butter and a nut cracker, boiled to order in the ocean water that now trickles down my arm. I write from Portland, Oregon, located in the Pacific Northwest, inland from the coast, giving me sunburn on Saturday, rain and cloudy skies on Sunday, and temperatures lower than what I had pictured for late June anywhere on the West Coast.

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It’s a city whose scenery, unlike it’s East Coast namesake, did not take my breath away. It’s population and energy is what immediately had me sold. We arrived too early for hotel check-in, on the only sunny day we have yet seen, and perfectly in time for their Saturday Market. So, we dropped our bags and walked across the long bridge over the river right into the rows of food and art stands packed with locals, tourists, and a heavily inked population. Tattoos seem to be quite popular in Portland, and I’m secretly wishing if only I had my sister here with me, because this would be the perfect place to get a first piece; she would go first, and then hold my hand while she distracts me from the pain and buzzing sounds. Boh, as the guinea pig would say. I should just get a henna tattoo next Saturday Market.

A small corner among the vast of my knowledge acquired through the Food and Travel channels, is that Portland is the food cart capital. Move over NYC. Rows and rows of trucks stand parked, permanently, along the streets of downtown, or propped in parking lots, some catering to the business crowd, some to the hungover late night bingers. And so, secretly, I was psyched to come to Portland just for the food carts really. Surprise, surprise.

My first day here though, was a mere introduction, spent happily at the Saturday Market. For lunch, we chose to stand in the longest queu of famished crowds, for a greek cart whose name I shamefully forgot, or did not ever catch. Angelina’s possibly? I ordered a beef and lamb gyros, and still not sure of the pronunciation, j or g, will I ever know? I asked for the works, strips of crisp cucumber and crumbles of feta that were actually impressingly quite tasty. No tomatoes, of course, and no onions, just the greens. And a baklava for dessert.

As we stood in line, soaking up the line, people passed and said aloud what I was hoping, “Look at the line for this one. It must be good.” Oh, but it was. We sat by the fountains and bit into the wrap, and the yogurt dressing dribbling down my chin and fingers was divine. Day one in Portland, street food contently in my belly, my first impression was a positive one.

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