Food cart culture & culinary diversity

Portland is known around the country, and maybe even around the world, for the huge number of food carts that decorate the city. It is estimated that there are over 500 food carts around the Portland metro area at any given time. That means there are 500 different opportunities for us all to try delicious, unique and exotic foods.

There’s a plethora of different cuisines available through food carts. From Japanese to Italian, breakfast foods to Cajun, Mediterranean to Hawaiian, and everything and anything in between, you can find nearly any type of food that you might be craving or looking to experience for the first time. Food carts, food pods or food trucks—whatever you choose to call them—offer cheap and interesting cuisines from around the world. These small non-restaurants help create vibrant downtown areas and provide the chance for students, office workers and tourists alike to find delicious bargain food.

If you are new to the area, then tasting the diversity of flavors that come from food carts is crucial to experiencing what it means to be in Portland. Eating at food carts is not just a matter of having fresh, local or organic food choices, but rather showing the wonderful cultural diversity we have here. Food is a great medium to share different cultural traditions and is something we can all bond over.

On top of experiencing what has become a cultural lexicon in Portland, eating from food carts helps to support local small businesses. In many cases, owners of food carts might be aspiring chefs without the capital to start their full-fledged restaurant. Your food choices could mean giving someone a chance to live their dream of making food, or simply giving experienced chefs the opportunity to create exciting and creative dishes.

If you would like to learn more about food carts around Portland, my first piece of advice to you would be to get out there and try something as soon as possible. The best way to get a taste of everything that food cart culture can offer is to try all the places that tickle your fancy. Sure, this way you’ll probably end up trying some less than excellent food carts, but it’s only through experimenting that you’ll be able to find the places that you might grow to love.

While most people like the idea of finding new food among the streets, parks and old parking lots of Portland, there are some people that like the idea of knowing where they are going so that they know what to expect. If you happen to fall into that category instead, there are plenty of websites out there to help you find the types of food carts that you are looking for. is an (as up to date as possible) website documenting most of the food carts around town and where they were last known to be. Websites like Food Carts Portland does its best to figure out when popular food carts decide to move, so that everyone can continue to eat the kind of food that they like best. If you are looking for reviews of food carts, Yelp is a good place to start.

So get out there, continue supporting local businesses and eat some delicious and unique food. There is so much culinary diversity to be had in Portland, and half of experiencing the local culinary scene is to eat at food carts.