Tonight was all about the food carts. Thirty carts to be exact. All nestled underneath the Morrison Bridge for Willamette Week’s Third Annual Eat Mobile Festival. Mao and I came prepared, wristbands a blazing, appetites a roaring, and elbows ready to fight the throngs of fellow food cart enthusiasts. The elbows were a bit unnecessary though, as the crowds were quite manageable despite the event being completely sold out. We quickly formulated a strategy – stand in line, grab food sample, stand in next line, consume said sample, repeat. We began with a familiar cart – Violetta – and a beignet dipped in espresso chocolate sauce. We followed one fried offering with another by visiting Whiffies Fried Pies – a brisket and mozzarella for the carnivore, a peanut butter chocolate concoction for his missus. Next door was Ziba’s Pitas and Mao enjoyed his first taste of Bosnian cuisine. On to Garden State and what may have been the best bang for one’s buck – grilled cod with mint, orange and mizuna, topped with fried capers, and the whole glorious concoction piled high on top of toasted ciabatta. Messy, but unbelievably delicious and quite possibly my favorite item of the day. Mao then sampled goulash at Tabor, which was quite good I’m told. Moving right along, we had grilled cheese and turkey with truffle oil and a curried lentil soup at Savor Soup House; pork stew at Mono Malo; jerk chick-un at Asaase Ital Palace; and a huge portion of I’m not sure what over rice at Bombay Chaat House. We paused briefly to graze longingly at straight from a thousand degree oven pieces of margarita pizza at Pyro Pizza, then paused again to tend to burnt tongues caused by overly eager consumption of said thousand degree pizza. We pressed on, despite our injuries, enjoying stewed rhubarb over granola at Moxie Rx, pork tamales at Micro Mercantes Tamales, African peanut soup at Soup Cycle and a tropical green smoothie with fresh fruits and leafy greens at Sip. While I stood in one line, Mao wandered around and sampled the fares at Altengartz Bratwurst and Van Schnitzel, trying each cart’s namesake meal, and perhaps also returning to Violetta for a second beignet. We finished our feast with samples from Fifty Licks Handmade Ice Cream – Stumptown coffee for him, carbonated cola for me.
So, we didn’t make it to every cart – we bypassed the snaking lines at some of our regular dining options – Koi Fusion, Potato Champion, Addy’s Sandwiches, Nuevo Mexico and FlavourSpot. But, seventeen different stops isn’t too shabby. And to make things even better, as we left the festival we were accosted by two suburban moms, who not realizing the event was sold out, showed up sans tickets. They managed to convince us to carefully remove our wristbands, then taped the shreds to their own arms, pushed fifteen dollars into our hands and bid us adieu. I suggested we donate our new found money to MercyCorps, the event’s charity of choice, but Mao countered he rather donate the funds to MercyOrr. A strange and wonderful and oh so Portland affair. I cannot wait until next year.