Here in Portland, we love a little friendly competition. Hell, you can't throw a spent can of cheap American lager without hitting some tight-pants-wearing hipster who's involved in a flashlight-tag league or whatever happens to be the playground sport du jour. We need all that twee-activity so we can stay whippet skinny and fit into our cigarette-leg jeans. You see, while we do like to play, we also like to eat. In fact, there's a good chance when you threw that beer can, the hipster you beaned was hanging out next to one of our world-famous food carts, noshing on a schnitzelwich or loaded New Mexico–style sopapilla.
So when your city decided to put together the third installment of the Mobile Chowdown, it was only natural to look across the Columbia and invite Portland food carts up for a little jocular gustatory gaming. There's just one problem: You've asked gunslingers to attend your food fight. It's a dozen of your carts to four of ours, but we're going to dominate regardless. I mean, you'd have to outnumber us by at least five to one to even come close to matching the sheer culinary prowess represented in the carts heading your way.
It's not your fault. Seattle is playing catch-up with Portland. In 2003, your public officials succumbed to a collective fit of civic insanity and decided to ban food carts around the city because of "overcrowded streets." Also, I understand it's extremely frustrating to license a cart in Seattle. Pity, really.
So instead of giving you a rolling culinary whomping you'd be tasting for the remainder of the year, we're being gentle and just sending three of our best, as well as our corporate tagalong, Burgerville. We would send more, but that would be unfair. Not to mention a majority of the Portland carts don't actually... move. Instead, they congregate in pods (you know, like orcas). These pods, scattered all over the city, turn barren urban wastes into culinary wonderlands: You might find wood-fired pizza right next to homemade desserts, right next to savory crepes, right next to vegan barbecue, right next to sushi. You get the idea. Almost every neighborhood in the city has a cart pod.
Last time I counted, there were 461 licensed mobile food units in PDX. Of those 461, you're about to meet three of the heavy hitters. Let me introduce you.
Whiffies hails from the 12th and Hawthorne cart pod, and they make fried pies, both savory and sweet. These badass pies can be filled with anything from salmon to rabbit to durian fruit. Yeah, that's right. Durian. These people are insane. Look forward to hand-pies with a nice flaky crust and bombastic filling. I hear they've got something special in the works just for you.
Potato Champion is Whiffies' neighbor in the Hawthorne pod. They're Portland's poutine specialists, and are deadly with a fryer and a gravy ladle. I say deadly because their signature option—hand-cut french fries, dappled with melting, mellow cheese curds, and smothered in tangy gravy—could probably actually kill you if you had a heart condition.
Alongside these two you'll find KoiFusion, Portland's answer to L.A.'s Korean taco trucks. I know your city is bringing Marination Mobile to the table, and that their Hawaiian/Korean pork tacos managed to beat Portland cart Garden State in a Good Morning America Weekend popularity contest. Couple of things: Who the fuck watches Good Morning America on a weekend, and what's with the whole Hawaiian thing? You can only fuse so much. Expect KoiFusion to take vengeance with bulgogi tacos topped with kimchi in a handmade tortilla. Good Morning America can suck it.
At the end of the day, when the blue-tinged grill haze has cleared and the gnashing of teeth has ceased, the blacktop around Safeco Field will be littered with Seattleites rubbing distended bellies and moaning the praises of Portland carts.
Consider this from Gregg Abbott of Whiffies: "We're pulling out all the stops, for sure. There's no question we're the odds-on favorite. We're going to smoke their asses."
It's best not to resist. In fact, use the occasion as a learning tool and get your city officials to loosen the restrictions on carts. Seattle needs street food, and you're about to find out what you've been missing.
Patrick Alan Coleman is the food writer for the Portland Mercury.