The pod is a true neighborhood spot, with the bar and indoor/outdoor seating areas taking up residence in a renovated circa-1905 house between bustling Division and Hawthorne at 2216 SE 50th. General manager Taylor Gehrts, who worked at a laundry list of now-shuttered Portland greats like Trifecta and Smallwares, has kitted out the cart pod with restaurant-like amenities.
Setting itself apart from other pods, there’s actual dishware for dine-in orders and full bathrooms (very nice ones, might I add… even fancier than a lot of actual restaurant bathrooms). The carts—with the exception of Matt’s BBQ Tacos, which has a custom ordering system that’ll shoot you a text—also have buzzers that will alert you when your order is ready so you can actually grab a seat with your drink instead of hanging around awkwardly waiting for your name to be called. (Wait, did you say Sarah or Kara?!)
Hinterland’s bar covers all of your beverage needs, from a solid list of local draft beers to non-alcoholic options like shrubs and housemade lemon- and limeades, and even full bottles of wine. To get the full Hinterland experience, I suggest passing over all of those options and (if you partake in the sauce) ordering the bar’s custom cocktail pairings. Devised by Gehrts, who got his start in the industry as a bartender, these cocktails take inspiration from and complement each of the five food menus, strengthening the spirit of collaboration between the bar and carts.
What to order: Classic cheeseburger, double burger snack
Drink pairing: Reverse Manhattan (Accompani sweet vermouth, Cocchi Torino, rye, bitters)
Don Salamone’s Burger Stevens carts have long held a spot in the pantheon of Portland’s best burgers. His style pairs high-brow ingredients—patties made from Creekstone Farms’ premium beef—with “low-brow” ones like American cheese. While the classic cheeseburger (quarter-pound patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, “fancy sauce”) has earned that title for a reason, the double burger snack (two 2 oz. patties, American cheese, pickle, onion, ketchup, mustard), their “homage to McDonald’s,” is actually Salamone’s favorite.
Hot tip: Stevens fans can look forward to specials including regional burgers from various states, and the return of the “Crustacean Style” burger, a cross between an Animal Style burger and a Crab Louie, which made its debut at Feast a couple of years ago.
Burger Stevens, (971) 256-2116, burgerstevens.com
LA TAQUIZA VEGANA
What to order: Al pastor and Baja Cauli tacos, California burrito
Drink pairing: Horchata Cocktail (Gold rum, horchata, demerara, Fernet Vallet)
In 2019, California transplants Nico Vela and Devyn Marie set out to recreate the Mexican dishes they grew up eating and cooking, but plant based and with minimally processed ingredients. “We want [our customers] to feel like they’re eating food that’s familiar to them, without having to harm any animals in the process,” said Marie.
At their cart, chef Nico’s adobo-marinated soy curls strike a sweet and savory balance and hold their own against a meat al pastor. The al pastor taco is served on a tender handmade tortilla and garnished with requisite pineapple bits. Another one of their bestsellers is a perennial West coast fave: their California burrito (seriously, what’s not to love about fries IN a burrito?) is stuffed with the cart’s asada, made from shiitake and oyster mushrooms. The similarly genius Cali creation asada fries also gets the LTV treatment, with “not-cheese” sauce.
Hot tip: Look out for their birria specials; their slow-cooked jackfruit makes appearances in burritos with a side of rich consomé for dipping and birria ramen.
La Taquiza Vegana, taquizavegana.com
MATT’S BBQ TACOS
What to order: Migas taco, pork belly breakfast taco, chopped brisket taco
Drink pairing: Almost Naked, Almost Famous (mezcal, aperol, green flora, lime, Tajín rim)
I don’t believe in a higher power, but if you do, give thanks for the day that Matt Vicedomini decided to put his barbecued meats inside tacos. The taco offshoot of the Matt’s BBQ empire celebrates its third anniversary next month, and is all settled into their new home with a custom built cart made by Vicedomini himself and a friend. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, a word of caution before you order every taco your heart desires: these whoppers are much bigger than your average taco.
While thicc slabs of pork belly, chopped brisket, and other Texas-approved BBQ may be the obvious focal point, Matt’s pressed-to-order tortillas deserve some respect on their name as well—the lard infused beauties are made with coveted Three Sisters masa.
Hot tip and three words you might take a particular interest in: ALL DAY BREAKFAST. Vicedomini also lets on that they’ve been “hoarding all our brisket fat trimmings to render into tallow” in preparation to deep fry tots for a “dirty tater tot” dish loaded with BBQ and queso, so be on the lookout for that.
Matt’s BBQ Tacos, (503) 956-7455, mattsbbqtacospdx.com
What to order: Tuna crudo, Pigs in a Raincoat, Meyer lemon pudding cake
Drink pairing: Herbed Gimlet (gin, lime, rosemary syrup, Dolin Blanc)
Co-owners Tim and Lissette Willis pull from their personal backgrounds, Midwestern and Mexican American respectively, to create dishes that fall under the banner of New American. The cuisine may be ambiguous, but any dish you order here will have you in disbelief that it just came out of a food cart. I know we’re only two months deep into the year, but I’m calling it now: this will easily make it in the top five spots I’ve eaten in 2022.
Instead of an entrée, I went with two appetizers. The Portland-themed and sublimely tender “pigs in a raincoat” (pork and shrimp sausage wrapped in kale served with an herb citrus salad) is Willis’ version of a Jamie Bissonette dish. Worlds apart in flavor but equally delicious, the tuna crudo (seared albacore, horseradish crème fraiche, caper vinaigrette, popped black barley) captured the flavors of a luxe lox plate, sans bagel. Hot tip: Poppyseed is currently the only cart that serves dessert, if you have room for that sort of thing post whatever feast you’ve cobbled together from the carts. The Meyer lemon pudding cake is a thing of beauty and sold for half the price it would fetch at a fine dining restaurant.
THIRD CULTURE KITCHEN
What to order: Tan tan ramen, Nashville hot chicken sandwich
Drink pairing: Yuzu Pisco Sour (pisco, lime, sugar, egg white, yuzu kosho)
Demonstrating fusion at its finest and most fluid, the kitchen is a project of “third culture kids” Billy Fuqua and Jon Free. The duo, who were raised by American parents in different countries—Fuqua in Peru and Free in Japan—bonded over this similar life experience when they met while working at Tasty n Sons. “People come to the cart from x place and they’re like ‘how authentic is this?’” said Fuqua. “But we’re not really going for 'authenticity.' We’re trying to create a third thing that’s more authentically us.”
Their third cultures, along with several other notable cuisines in their personal histories, are weaved throughout the melting pot of a menu, with cold-smoked tomatoes (a nod to Free’s time spent in Texas) mixed into Peruvian lomo saltado, and Okinawan sweet potato making a striking appearance in ceviche. The cart’s signature forest fire sauce is a super herbaceous homage to a version of aji verde which Fuqua says he’s encountered more frequently in Peruvian restaurants in America versus Peru itself.
Hot tip: You can add a grilled slice of queso fresco to any dish on the menu…try it on a chicken sandwich!
Third Culture Kitchen, tck-pdx.com
Note: Each cart has different days and hours of operation; check individual websites/social media before heading out.
Hinterland Bar and Carts, 2216 SE 50th, (503) 231-4333, hinterlandpdx.com