Day Five: Portland – Food Truck Tour

Food Adventures, Portland

We only had one day in Portland (literally about 30 hours total), so despite the depressing cold rain, we ventured out into the streets for a familiar LA food trend that has truly taken off in Portland — Food Trucks. While LA has had plenty of organized food truck gatherings and events, we hadn’t seen anything quite like this before. The trucks would rent out the edge spaces of ordinary parking lots, face their storefront to the sidewalk, and open for business more or less every day. They are always there so you don’t need any apps or websites to track them down. Awesome, right? Determined to eat like the locals do, we managed to track down three main clusters of food trucks in downtown Portland.

One of many food truck clusters in downtown Portland!

5th & Oak

– Spoons on 5th: it’s raining cats and dogs, and we were trying to be adventurous in our food selections, but who could possibly turn down a hot bowl of soup? We decided on the chicken barley soup, which comes in a cute wax-lined paper cup with a hunk of rustic bread. The guy behind the counter was friendly and clued us in on where to find shelter (hint: the bank/mall across the street has seating areas, couches, and coffee tables for your on-the-go dining pleasure). The soup itself was hearty with a bit of an unexpected kick from the black pepper. Martin polished it off happily.

Saigon Food to Go at 5th & Oak

– Saigon Food to Go: there is a surprising amount of Vietnamese food vendors in Portland! I was tempted to try their pho but opted for the safer and easier-to-eat goi cuon (“salad roll”) instead at $1.50/each. A bit steep but the rolls were fresh – definitely made that morning because the rice paper was still deliciously soft and supple (every spring roll enthusiast knows how hard and tough the banh trang gets when refrigerated for ANY period of time). The sauce was not particularly special but good nonetheless.

9th & Alder

– Samurai Japanese Cart: I loved the Engrish on their whiteboard announcing that “New Year’s Coming!” – super cute. Their menu boasts a variety of bento perfect for a quick lunch for nearby office workers but one in particular stood out to us – the agedashi tofu bento. This took a bit of time to prepare, but it was AMAZING. The blocks of tofu were fried fresh to order and they were breaded with mochiko which disintegrates in the sauce and becomes a thick, gooey coating. LEGIT. This agedashi tofu comes with a sweet soy sauce rather than the dashi broth I’m used to, but it tasted great. The rice is piled high and the order comes with some steamed veggies (also made to order). They even gave us hot genmaicha while we waited in the rain, and they’ve arranged a place between carts for customers to sit. 5 stars in my book. I’d come here every day if I lived or worked nearby! I also found out after looking them up on Yelp that the famous Japanese animator and film director Hayao Miyazaki likes this place when he visited Portland. If that isn’t a vouch for authenticity, I don’t know what is!

Agedashi Tofu Bento at Samurai Japanese Cart

2nd & Washington

What initially brought us to 2nd & Washington was Built to Grill (which is rated ridiculously highly on Yelp), but they were closed for the day. :( Unfazed, we explored our options and decided to pick up dinner for our impending long (LONG) bus ride to San Francisco.

– Taste of Korea: Reminiscent of the Korean bbq places we left behind in LA (particularly Gushi in Westwood, probably because of its teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall feel), this food truck offers rice plates with meats ranging from bulgogi to kalbi to spicy chicken. Martin decided on the fried tofu platter and I had the kalbi platter. I thought the $10 price tag was a bit steep at first, but then we received the to-go bag and WOW was it heavy! Each plate had a serving of salad (they remembered to leave the dressing on the side for us), a plastic container of kimchi, and a serving of my favorite banchan – japchae (Korean stirfried glass noodles – it is under the little cup of kimchi in the photo below). In the main section, you can’t miss the very generous amount rice. My order came with about 3 or 4 strips of the delicious, slightly sweet barbecue short ribs — almost double the portion you get for a plate at most places — and Martin’s had a few large triangles of breaded and deepfried tofu. Yum!

Kalbi Bento at Taste of Korea

There really is something for everyone when you eat at these food truck clusters. Aside from American fare like soups, sandwiches, and burgers, the ethnic cuisines ranged from Mexican to British to Greek to Thai and much more! We even spotted a teeny tiny booth (literally about the size of a phone booth) where one man set up shop to sell pho along the sidewalk. If only our stomachs were able to handle sampling every food truck/stand we saw!


Check out Spoons on 5th:

SW 5th & Stark
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.


Check out Saigon Food To Go:

SW 5th and Stark
Portland, OR 97201

See their Yelp reviews here.


Check out Samurai Japanese Cart:

950 SW Alder St
Portland, OR 97205

See their Yelp reviews here.


Check out Taste of Korea:

412-426 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.

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