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Food Cart Pods

Food Cart Pods

Portland owes its CNN-given title of "home to the world's best street food" to a unique phenomenon: the so-called "food cart pods," clusters of food trucks and stalls that enjoy a permanent location, and often have a shared dining area with tables and seats. With several hundred food carts (and counting), the variety of cuisines represented is truly impressive, with tiny kitchens cooking up anything from classic Americana burgers to pork belly pancakes (Pancake Underground @ Cartlandia) and Korean-style tacos (Koi Fusion @ Prost Marketplace). Food cart pods in the downtown area include ones on Fifth and Third Avenues, plus the one on Portland State University campus. There are also Cartopia and Cartlandia in Southeast, Prost Marketplace and Killingsworth Station in the north, plus quite a few others.
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Le Pigeon

Le Pigeon

Le Pigeon is Portland's revered gem. Run by an insanely talented and two-time James Beard award winning chef Gabriel Rucker, the restaurant is responsible for making a name for Portland as a city of culinary excellence. Although much of the menu spells out a pronounced French foundation, surprises are many, as chef Rucker continues to improve upon classic menu fixtures (such as the beef cheek bourguignon) and experiment with flavor profiles and international influences in the starter department. Perhaps the best part of it all is the "casual fine" dining experience Le Pigeon successfully pulls off by always keeping 10 seats at the bar counter around the open kitchen available to walk-in guests. These go fast, however, so do reserve in advance to take full advantage of the dinner: there are 5- and 7-course tasting menus that are perfect for a well-rounded acquaintance with chef Rucker's food. If you choose to keep it low-key, there's always the welcome surprise of a delicious $17 burger.
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Afuri

Afuri

Passing over the likes of London and New York, Afuri – one of Tokyo’s renowned ramen chains – opened its first foreign outpost in Portland, whose soft water came closest to that procured in Japan. One location quickly turned into two, both serving the signature yuzu shio ramen with chicken broth (‘chintan’). In contrast to the significantly thicker ‘paitan’ (pork broth used in tonkotsu ramen), chintan is much more delicate and nuanced, which is achieved through a “layering” of flavors at low cooking temperatures; Afuri lists both kinds on its menu. There are, reportedly, only three individuals in the entire Afuri franchise who know the exact ingredients of the tare used to season their yuzu shio. The tare’s secret is a carefully guarded one, but you can savor it in action across several kinds of bowls, all of which come with hand-made noodles. The menu extends to include a surprising many items, such as sushi and nigiri, plus the easy-to-love “chef’s spoons,” miniature samples of the seasonal menu.
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