By Emily Roberts
Cartlandia: a magical spot on 82nd Avenue where there’s an abundance of wonderful food. The carts vary from Moroccan to American with just about everything in between. These food carts have something for everybody and is a great spot to go with friends. It is truly the land of only good decisions.
Emily: For me, the carts have been a favorite spot of mine since freshman year of high school. My friend, Chase, and her mom took me there. I went to Bamboo Cafe my first time and that remains my go-to. Being a creature of habit, I order their honey walnut shrimp every time without fail.
Golden shrimp on a bed of fresh lettuce, both drizzled in a creamy sauce that sends me to a different place every time. With the side of rice it comes with, the perfect bite goes: shrimp, lettuce, rice. The lettuce may seem peculiar, but it combats the heaviness of the shrimp and rice with a nice refreshing crunch. If you go somewhere and your honey walnut shrimp doesn’t have lettuce, leave. Panda Express’ soggy shrimp can’t compare to the real deal. I may be biased in my beliefs, but I genuinely believe that it’s one of the best spots in Portland.
I went to the carts the first full day with a license. I went there after sobbing in front of a full classroom; I craved it when I experienced my first heartbreak. Sometimes I just go, because the food is damn delicious, the portions are generous and I’m a sucker for comfort food. Part of my heart belongs to these carts. I’ve always considered it a special place and I’m glad to have shared a piece of me with my friends.
Summer Barraza: Food for me brings back a lot of memories, and Ms.T’s Fried Chicken and Fried Catfish definitely took me back to my childhood in SE Portland, living with my great grandmother who grew up in the great depression—and her cooking showed it.
I ordered the four-piece catfish fry with cornbread, potato salad and mac and cheese, which was around $14 and it was worth it.
Biting into the lightly fried, slightly gamey catfish made me feel like the frosted tip God Guy Fieri was baptizing me in my fountain of youth, bringing me back to when I’d sit around the television watching the flavor God himself with my family, eating my grandma’s fried fish or homemade mac.
Don’t even get me started on the mac and cheese — it brought my soul back to the food. Ms.T uses the biggest elbow noodles and uses shredded cheddar cheese, but the rest is a mystery as the mac had generous cheese pulls, but a gritty curdled texture to it that implied it had eggs mixed in. The cheese didn’t quite break down (as cheddar has a tendency to do in homemade mac), or that it was baked. It will be a mystery to me, but definitely brought that homemade, wholesome vibe to it and not a Velveeta paste.
Eggs in potato salad is something foreign to me, but I like living my life on the edge. The salad had a tang to it from the light mustard and finely chopped dill pickle, which surprised me after the third bite because I was desperately searching for some pickle and the pickle was sparse. This is the type of potato salad your mom or grandma makes and you HAVE to eat it because she rarely ever makes it at home and she brought it to the family reunion to show off on all the haters (especially Jan, her sister-in-law who is extra and adds raisins to her salad, but your mama don’t play like that), so everyone including the flies wants to eat it because who the heck messes with raisins in a potato salad? So you hog it up as much as you can.
Isaac Flaherty: I slowly sipped at a Piña Colada bubble tea as 10 minutes turned into 20 and still no food. I finally heard my name called as a small white box slipped into a brown paper bag and was handed over the counter of Anything Else, a Thai food cart. I immediately knew it was worth the wait as I opened the box to an alluring plate of shrimp pad thai. The perfectly cooked shrimp, spicy kick, and light drizzle of lime created a fiery eruption of flavor that left me fiending for more. As the mountain before me began to shrink, the spicy kick that I had found so perfect before began to turn on me. I quickly drank away all the water in sight in a fleeting attempt to douse the flames licking at the roof of my mouth in a last attempt to eat every last drop of my meal. As I sat, finally defeated by the spice, I couldn’t help but marvel at the diversity of foods surrounding me. To have foods ranging from southern fried fish to sushi burritos in the same setting creates a haven, detached from all dining norms, that any food lover is sure to enjoy.