One great Portland success story of the local food cart scene is Fried Egg I’m in Love (FEIIL). FEIIL changed the game in the way we think about egg sandwiches. Their daring fusions have clever names like the “Yolko Ono”, and slick marketing to match. They produce so much more than just beloved food, it’s a whole experience. Their success as a food cart on the East Side earned the cart a featured spot in Pioneer Courthouse Square, right in the heart of downtown Portland. There, their distinctive yellow cart turns everyone’s heads, and people can’t help but wonder what sort of food comes out. They even offer gluten-free and vegan options for conscious eaters. FEIIL’s true success story came this past January, when they opened their own brick and mortar back in Southeast Portland, at 35th and Hawthorne, complete with a full list of breakfast cocktails to pair with their egg-cellent sandwiches. Their new digs are located just a few blocks from their original food cart location. You can spot their quintessential yellow exterior a mile away. Check them out in either location, and learn more at their website, friedegglove.com.
Portland has always been a haven for foodies. The famous American chef and food philosopher George Beard was born and raised here. His mission was “to defend the pleasure of real cooking and fresh ingredients against the assault of the Jell-O-mold people and the domestic scientists” according to food author David Kamp (link). Portland in the 80’s found itself with the best craft beer scene in the world and access to very high quality locally grown and raised ingredients. Then there was a constant stream of creative young people pouring out of the unaffordable Seattle and San Francisco areas. These factors led to Portland especially growing it’s reputation in the last 35 years.
A good food scene relies on creative chefs, but it also relies on patrons with reliable streams of disposable income. In 2008 in response to the global recession Portland’s food scene was hard hit, and those creative chefs had to scramble. Some people saw it as an opportunity. Many were in positions where they felt as though their creative food visions weren’t being realized anyways. They thought they might be better off if they did everything on a simpler smaller scale- and more importantly, they saw a chance to do the process their way.
The food cart explosion the last 10 years has many threads woven throughout the tapestry, some tragic and some triumphant. A person should never fall in love with one particular food cart, but should always pick a pod with an open mind. Many are short-lived, flights of fancy. Mid-life crises and hairbrained college student ideas. But some really dial in the marketing and create loyal followings. Some of the most successful of these have ‘gone brick and mortar,’ and gone into more permanent digs. The recession is over, and so people want to pay to eat inside again. A halfway point is the popularity of the food court. This allows for an exchange of many different styles of food and indeed multiple different independent kitchens. It also allows people to sit down and enjoy the comforts that can only be afforded by four proper walls and a roof. Examples of these are the Portland Food Hall and Pine Street Market, which both host former food carts. No trip to Portland is complete without a visit to one of our food cart pods!