They're all over Portland, scattered from parking lots downtown to abandoned lots all over the eastside, and featuring cuisine from as many countries as you have fingers (and maybe toes). This is the first installment in what will be a regular feature called A la Cart, and you're welcome to add your nominations for those you consider to be the best in the region.
First up is a little wagon that calls itself Garden State ("Italian street food from the Willamette Valley"), a first venture for owner Kevin Sandri, and he's offering some outrageously fabulous fare that is almost all organic and locally sourced. His little quilted aluminum cart sits on a corner in Sellwood that is being developed specifically for food carts, and he's already been joined by a taco cart with a pan-Asian cart rumored to be on the way.
On our first trip there we tried his saffron-flavored arancine stuffed with either sausage or mozzarella that comes with a fresh tomato dipping sauce, then a sausage and sautéed pepper sandwich that had caramelized onions, peppers and a slightly spicy grilled sausage stuffed into a ciabatta roll.
The arancine were crisp on the outside and meltingly moist inside, though the dipping sauce was a bit bland and would have benefited from the addition of something to kick it up a notch. The ciabatta sandwich was fantastic, a nice handful that fills the stomach and warms the soul.
There's always a soup on hand, and the chicken looks amazing. Kevin says he'll update the menu occasionally as seasonal produce changes. And I'll be going back to check this out more thoroughly in the near future.
Details: Garden Sate, corner of 13th and Lexington in Sellwood (5 blocks north of Tacoma). Phone 503-705-5273.