As someone for whom food matters a great deal, and who is always interested in exploring the quirky sights of an area, today I have the opportunity to talk about food and quirkiness, and that is always something that pleases me. One of the quirky and odd food institutions that is in Portland, and that Portland is apparently known for, is an institution known as Cartlandia. I must say that I had not been familiar with Cartlandia, but at the same time I was curious to find out about it, and the experience rewarded my curiosity, and will also reward future visits, simply because it was a wonderful experience. Hopefully others may become a bit more familiar with the institution as well.
Cartlandia is a “restaurant” that is made up of a group of food trailers that amount to small food court-like places to eat, with a drinking and eating area in the middle. There is a heated indoor dining area, but with temperatures in the low 70’s and dry, it was perfect weather to sit outside in the fading light and enjoy a relaxing conversation. Cartlandia, being a collection of many food carts, has a wide variety of foods. There were two Thai food carts (I did not feel the need to eat any Thai food), a couple of Mexican ones, an El Salvadorian one, a couple of BBQ carts, a Filipino one, a Hawaiian one, an English one, a couple of sandwich charts, and a few of dessert carts, including a gluten-free one. I decided to spread out my dinner as well, getting a fantastic 6″ beef sandwich known as the “Fundamentalist” (minus the onions) and some chips from one of the sandwich carts, as well as a slice of strawberry cheesecake and a pumpkin snickerdoodle from one of the dessert carts. Dinner was fantastic, and I definitely would like to try some BBQ in the future as well.
What makes the experience so pleasant is not only the fact that the food is excellent and reasonably inexpensive (it runs about $10-15 for a meal that includes drinks, an entree, and dessert), including a great variety of different foods, but also because the whole experience is not a cookie-cutter chain restaurant but a group of entrepreneurs with their own carts and their own menus and customer service there is friendly and engaging and based largely on word-of-mouth. The combination of gracious friendliness, good food, and reasonable prices, along with a quirky cooperative feel and a great deal of variety makes this a wonderful place for lunch or dinner for those in the area. About the only bad thing about the place is that so many carts and food items are intriguing that it may be difficult to choose for some people between all of the good options. This is why a return visit would be recommended. Having too much good food in a friendly and quirky setup is a good difficulty to have, and one that does not trouble me in the least, at least. It will take a bit more time to explore Cartlandia, and that will be time well spent, God willing.