I visited Cartlandia in Portland, Oregon – the country’s street food capital – to chat with Roger Goldingay, a former pro soccer player and the owner of the food pod. Goldingay’s concept is unique – perhaps one of a kind – and he aims to restore and breathe life into otherwise broken communities through his food experience.
After establishing his first food pod, the Mississippi Marketplace with 13 carts and a brick and mortar pub, Goldingay set his sights higher, and converted an abandoned used car lot into a spectacular street food market along side one of the most popular bicycle pathways and SW 82nd Street – a notoriously seedy part of town. What makes this story even more incredible is that Goldingay’s Cartlandia became the first food pod in Oregon, licensed to serve beer and wine.
In the final part of my experience visiting Portland’s Cartlandia food pod, owner / developer Roger Goldingay and I set off on a mission to find a New York Steak and a beer, while he told me about how he and his wife, Carol Otis, MD, a practicing sports medicine physician built Cartlandia.
It made sense that our next stop would be the Rock House Grill, famous for its incredibly large burgers and sausage sandwiches made with high quality meats. Last week, I reported on Food Network’s Eat St that having started with a savory and sweet crepe, I was definitely in the mood for something a little more hearty and robust.
With names like “Godzilla the Monster Sandwich,” “The Terminator,” “The Goliath,” and “The Belly Buster” to name a few, I knew this would be a place I’d need to loosen my belt for.
Before long, Roger and I were splitting a massive New York Steak sandwich and sliced, fried potatoes paired with a Black Butte Porter, an exceptional malt beer with all the roasted dark flavors of an award-winning craft Porter from the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon – a perfect pairing for a hearty, tender steak cooked medium rare.
“Even though I knew this area was dicy, I knew how to deal with those issues,” Goldengay said. “This is the perfect location, ten miles from downtown, less than half a mile from the freeway, adjacent to a bus line, and most importantly we’re on the Springwater Corridor Bike Trail, which makes Cartlandia a bike-centric food cart super pod.”
Cartlandia even features an on-premise bike repair shop, The Bike Rack located just off the famous bike trail. “Cartlandia is destination for cyclists riding along the Springwater Corridor, but it’s more than that,” Goldingay said, “We encourage responsible drinking with a meal, and provide a safe environment for a dining experience. It’s really gratifying to see the variety of people who come here; mothers and kids, grandparents, bike riders, and everyone in between.”
Prior to developing the property, the area along the Springwater Corridor Bike Trail was heavily populated by unscrupulous characters and was overrun with weeds and trash. Goldingay hired a crew to transform the entire stretch along Cartlandia, and continues to maintain the grounds.
We finished off our New York Steaks while talking about a law suit between the city of Portland and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). The Oregon Department of Justice advised the OLCC that food carts cannot be treated differently than brick and mortar establishments, so the Commission granted the liquor license to Cartlandia.
Portland’s Mayor, Sam Adams (apparently no relation to Samuel Adams beer, though quite an irony) feels specific laws should be written to regulate food carts that serve alcohol, so he has filed a law suit against OLCC. Goldingay’s future indoor pub at Cartlandia will alleviate any concern, because it will replace the beer garden. It was high time to lighten the mood, and nothing does that better than something sweet from a creative baker.
Located just next door to Rock House Grill is a treasure trove of desserts, Cake on a Hot Tin Roof. And, with a name like that, in addition to a very creative converted RV design, I couldn’t resist something sweet to end a very pleasant afternoon.
The Creme Brulee was just freshly made and literally bursting with rich, sweet vanilla custard under beautifully caramelized sugar, burned with a blow torch before my eyes.
Curiosity got the better of me, so I couldn’t leave without ordering a Bienenstich, or Bee Sting Cake. Apparently, this German treat found its name when the baker was stung by a bee while baking it.
The cake is a layered puff pastry, filled with a luscious Bavarian cream, and topped with caramelized almonds.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to try every cart and every beer – after all, I did only have a couple of hours to spare. I’ve definitely got my eye on the other carts, and of course the craft beers at Cartlandia, including London Pasty Company, Thai Mango, Cheesesteak Nirvana, Ramy’s Lamb Shack, La Tinga Tango, Deb’s Blazin’ Grill, Kusina Sa Gulong (Tagolag for “Kitchen on Wheels” serving Philipino cuisine), Krust Pizza, J Mo’s Sandwich Shack, Local Girls, Anything Else? (Thai food), Relish (Gourmet Hot Dogs), Brotherhood Express (Mexican food), Pupuseria La Migulena, Ali’s Lebanese Food, Woohoo Waffles, and Eclectic Eatery & BBQ.
Roger Goldingay was right – Cartlandia is a destination, and with so many selections available, the beer garden, and all the amenities it’s sure to be a regular stop for me on my frequent visits to this street food capital.