Food carts, food carts, everywhere. 2009 will be seen as the year that Portland food went small and mobile.
There has been much energy around Portland’s cart scene this year. New pods have popped-up in neighborhoods across the city; carts have taken over previously empty and unsightly urban niches; and the activity has attracted the fickle eye of national media, from network and cable news to (now defunct) national magazines.
Whether the activity is self perpetuating—media inspires would-be cart owners, who open new carts much to the delight of the media—or just a sign of entrepreneurs thinking small in a wounded economy, it’s clear that cart ownership is on the rise in Portland.
According to the Multnomah County Health Department there has been a nearly 25% increase in licenses for mobile food units this year. According to the county, the number of annual licenses it issues to food carts generally hovers around 360 to 370. As of this week, the county has issued 461 mobile food unit licenses, 91 more than last year; 34 yet-to-be licensed carts are currently in plan review.
So that means if all goes well, we will see 34 more carts, trucks, or trailers peddling food on or around the streets of the Portland metro area.
Brett Burmeister of Food Carts Portland notes that his site has been listing around five new carts per week. But to Burmeister, the growth in carts is not just a boom in local business, it’s also a boom in Portland’s cultural identity.
“I think a lot of the carts that have opened in the last year are an extension of Portland uniqueness,” he says. “These are not your average hot dog cart. We’re taking it to the next level.”
Be sure to check out next week’s Last Supper for more.