Food carts in Portland, Oregon

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Food carts in 2017
Food carts at SW 10th between Washington and Alder (2013)
Food from two Portland carts: Whiffies' fried pie (left) plus Belgian-style fries and poutine from Potato Champion (right)

The city of Portland, Oregon, has experienced a boom in the number of food carts due to relatively low regulation compared to other North American cities.[1]


In 1965, the first food cart in Portland, which sold kosher hot dogs, was set up across from Portland City Hall.[1] In 1976, Portland opened up all of its downtown parks to competitive bidding.[2] A 2001 report in The Oregonian stated Portland was home to 175 carts, with fierce competition for the four cart spaces available since 1987 in the South Park Blocks.[3][4] A bidding war in February 2001 led to a combined price of $192,000 for the spaces.[3] There was also a large cluster, often referred to as a food cart pod, at Fifth and Stark street, and one food cart had been operating since 1980.[4] In 2010 it was estimated that there are between 450 and 671 carts citywide.[5][6]


Most North American cities sought to make the street for cars in the mid twentieth century, and thus imposed strict regulations on food carts, which led to few food carts remaining. In comparison, Portland has low regulation, such as having nearly no requirement for a food cart to have a particular structure, which makes the cost of entry low, and thus leading to a proliferation of carts. Many regulations are also not enforced as long as health and safety are not impacted.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Newman, Lenore Lauri; Burnett, Katherine (February 2013). "Street food and vibrant urban spaces: lessons from Portland, Oregon". Local Environment. 18 (2): 233–248. doi:10.1080/13549839.2012.729572.
  2. ^ "In their own words: The story of Portland's food cart phenomenon". Portland Business Journal. July 26, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Thompson, Courtenay (March 23, 2001). "PSU Food Cart Bidding Battle Mystifies, Stings". The Oregonian. p. C02.
  4. ^ a b Heinz, Spencer (April 9, 2001). "Taste the World, One Cart at a Time". The Oregonian. p. B01.
  5. ^ "21 top time-saving cities". CNN. March 15, 2010.
  6. ^ "Small Fries Unite!". The Portland Mercury. January 19, 2012.

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