Food carts are definitely on the rise. Pioneered by the noble taco trucks, ice cream trucks and hot dog stands, the new food cart is exemplified by Portland's food cart pods: gone are the days of food cart for convenience alone. These are carts that take their setting and run with it, crafting elaborate, original menus working within the obvious restrictions of cooking in a cart, sometimes with a specific niche, sometimes not--think Whiffles Pies, The Grilled Cheese Grill, or the award-winning chefs at Seattle's Skillet.
The mascot of Pioneer Grill Hot Dogs, which inspired one drunk patron to insist that his date "go dance with the wiener" many times in a row.
If I weren't already stoked on food carts, I wouldn't have been able to guess any of that from this installment of the Mobile Chowdown alone.
If a few trucks from Portland's famous food cart scene had shown up (the event has formerly hosted such greats as Whiffles and Potato Champion), the Chowdown would have been less underwhelming. But as it stood, the Qwest Field parking lot was a loose corral of Seattle carts, with sometimes 20-minute waits around the most popular ones (Maximus Minimus, Skillet, Where Ya At Matt), leaving some less popular carts (Pioneer Grill, Al's Gourmet Sausages, Buns On Wheels) and places with far more accessible, walk-up retail locations (Top Pot, Molly Moon's, Parfait) twiddling their thumbs. Drinking while eating from carts was a cool idea that became far less exciting upon realizing that Pyramid was charging $8.50 a glass. Live music might've provided some enticement, if local favorite Riz Rollins hadn't been done by 6--during peak dinner hours of 6:15 and 7:15, Haiku-Chi was playing, which made my dinner decidedly more unpleasant. This is the Chowdown's fifth event in the past year--perhaps they wore themselves a little thin.
That said, the carts' food was still as good as it is normally.
Intrigued by the idea of a vegetarian sandwich that came from a truck shaped like a pig, we made Maximus Minimus the first stop. The Maximus Vegetable Sandwich, paired with maximus cole slaw, did not disappoint. This was cole slaw designed to be spicy!
A friend decided to go classic and get this dog from Al's Gourmet Sausage:
Jonesing for some of their miracle work with in-season produce, I waited in line at Skillet for a while before realizing that they only had sliders--the one menu item they always have. At least I was comforted while waiting by an apple, ginger and cardamom pocket pie from Hot Cakes.
Deciding against the always-popular Molly Moons, we finished up with Ballard Honey ice cream from the equally-adorable Parfait. It was overwhelmingly comforting, and tasted just like warm milk with honey... only, you know, cold.