|Two of 700 Food Carts in Portland|
This dining option emerged 100 years ago with hot dog stands. Starting in 2006, a shift from fair food to artist cuisine began. Brett described the “good business model” as serving one or two unique items really well done. Or more simply put - finding your niche. According to Brett, Nong’s Khao Man Gai makes the best chicken and rice, Noodle House has homemade noodles, and the Gaufre Gourmet uses a 300 year old recipe for dough instead of batter to create Belgium waffles. The Swamp Shack fries up Cajun Alligator while The Frying Scotsman uses authentic haddock for its fish and chips.
The thriving food scene developed “organically”, Brett explained, with a “progressive interpretation of laws.” This means they winged it. Parking lots, called pods, are now full of carts, paying about $600 per month in rent. After obtaining a license for $400 per year, the only requirement for the mobile food unit is to be on wheels, whether flat or not! Even though the kitchens range from one grill to fully outfitted stainless steel restaurant quality equipment, all are subject to inspection. Costs for a cart range from $5,000 (used) to $30,000 (new) and a premier parking spot can sell for up to $35,000 if a chef is anxious to get started.
The food cart choice has now spread into Texas providing quality international and local foods for a fair price. Austin’s lots are on South Congress, the Dallas Arts District has three pod locations, and the new Ft. Worth Food Park is west of downtown. Maybe our downtown should consider this emerging industry. We certainly have the parking lots. Here’s hoping.
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