Oregon’s modern-day food-cart renaissance began in the mid-2000s and quickly earned acclaim as incubators for creative chefs and budding restaurateurs. As their popularity grew, whole food-cart pods blossomed into full-blown gathering spaces and, in many cases, community institutions.
This trend has been fully embraced in Bend, where roughly 70 food carts occupy street corners and pods throughout the largest city in Central Oregon. These pods typically reflect the community’s outdoorsy ethos with picturesque views of the Three Sisters and other Cascade peaks, year-round outdoor seating, seasonal fire pits and on-site bars. Live music, trivia nights and other community events add to the charm. Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular food-cart pods in Bend and elsewhere in Central Oregon.
Food Carts Come Together at Breweries in Bend
In recent years, a few Bend breweries have outsourced their food offerings to on-site food carts with globe-trotting menus. The family-friendly lawn at Crux Fermentation Project is among the city’s most popular, where Cascade-peak views pair well with the brewery’s award-winning beers and fresh fare from great food trucks. Local stalwarts include one of Bend’s first locally owned food trucks, El Sancho, with its full menu of street tacos and The Tin Pig, which specializes in Southern-fried chicken sandwiches. The brewery’s own Crux Pizza Project, meanwhile, slings wood-fired pies with crust infused with its pilsner.
Closer to downtown, Silver Moon Brewing hosts a collection of food carts alongside semi-shaded seating and a handful of fire pits. Two serve international street fare: Tablas Mobile Cuisine, known for chorizo and potato tacos, and The Bob, where diners feast on grilled flatbread stuffed with falafel.
Hanging out at Food-Cart Pods Throughout Bend
In other instances, food-cart pods are destinations unto themselves — where it’s easy to spend a sun-kissed afternoon sampling fare from various carts and sipping craft beers that might have been brewed just a few blocks away.
Such is the case at the dog-friendly Midtown Yacht Club, a cheekily named pod that hosts a number of carts; a beer bar with regional beers, ciders and seltzers; and a comfortable mix of indoor and outdoor seating. Two of the most popular carts are Northfresh, which serves sushi, poke and sashimi, and Alley Dogz, noted for creative hot dogs topped with jalapeños, bacon, sauerkraut and more.
On Bend’s west side, The Lot, opened in 2013, is the city’s oldest pod. It stays fresh with covered open-air seating, heated benches and 16 tap handles pouring beer, cider, wine, seltzer and kombucha. Its multiple mobile kitchens include A’ la Carte — offering French-fry dishes topped with carne asada, fresh gorgonzola and other creative ingredients — and Fricken Faco, known for fried chicken and fish tacos.
Sandwiched between downtown Bend and the Old Mill District shopping center is The Podski, where a cozy beer bar sits in the heart of 10 globally inspired food carts. Big Ski’s Pierogis, a Bend favorite since 2015, serves pierogi stuffed with potatoes, habanero peppers, pepperoni and more; Bigfoot Barbecue Co. dishes heaping portions of wood-fired brisket and pulled pork, influenced by barbecue scenes in Austin and Kansas City; and Toasty, housed in an old-school camping trailer, serves a wide range of vegan comfort fare, including a cool spin on Crunchwraps.
More Food Carts Across Central Oregon
Beyond Bend food carts serve hungry diners in several communities throughout Central Oregon. A few popular pods include The Barn in Sisters, housed in a barn-shaped taphouse with a spacious courtyard; The Bite in Tumalo, home to a handful of food carts and a bar with local pours; and the Wetlands Taphouse in La Pine, where a family-friendly seating area for the food carts behind the pub overlooks wide-open wetlands.
In Prineville diners can fuel up at Corral Tap Room & Food Carts, which pairs regional beers with globally inspired fare, and Wild Ride Brewing — which, in addition to brewing its own beer, welcomes guests with multiple carts, outdoor seating and fire pits. They also have a location in downtown Redmond.
If You Go:
Keep in mind that food carts may occasionally move among pods — and since these family-run businesses are often solo operations, carts might shift the hours they’re open at the last minute due to equipment issues or unavoidable family conflicts. They appreciate your patience and understanding. Before heading out, check your desired destination’s website or Instagram feed — the most popular social media tool for most carts — for updates.