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Cuisines

Rockwood Market Hall, new cart pods add dozens of food businesses to East Multnomah County

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Just because they put a fork in it, didn’t mean they were done.

Three months after a crane descended on Fairview Food Plaza, installing a World Record-contending fork sculpture on Northeast Halsey Street, neighboring Troutdale has added its own massive food cart pod in Troutdale Station, while Gresham has welcomed the area’s first modern food hall in Rockwood Market Hall.

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As new Portland food cart pods focus on popular hand-picking carts to pair with high-end cocktail bars, cart pods out east still prize volume, looking to draw in customers with a critical mass of cuisines. Collectively, the three new projects will add dozens of new and relocated food businesses to East Multnomah County.

Fairview Food Plaza is easy to find — just head down Halsey until you spot the 37-foot, 2.5-ton fork sculpture standing proud at the corner of 223rd Avenue. Though the city-backed pod had aimed for an April opening, finishing touches were still underway on a recent visit, as carts including Daily Dose of Aloha — and its summer-ready Dole Whip machine — waited patiently for final inspections. Cart owners hope to open in time for a farmers market on the neighboring parking lot this Sunday, May 22.

I biked right past the new Troutdale Station on the first pass, incorrectly assuming that it was closer to downtown Troutdale. When you find it — just up the hill on Southwest 257th Drive — don’t be surprised if you get a sense of déjà vu. The pavilion, cart pod and parking lot are the spitting image of Happy Valley Station, owner Valerie Hunter’s first foray into pod development.

As with the original, the just-opened Troutdale enterprise has about a dozen carts on either side of a sprawling indoor structure with a cafe and bar with 40-some taps of familiar Oregon beers. Seating is plentiful. Outside, Tita’s Kitchen’s second location serves Peruvian sanguches (sandwiches), including one with a base of soft fried sweet potato, chicharron (roast pork shoulder) and a creamy criolla sauce; while Soul Korean Fusion griddles up Korean hotteok (brown sugar-filled pancake) — two dishes not often seen before in Troutdale.

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While the Troutdale project feels removed from the excitement building in and around the Gateway to the Columbia Gorge, Rockwood Market Hall feels like a catalyst for growth in its own historically underfunded Gresham neighborhood. Steps from MAX, the food hall will one day be home to a dozen food and grocery vendors next to a Euro-style plaza with a play area and seasonal splash pad, all bordered by offices, a white-tablecloth Mexican bar and grill in La Villa and an upcoming apartment building.

Though the food hall held its grand opening earlier this month, the project is still filling in, with only a handful of micro restaurants open on two recent visits. Those empty storefronts hold promise — like other micro restaurant projects such as The Zipper and Bethany Village, ideal tenants would seem to be food carts looking to make the brick-and-mortar jump — but Rockwood Market Hall already presents several compelling reasons to visit now .

At Hank’s Place Southern Kitchen, owner Mary Denise Lincoln serves tasty fried shrimp po’boys and simple French fries from a window facing the parking lot. Inside, Cox Hanal is the metro area’s latest Yucatecan eatery, with salbutes, panuchos, relleno negro and polcanes (literally “serpent heads,” or football-shaped masa fritters stuffed with ground pumpkin seeds and smashed beans). Across the hall, over-achieving former food cart Flavors of India made room for a big tandoori oven in their petite space, serving nicely roasted meats and some of the best curries, breads and saffron-tinted basmati rice east of the Willamette River.

Like the solar-powered garbage cans tucked away indoors, not every design decision makes sense at first glance. The bathrooms are outside and down a ramp, far from most restaurants and even farther from the play area. And the confusing and seemingly unnecessary vehicle right-of-way cutting through the plaza between the big roll-up door and the enticing splash pad will give parents of young children nightmares — with warm weather upon us, the space would be better used for outdoor seating.

But the potential is there. Seventeen years after it was bought by the Gresham Redevelopment Commission, the 5.5 acre former Fred Meyer site at last looks poised to become a gathering hub for communities far beyond its Rockwood neighborhood, already home to an impressive food scene, from the taco carts ringing the nearby Oregon Flea Market to restaurants including the nearby La Tia Juana, not to mention the palette vendors riding their bicycles past the plaza each day.

Other food businesses at the hall include Taste of Casablanca Moroccan Food and Momma G’s Soup shop, with more vendors joining soon in Kuya’s Islander Cuisine, Alleamin African Kitchen and DB Dessert Company.

East Multnomah County’s new cart pods and food hall

Address: 22320 NE Halsey St.

Food businesses: TBD

Rockwood Market Hall

Address: 18535 SE Stark St.

Food businesses: Cox Hanal, Hank’s Place Southern Cuisine, Flavors of India, Momma G’s Soup, Taste of Casablanca and, coming soon, Alleamin African Cuisine, DB Dessert Company, Kuya’s Islander Cuisine and La Michoacana Dulce.

Troutdale Station

Address: 151 SW 257th Drive

Food businesses: Bobablastic, Esan Thai, The Good Burger Shack, Hyderabad Hub, Kickin Chicken Wings, Le Petit Café, Soul Korean Fusion, Wasabi Sushi PDX and a full bar indoors.

— Michael Russell, [email protected] @tdmrussell

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