It was the final day of the Olympic games, and I had the incredible opportunity to take a trip out to Portland, Oregon – the country’s street food capital. I sat at a table, drinking a Ninkasi – an incredibly balanced India Pale Ale that’s made at the Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Oregon, just a couple of hours from where I was sitting.

While I’m not the biggest soccer fan, I’ve been known to watch it from time to time. I relaxed while I watched the New York Red Bulls against the Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena on the big screen.

What could be better than a lazy Friday afternoon, drinking a beer and watching major league soccer on a big screen (or insert your favorite sport) at a great little pub? How about spending some time with an ex-pro athlete who’s got his finger on Portland’s street food pulse?

Seated across from me was former Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers Forward, Roger Goldingay, who today wears a different jersey.

What makes this story more intriguing isn’t that Goldingay is a professional soccer player, a published author, professional photographer, real estate developer and a world traveler; he happens to own the establishment where I enjoyed my Ninkasi. And, it’s not really a pub at all; it’s a beer garden seated in his own Cartlandia - likely Portland’s largest food pod, boasting over 20 food carts with room for 15 more.

I went out to Portland to talk to Goldingay about his opening a beer garden in his food pod, and reported the story on Food Network’s Eat St. blog, but I got a whole lot more than I bargained for.

“Cartlandia isn’t an ordinary food pod,” says Goldingay, who invested nearly $200,000 in the development of the property, including grading, gravel, a special pervious asphalt, fresh water, dedicated electricity for each cart, and a sophisticated gray water drainage system. Goldingay even landscaped the property with native plants and Japanese Maple trees, creating an oasis in an otherwise less than desirable part of town.

Not your ordinary food pod, indeed. In fact, this pod is so unique, it’s the only food pod in Portland permitted to sell beer, and it’s actually at the center of a very heated debate between Portland’s Mayor, Sam Adams (totally unrelated to the beer, though) and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). In fact, the debate has become so heated, only a court of law can resolve the dispute.

Cartlandia’s beer garden features more than 18 mostly local brews, and I was more than happy to try a couple of them during my visit.

We spent some time taking a tour and chatting about the challenges Goldingay faced in becoming permitted to sell alcohol and the history behind Cartlandia, while taking every opportunity to sample the food along the way.

The history of Cartlandia is connected to another food pod owned by Goldingay – Mississippi Marketplace, featuring about a dozen or so food carts and Prost, a pub inside an old Victorian mansion. Goldingay is currently developing two buildings on the property to house an indoor dining area, a pub, an event center and a commissary kitchen.

While Cartlandia is licensed to serve beer and wine in its beer garden, the privilege doesn’t come without a few restrictions, and very stringent enforcement. No alcohol is permitted outside the posted beer garden area. Goldingay pours alcoholic beverages in easily identifiable red cups, and employs multiple licensed alcohol monitors on the premises during operating hours. He’s also restricted to serving alcohol between 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Cartlandia is allowed one large screen TV, but no other entertainment, including DJ’s or live music is permitted with the sale of alcohol. If any of the rules are violated, OLCC will revoke the license.

We stopped at Crepes Plus, where Roger told me about his goals for Cartlandia while I tried “The Full Monte,” a deliciously savory and sweet crepe filled with ham, turkey, swiss cheese, and raspberry jam, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a crepe man. I couldn’t resist a creperie if my life depended on it, and I’ve sampled some of the best known to man. I don’t think I could have made a better decision to start the tour.

Cartlandia wasn’t born in one of Portland’s “better” neighborhoods. In fact, Goldingay searched for over a year, before discovering the potential of this property. He had previously spearheaded an effort to upgrade another area in Portland known for crime and drugs on Mississippi St.

Goldingay created Mississippi Marketplace under similar conditions. The result: the crime and drugs disappeared, the neighborhood is restored, and property values have increased.

He still owns and operates the Mississippi Marketplace food pod, which houses ten food carts, and he’s taken the same model to Cartlandia which is located on SE 82nd Street, an area of town historically known for crime.

As we walked through what seemed an endless marketplace of every type of food imaginable, he asked what I was in the mood for. Jokingly, I said, “I could go for a New York Steak and a beer, right about now,” and he knew just where to take me.

Find out what happens when Roger Goldingay and I cross paths with Godzilla and The Terminator, and why moms, kids and even grandparents love Cartlandia in Part 2 of my story on Tuesday.

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About the Author

Chris Ford is the founder of Stitches 'n Dishes and editor in chief with a passion for food, photography and travel. Chris is a Media Correspondent for the Food Network TV show, Eat St, a syndicated blogger, seasoned event organizer and promoter, a food critic, a marketing consultant and Social Media Marketing expert. Chris is also a fashion and entertainment photographer. When he's not dining on the sidewalk, he's snapping photos on the catwalk.

  • Al Muth

    Portland is an awesome place for foodies. I should know, I live there. :)

  • Scott Kelsey

    20+ food carts…. Sounds like heaven.

  • Yosemitepuppypark

    Nice article. I love vendor food.

  • Scott Kelsey

    20+ Food carts…. Sounds like heaven

  • Don

    every time I read your blogs I get snacky and I don’t have those same fab options! Time to go to Portland. 

    • StitchesnDishes

      Don’t miss Cartlandia, if you do, Don!

  • Doug Wolfgram

    I love cart food! They don;t have enough if downtown LA. I think they should take a lesson from NY or other cities. Thanks for reminding me. We need to get it going here!

    • StitchesnDishes

      Not enough food carts in downtown LA? As in Los Angeles? Food trucks are everywhere in LA, including a huge population downtown.

  • O’Connell Meier

     I love crepes! Sounds like you had a wonderful afternoon!!

    • StitchesnDishes

      I did, thanks O’Connell. I can’t wait to get back there.

  • Meeekz

    I would rather nosh on cart food than almost anything else.  I love the traditional foods of the big US cities, but the food of Mexico and now in Thailand are to die for.

    • StitchesnDishes

      MMMM you are so right Meeekz! I just interviewed a chef in Sacramento – he’s all about bringing that incredible Mexican street food experience to California, but in a very interesting Asian fusion sort of way. His food is outstanding. I’ve been to Thailand and absolutely loved the street food there. It’s almost as lovely in Malaysia!

  • Don

    personally I like a beer garden at outdoor venues – it let’s me grab an ale if I’m so inclined, or, it keeps all the drunkies all penned up and away from my date!

    • StitchesnDishes

      LOL it definitely adds to the ambiance. Personally, I see no difference in a food pod with a beer garden than a restaurant with a bar.

  • Mike Bazaluk

    In sheffield we have a food festival, where various carts sell food from around to the world, to eat and takeaway, in addition to the nosh, there are a few alcohol carts selling Cider, all around the carts, seating is provided, where you can sit eat drink and relax.
    You are limited to the number of drinks, but thats a good thing preventng excess, but alchol with a meal is an enjoyable aside to enoy the food, and chill is a busy area

    • StitchesnDishes

      I love that! It just makes for a great atmosphere. :)

  • Barry Gumm

    Not into street food

    • StitchesnDishes

      Well… thanks for chiming in all the same, Barry!

  • Oliver Nguyen

    To be conservative, alcohol should likely be banned from food pods.

    • StitchesnDishes

      What does that achieve, Oliver? I don’t know if I’d agree that it’s even conservative to ban alcohol from being served at a controlled, public location, unless we’re talking about going back to prohibition. LOL

  • Nelle

    I love street food, though I try to stay away from the really exotic ones here in the Philippines (where I live). Food pods are everywhere in my country as well, and is the primary small businesses of the masses. I find it amusing to learn you guys in the US have similar establishments too, though of course Cartlandia is fancier.

    • StitchesnDishes

      I’ve never been to the Philippines, but I’ve heard about some really amazing street food there. The street markets there are definitely very different than ours. There’s a real focus on creating atmosphere – outdoor eateries that are really comfortable to enjoy a meal in. It’s a really exciting concept!

  • NicoleM

    I can die for crepes! put anyting in it…im oof to get some now.

  • Charles Slang

    I’m lucky to live close to NYC and go there often, because I love street food vendors! Also they have many ethnic festivals, specially the Brazilian Festival, where the main attraction is food. Back in late May they had the 39th annual 9th Ave International Food Festival, where the only attraction was food from many countries!
    Back in Connecticut where I live, they have smaller music and arts & crafts festivals, where vendor food is a main attraction, and they do have areas where you can buy beer and wine, you show an ID and receive a wrist band that allows you in the drinking area. I always thought this was a great Idea and took advantage of it!

    • StitchesnDishes

      Wow, that sounds amazing, Charles! I’d love to check out the Brazilian Festival, and the International Festival sounds incredible. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tim Welsh

    Raise a toast I say! Thank you for sharing! Although, I am hungry now.

    • StitchesnDishes

      LOL I actually got hungry writing this, too Tim!

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