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.