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Food carts and the secret of Portland urbanism

Whenever I go to Portland, Oregon – my favourite city in America – I immediately catch the train downtown and make straight for the food carts on 10th Avenue and Alder Street. This spectacular collection of micro-eateries never disappoints.

I was there recently, making circuit after mouthwatering circuit of this cart-lined block, trying to decide between burritos, bento boxes, Indonesian satay, Hawaiian barbecue, classic kebabs, new-wave grilled cheese sandwiches, and the (presumably hyper-local) cuisine known as “Oregonian Bites”. Once satisfied, the rest of my day was spent shopping at Powell’s City of Books and drinking local craft beer at pubs converted out of old theatres and schoolhouses – the very things, in other words, that one goes to Portland to do.

Like San Francisco and New Orleans, the city has associated itself with a certain lifestyle. Just look at its unofficial “Keep Portland Weird” slogan. Yet it also boasts infrastructure far superior to New Orleans (its inadequacies starkly revealed byHurricane Katrina), and a cost of living far lower than San Francisco’s — hardly difficult tasks, you may say, but still it gives rise to an important urban question: how has Portland not only remained true to its identity, but remained so accessible too?

Read the whole thing at The Guardian.