Food Cart Review: SE 32nd and Division, Round 1 – Herb's Mac and Cheese, Koi Fusion, Oregon Ice Works

Venturing through SE Portland on Friday, D.E. and I decided to pass on lunch at my favorite Pok Pok and instead venture across the street to the food cart pod on SE 32nd and Division, where we feasted on some yummy, and not so yummy, grub from three different food carts.

Herb’s Mac and Cheese

[Image from Yelp.]

The complete awesomeness of  the look of Herb’s Mac and Cheese food cart drew me in immediately and forced me to try some of this retro yumminess. The man attending the counter was friendly and polite and greeted us with conversation as warm as the free samples. Between the retro exterior and the friendliness, I really wanted to like this place, but alas, it fell far short of expectations. With canned tomatoes, frozen limp broccoli and over floured cheese sauce, Herb’s Mac and Cheese gave me a nostalgia for the Lean Cuisine microwave dinners my parents used to force down me, and not in a good way.

It is possible we just caught Herb on a bad day, as other reviewers seem to love the place, but with many other amazing options in this food cart pod, I wouldn’t waste my calories going back. However, they do have bottled Coke, which I love, and Jarritos, so it may be worth a stop to get a drink there.

The details:

  • Location: SE 32nd and Division, Portland OR, http://www.herbsmacandcheese.com/
  • Gotta try: free samples before you buy anything, to make sure you like it
  • Price range: $: cheap date
  • Rating:
    • Overall rating: 1/5 stars – not worth your time
    • Food: 1/5
    • Drink: 5/5 (drink options, they don’t make drinks themselves)
    • Atmosphere: 5/5
    • Staff Friendliness: 5/5
    • Go there again?: Not until I know something has changed in their recipe and preparation.

Herb's Mac & Cheese (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon
 

Koi Fusion

According to D.E., the bulgogi burrito from the Koi Fusion cart is the best food ze has ever had from a food cart. That’s saying a lot, considering D.E. has eaten from a lot of food carts in zir 10 years in Portland. I have to disagree on it being “the best” (Big Egg comes to mind as strong competition) but I agree it’s up there as the top carts in town.

[D.E. scarfing down our bulgogi burrito, refusing to share with me]

And how can it not be, with a menu consisting of tacos and burritos filled with scrumptious Korean BBQ and pickled vegetables? There’s even tofu for the vegetarians among us. The portions are rather large and relatively cheap ($7 for a burrito) for the high quality.

There is one downfall to the food, however. Their kimchi, one of my all-time favorite side dishes, is rather limp, boring and dull, which is highly disappointing. I’m glad I got it outside of the burrito instead of in it. Additionally, the veggies inside the burrito tasted a bit limp as well and I would prefer to see them a bit more firm and fresh, even if pickled.

I should also mention Koi Fusion’s other downfall: the staff. I’ve eaten at the other Koi Fusion cart and been greeted with a friendly smile, but today the man taking my order was either really high or really incompetent. When I asked him what the tofu was like, he looked at me like I was stupid and asked “you mean, like, you’ve never had tofu?” When I clarified that, yes, I live in Portland and I have had plenty of tofu but I would like to know what this particular tofu is marinated in and how it is cooked, he responded, “I don’t know, like with flavors, like our meat.”

I went for the bulgogi instead.

High as a kite/incompetent worker aside, this cart is definitely worth a visit.

The details:

  • Location: SE 32nd and Division, Portland OR, http://koifusionpdx.com/
  • Gotta try: Bulgogi burrito, full of marinated meat and pickled veggies
  • Price range: $: cheap date
  • Rating:
    • Overall rating: 4/5 stars – go there soon
    • Food: 4/5
    • Drink: N/A
    • Atmosphere: 3/5
    • Staff Friendliness: 2/5
    • Go there again?: Yes, I still need to try the tacos.

Koi Fusion (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon
 

Oregon Ice Works

As D.E. and I were finishing up our bulgogi burrito, two young boys walked back with the kind of smiles that are only produced when school is out, the weather is hot and ice cream has been procured. We smiled back at them and they proceeded to exclaim in enthusiastic voices how wonderfully delicious Oregon Ice Works is; so delicious in fact that this was the boys’ second time visiting it that day.

Always quick to trust young children – especially when it comes to sugary dessert products – D.E. and I headed over to the pastel cart, surveyed the menu and got samplings of the flavors from the very friendly and helpful staff. It was a pity we were full, as Oregon Ice Works offered a few delicious sounding sandwiches as well as dessert. But bulgogi is filling and so D.E. and I decided to share an Oregon Ice.

[This adorable logo was taken from Oregon Ice Works' Facebook page]

Oregon Ice is not ice cream, it’s not a slushy, it’s not sherbert, sorbet or anything of that sort either. What is it then? It’s hard to explain, so I’ll borrow from their website:

Oregon Ice is hand crafted in Portland, OR in small batches and never contains fruit flavoring or high fructose corn syrup. Oregon Ice is loaded with real fruit – about 2 lbs. per gallon, sourcing local fruit using Oregon based vendors, fair trade cane sugar, Oregon water and all natural stabilizers to create the perfect blend of ingredients for frozen refreshment.

That doesn’t really help, does it.

Well, it’s delicious and that’s all that really matters. It was so good that D.E. and I each got our own. As someone who is lactose intolerant, I especially appreciate a non-dairy ice cream substitute that is rich and creamy and the decadent coconut vanilla Oregon Ice hit that spot better than any non-dairy ice cream I’ve had in a long time. D.E.’s marionberry was also delicious, although tasted more like sorbet than ice cream. Both flavors were gulped down so quickly, we forgot to take a picture until the very end, a good sign in my book.

Just an FYI: Their website offers a free scoop if you join the mailing list. Totally worth it I would say!

The details:

  • Location: SE 32nd and Division, Portland OR, http://oregonice.com/
  • Gotta try: Coconut vanilla, it melts in your mouth as richly as cow’s milk ice cream
  • Price range: $: cheap date
  • Rating:
    • Overall rating: 5/5 stars – go there NOW
    • Food: 5/5
    • Drink: N/A
    • Atmosphere: 4/5
    • Staff Friendliness: 5/5
    • Go there again?: Yes, I plan to visit as often as possible in the summer.

Oregon Ice Works (food cart) on Urbanspoon
 

About Queerie Bradshaw

Lauren Marie Fleming loves to put both sides of her brain to use. A writer since childhood, she runs the critically-acclaimed QueerieBradshaw.com blog and writes for major news sources as an expert on the legal and social issues surrounding sex, sexuality, gender and gender identity. Lauren also started Frisky Feminist Press (FriskyFeminist.com), which features sexual education guides and classes from the top sex educators on the Internet. From ivy-league universities to major conferences, Lauren has spoken all over the country and is internationally recognized for her dynamic, educational workshops. Check out her workshop page for a complete list of workshops and upcoming speaking engagements. A law school graduate, she started Creativity Squared, LLC to help bloggers, writers and other creative types turn their ideas into practical, sustainable products or services. Lauren particularly loves helping people find and amplify their voice, dig deep to write their difficult truths, and make a profit by doing what they love. Lauren offers her consulting services through group classes and individual coaching. Lauren is currently shopping her memoir, Losing It: My Life as a Sex Blogger, based on her popular Curve magazine sex blog. She is also working on a diverse young adult series. Lauren is represented by Jane Dystel of DGLM.
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4 Responses to Food Cart Review: SE 32nd and Division, Round 1 – Herb's Mac and Cheese, Koi Fusion, Oregon Ice Works

  1. Ken says:

    Hi L.M.,
    Your first posts just appeared on Urbanspoon! Check it out:
    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/24/1610207/restaurant/Richmond/Oregon-Ice-Works-food-cart-Portland
    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/24/1570935/restaurant/Richmond/Herbs-Mac-Cheese-Food-Cart-Portland
    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/24/1463615/restaurant/Chinatown-Old-Town/Koi-Fusion-Food-Cart-Portland
    I encourage you to claim your blog, which allows you to add a picture and change some settings. The blog photo shows up next to your posts wherever they appear on Urbanspoon. Here’s how to claim:
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  2. Herb says:

    Hi LM, thanks for the review. I’m constantly working on making my food spectacular and am truly sorry it wasn’t for your visit. I discovered a staff member wasn’t blanching the broccoli properly and another was improperly making the sauce. My fault for poor quality control. I’ve been letting my staff do more and more prep but am rethinking that after your review. Contact me through my website (herbsmacandcheese.com) and I’ll buy your next meal at my cart. I want to blow your socks off.
    Thanks again for your honesty,
    Herb

    • Hi Herb,

      I’d be happy to give your cart a second chance, especially since you took the time to come to my site and ask so nicely. As much as I appreciate your offer to buy my next meal at your cart, I’d prefer to go incognito for review purposes. I will, however, say hi once I’ve had my food so we can chat.

      Thanks again for coming by,
      ~L.M. Fleming

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