Check it out: Book looks at Portland's food cart fascination

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"Cartopia: Portland's Food Cart Revolution"

By Kelly Rodgers and Kelley Roy; Roy Rodgers Press, 168 pages

In case you haven't noticed, Portland's food scene has expanded beyond the traditional restaurant model. "Dining out" in the Rose City can mean having a sit-down meal in an enclosed space, but more and more it means ordering breakfast, lunch or dinner from one of the hundreds of food carts available to hungry diners.

Street food is not a new idea. The ubiquitous hot dog vendor is a common enough sight in many metropolitan areas. But how many cities have experienced the explosion of food carts that Portland has? You know it's a big thing when tourists make a point of checking out not only the International Rose Test Garden, Powell's City of Books, and the Pittock Mansion, but also the food cart fare. With over 500 food carts currently in business, I think it's safe to say that this movement has legs.

Having that many food carts to choose from can be daunting. Thankfully, help is available. For an online look into Stumptown's food cart culture, check out www.foodcartsportland.com. If you're interested in why and how this phenomenon developed right across the river from Vancouver, consider reading "Cartopia: Portland's Food Cart Revolution." According to the authors, it isn't surprising that Portland has become a food cart mecca. "Innovative local visionaries have long encouraged the city's quirky independent culture and creative entrepreneurial spirit," Rodgers and Roy explain in Part One. Of course, they add, Portlanders' love of food has had some influence, too.

In this book you'll learn why the technical definition of a food cart -- a mobile food unit -- differs from reality. You'll find out how food carts operate in Portland, why some business developers are excited about food cart pods (multiple, stationary carts in one location), and even a bit of the lingo associated with this growing industry (cartitecture refers to the unique architecture of food carts). The final part of the book focuses on specific food cart vendors, providing location, type of food served, and even the best time of day to visit.Whether you're already a cartivore (a loyal food cart customer), or just venturing out of the restaurant comfort zone, this week's book will inform and entertain anyone who enjoys reading about the local area. As for me, I'm ready to dine "a la carte" Portland-style.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her atreadingforfun@fvrl.org.