On Friday, a dozen hungry lunch-goers sat in a new common dining area on Bend's Westside filling up on vibrant red and green curries from Thailandia, spicy fried chicken dishes served on a bed of bean sprouts and kimchee from Real Food Bistro, and traditional carnitas tacos made with handmade tortillas and slathered with salsa verde from Rico's Tacos—all while sipping away the hot summer afternoon with cold beers. It's clear from the echoes of "yum," and '"mmm," that The Lot, a newly opened food cart pod, is a welcome addition to the quickly growing Galveston neighborhood.
The brainchild of David Staley, The Lot opened last week near Hutch's Bicycles at the corner of Columbia and Hartford, and is already home to four relocated food carts—Thailandia (formerly Bee's Thai), The Brown Owl, Rico's Tacos and the Mauna Kea Grill—all parked around a common dining area with long, dark-stain wooden tables and stainless steal chairs under a slanted-roof gazebo. Best of all, the pod offers a 16-tap selection.
"Beer and food go together so well," said Staley. "We tried to do it right here."
The Lot plans to be open 11 am to 10 pm seven days a week. An alternative for an outdoor meal and a brew to crowds spilling out of the 10 Barrel patio, or waiting for a table at Brother Jon's on a weekend night.
A popular fixture in Portland, food cart pods like the Mississippi Marketplace and Cartopia at the foot of Hawthorne Boulevard have been extremely successful. Others have tried to get a cart cluster started in Bend—most recently the short-lived Bend Food Pod on Third Street—but without much success.
"I was never even really aware of the pod on Third Street," said Staley. "You can throw a few carts in a parking lot and it's not a big deal, but there needs to be underground sewer, water and grease disposal to be a permanent location."
The Lot has many of the amenities of a brick-and-mortar without the four enclosed walls, including indoor restrooms. Carts rent space from Staley on a month-to-month contract so as busy summer season dies down, a rotating cast of carts can be expected through the winter.
The Brown Owl, a newcomer to the food cart scene, was set up in front of Crow's Feet Commons at River Front Plaza, but was forced to break down and move the cart daily when it wasn't open for business.
"Set up and tear down was long," said co-owner Lisandro Ramon, who opened the Brown Owl with his wife, Gretchen, earlier this summer. The cart now lists its more permanent address on its Facebook page as 745 NW Columbia St. at the Lot.
The only breakfast cart in the pod, Brown Owl plans to open at 9 am serving a rotating menu that on Friday listed a mouth-watering buttermilk fried chicken sandwich topped with a fried egg, double mustard tossed greens, and nest hash—spiced potatoes, spinach, roasted peppers and a fried egg. Ramon reported that that afternoon parked at The Lot had been one of the couple's busiest lunches ever.
"This place is sweet," said Ramon. "We're doing a lot better here, and it's fun to be a part of the start of something."
745 NW Columbia St.
Open 11 am to 10 pm daily