Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tidbit Pod Closing; Other PDX Food Pod News

And, in more somber news for Portland food cart fans and cart owners, another pod is closing. This time, it's the Tidbit pod at SE 28th and Division, which has been around since 2014. Tidbit will shutter by October 8, 2017, according to reports.

I moved to the Pacific NW 10 years ago, but didn't really start appreciating the food cart scene until around 2010. As readers of this blog probably realize, I've reviewed literally hundreds of food carts. Many of them have closed for business, but others are still going or have transitioned to brick and mortar.

Unfortunately for food cart fans, pod closures and food cart displacements are nothing new.

Back in late 2012, D-Street Noshery closed just a few blocks from where Tidbit is now.

In late 2015, Good Food Here (at SE 43rd and Belmont) shuttered for more apartments. Fortunately, The Bite on Belmont opened literally across the street in early 2016 and currently houses about 5-6 carts.

In February 2016, news broke that the lots for the SW 5th/Stark pod, SW 3rd/Washington, and SW 2nd/Stark pods would become mixed-use buildings. The pods are still active and the carts still remain on site, but they are not out of the woods yet.

An October 2016 Food Carts Portland article confirmed that the N Mississippi/Beech pod and Central Eastside pods had closed.

In May 2017, there were plans filed to build a hotel that could displace and shutter the pod at SW 10th and Alder in downtown. The Alder-Washington pod there on 9th and 10th is Portland's largest pod. This matter is still pending.

On July 31, 2017, the Gantry Food Carts at Zidell Yards (near the South Waterfront) and the Cubby Hole (the alleyway near NE 15th and Alberta) also announced their closures. Gantry tenants were to leave by August 31, Cubby Hole tenants to leave by September 1.

Finally, in late August 2017, Eater PDX shared that Cartlab, the first food hall in Portland, would be closing. This one surprised me. KOi Fusion owner Bo Kwon cited maintenance issues for closing, and a broken gas line simply sped up the timeline to close.

While places have closed, others have been saved or created:

In 2014, Cartopia survived when apartment building projects fell through. Still, the carts there were scrambling for several months, believing they would need to find a new place to set up shop.

The above-noted October 2016 Food Carts Portland article noted five new food pods. The one on NE MLK and Beech now has 2-3 food carts. 

In July 2017, Prost! owners bought the lot around them that includes the Mississippi Marketplace food pod. Carts will still be able to set up shop there.

Around the same time frame, Widmer Brothers Brewing opened up a popup beer garden on N Russell that will also house food carts.

Willamette Week also reported that Collective Oregon Eateries (CORE for short) will open on SE 82nd Avenue in 2018. The plan is for a 36,000-square foot facility for food carts and mini-restaurants.

There may be more out there, but those are the ones I was able to find.

Even with Cartlab's closing, the indoor food halls remain an appealing concept for both cart owners and food cart fans, given (1) Portland's generally rainy season and (2) the dwindling number of outdoor lots that food pods usually occupy. There, food cart owners share indoor space, and it varies whether they share a common kitchen or have their own kitchens. Remaining food hall projects include The Zipper, Pine Street Market, and Portland Food Hall. I've been to all of these and love them.

Still, some people prefer the outdoor feel that a food pod brings, something that an indoor food hall does not have. And hey, heated tents in those food pods are wicked awesome. Advertising "heated covered seating" in fall and winter seems so...Portland.

Food cart fans will also cry foul on the increased traffic this ultimately brings to a city that may not be designed to handle another boom of new residents. Food pods usually make way for more housing projects. More housing = more people. Portland has already dealt with construction, road closures, and considerable traffic for years.

Portland has become more urbanized in the last few years, as road construction and building development projects (usually for apartments or other high-rises) are transforming the city.

Property owners understand the housing market is at an all-time high, with the bubble yet to burst as of this writing. They want to capitalize on their investment. Money talks.

Frankly, I shouldn't be badmouthing people who move to the area; I'm one of those people (although I'm located outside Portland). And property owners are free to do whatever they want with their land (assuming it's legal).

I hope any displaced carts are able to find new homes. Meanwhile, longtime residents are slowly watching their memories of a simpler Portland become just that: memories. What's your take on this issue? Feel free to comment below.

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