Tigard holds its own with dedicated food cart followers

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Susan Saunter crosses the street with her hot dog cart Quite Frank-ly on Main Street in downtown Tigard. Saunter is the newest food cart in Tigard, moving her hot dog stand up and down Main Street. More and more food carts are slowly making their way to Washington County where they see room for expansion.It’s 11 a.m., and Susan Saunter is pushing her cart down Southwest Main Street.

“This is my first day doing this by myself,” she says, weaving her large red and yellow umbrella around trees and buildings.

With hot dogs and drinks, her food cart would likely be a common sight in New York, where street vendors have long been commonplace, but in quiet downtown Tigard, it’s unique.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Chef Kalei Miller fries chicken at the 808 Grinds food truck on Southwest 68th Parkway. The truck regularly stops outside the Clear Channel building in Tigard on Tuesday afternoons.
“I was going to call it ‘Susan’s Weiner Wagon,’” she says, laughing. “But my 16-year-old son said there was no way he would work at anything called that.”

Saunter’s mobile restaurant started making the rounds up and down the city’s downtown a few weeks ago. It’s the latest in a small but slowly growing collection of food carts across the city.

Portland’s carts, shacks and pods have long been a staple of the city’s culinary culture, and more and more food cart owners are seeing the potential in Washington County. Carts, food trucks and other similar businesses have popped up in and around Tigard over the past few years as vendors try to stake a claim in the mostly unclaimed Westside.

‘Portland is spoiled’

While Saunter’s one-woman operation is just getting off the ground, across town, Hawaiian restaurant 808 Grinds is bringing its Portland food cart expertise to the Clear Channel building near Highway 217.

“There is a demand for food carts out here,” says Jensen Yip, co-owner of 808 Grinds. The popular cart has two locations in Portland and runs its commercial kitchen on Southwest Durham Road.

“A lot of what you see out here is corporate chain restaurants,” says Yip, who lives in Tigard. “You don’t get that cool Portland vibe.”

The company expanded to Washington County about a year ago, opening a food truck that travels around the area, selling at different locations every day.

“In downtown Portland, the people are so spoiled with their food choices,” Yip says. “They can catch the elevator downstairs, and they have 60 different restaurants to choose from in one area.”

But in Tigard, where a quick lunch often means a drive-though fast food chain, Yip says his business saw an opportunity.

“We got so many calls from people on the Westside asking, ‘Why don’t you come here?’ ‘We are so tired of eating at these chain restaurants.’ It was these people that really brought us out there,” he said. “They made us realize there was demand for food carts and for different, cheaper food options on the Westside.”

The Hawaiian cuisine vendor isn’t alone in wanting to take advantage of Washington County’s lack of carts. Popular Portland food cart Koi Fusion operates a special kiosk at Bridgeport Village as well as a food truck in Tigard on Wednesdays.

Other Tigard businesses such as The Tamale House, Slick's Big Time BBQ and others, have food trucks that regularly travel around the Portland area.TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tim Halme, owner of JPs Yakitori on Main Street in Tigard prepares a his signature chicken and rice lunch. For more than 20 years the simple menu has been drawing crowds to the unconventional location outside a local frame store.

‘If I take a day off, I hear about it’

Portland’s food cart scene has been slow to expand to Washington County, but as more and more businesses make their way to the Westside, cities are starting to take notice.

In Beaverton, city officials are currently mulling over an idea that could allow designated food-cart pods in town.

That isn’t the case in Tigard, where the city’s code is completely silent on the matter. City planners says that if more businesses wanted to come to Tigard, they’d be willing to take up the idea.

“We keep getting the question,” says Cheryl Caines, associate planner with the city. “Our code is really silent on that, it doesn’t really address it.”

Caines says Tigard is looking at other cities, such as Gresham or Beaverton, for examples of how it can address the issue.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Scott Tepedino has been selling sausages and teriyaki from his food cart Hot Diggity Dog in the parking lot of The Home Depot for years. Tepedino is one of a few food carts that have made a name for themselves in Tigard long before Portlands food cart obsession started to spread.“We want to see what has been working, and how we can encourage that in the city,” she says.

But some food cart-style businesses have been in Tigard for years, working their way around the existing code and attracting a loyal customer base.

“There is a guy down the street that has had one of these things every day since 1993,” says Tim Halme, who owns JP’s Yakitori on Main Street. “If I take a day off, I hear about it.”

Tucked into the side of a frame store, JP’s isn’t what comes to mind when you first think of food carts. But with its walk-up window, lunchtime hours, outdoor-only seating and sparse menu, it’s a cart in all but name.

The menu is simple — just chicken and rice — but Halme says his customers come, rain or shine.

“If it snows I assume there’s no reason to go into work, but they’re here,” Halme says. “You would be amazed how many people are sitting outside eating in the snow, or on a rainy, nasty day.”

Up the road, Hot Diggity Dog has been serving up grub to local contractors and customers outside of The Home Depot for more than a decade.

Sitting outside the state’s busiest Home Depot, owner Scott Tepedino says he modled his business after JP’s Yakitori.

The businesses have made a name for themselves through their simple menus, Tepedino says.

“People come from a long way away to have my teriyaki,” he says. “Sometimes they literally curse at me because they feel like they’re under my power.”

Both Tepedino and Halme say they would like to see the local food cart area continue to expand.

“If I could, I would do this over again,” Halme said. “It is literally a hole in the wall, but it works pretty good for us.”

Getting hungry?

The Times is collecting a list of local food carts.

Know of one we missed? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll add it to the list

· Hot Diggity Dog, 14800 S.W. Sequoia Parkway, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

· JP’s Yakitori, 12260 S.W. Main St., Monday through Friday 11 to 2 p.m.

· Quite ‘Frank’-ly, Main Street, Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. June to September

· 808 Grinds, 13333 S.W. 68th Parkway, Tuesday 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

· Koi Fusion, Bridgeport Village kiosk, seven days a week and 13333 S.W. 68th Parkway, Wednesday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

· The Tamale House, call 503-603-1811 for locations

· Slick's Big Time BBQ, call 503-327-8200 for locations

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