El Cubo de Cuba food cart: the Go Box Program
550 Southwest 10th Avenue #5 Portland, OR
Among some of the most popular food carts in Portland’s downtown food cart pods are Cuban and Thai food carts. We had to try one. Granted, neither of us have ever truly had Cuban cuisine so our frame of reference was slim. We picked the most colourful cart and also the first one we saw that offered tostones (deep fried plantains).
Many of the food carts in Portland are opened by new immigrants who found it difficult to find work in a new country (Cartopia p.71). Opening a food cart allowed these immigrants to become entrepreneurs, using the carts as a stepping stone to opening a restaurant or a larger business. This also adds diversity to the Portland culinary landscape.
We ordered the chicken box which came with several medallions of tostones, a big scoop of rice, fried beans in sauce and two big pieces of chicken, one thigh and one leg and a wedge of lime. It was a pretty substantial lunch with big portions. We had to share it, it was so big.
The tostones were my favourite thing in the box, crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. The fruit was slightly sweet, a great contrast to the salty crust.
The beans were tasty too, tangy and mildly spicy, they still had a bite to them.
The chicken, although, quite flavourful, smokey and sweet, was a little bit overcooked. Despite that, the entire meal was still very homey and totally reminded me of comfort food. This would make a wonderful cheap and filling lunch on a weekday.
To drink we ordered a pineapple pop which was sweet and tropical.
If you are visiting El Cubo de Cuba food cart on a weekday, note that the cart, along with many others in Portland food cart pods participate in the Go Box program. The Go Box prgram was started by Laura Weiss in August 2010 and aims to eliminate the amount of waste generated by food carts, namely in to-go boxes (Cartopia, p.31). Aligned with Portland’s prominent dedication to sustainability, the Go Box program works like this: customers pay $8.50 for their first reusable food container at a participating food cart, the container can be returned to on-site drop boxes in exchange for tokens. The next time the customer goes out for street food, the token can be exchanged at participating food carts for another meal served in a reusable container. The containers are picked up and washed daily in a nearby commercial kitchen.
I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more carts participating in the Go Box program and will be sure to purchase a reusable container next time!