2018: Central Beaverton gets Portland-style food cart cluster
Editor's note: This story is part of the The Times' special series, "Decade in Review." This series features three stories that helped to define each year of the 2010s. These can retell single stories that captivated readers of the time, a saga that played out across many articles, and even stories that were crowded to the margins by other news at the time but have made a lasting impact on our region.
Where is the largest permanent food cart pod in Oregon?
Of course, it has to be in Portland. The Rose City has been known for its food cart culture for years. Mobile eateries serve up street food for the masses, a fast and cheap alternative to a sit-down restaurant and a locally minded alternative to drive-through fast food. College students love food carts, office workers love food carts, late-night diners love food carts.
Where else could it be than Portland? No other city in Oregon comes close to Portland's size, and after all, Portland is well known for its walkable neighborhoods and eclectic dining scene. Portland is the home of Portland State University, the largest school in the state. Entire city blocks, even, are set aside in Portland for food carts.
The truth: Portland did have the largest food cart pod in Oregon, and probably the second-, third- and fourth-largest food cart pods, too. (We're not sure who keeps track of these things.) But that was before Feb. 2, 2018.
Beaverton has been on a rapid redevelopment pace in its downtown area for years, thanks in large part to the urban renewal plan that city voters OK'd back in 2011. That downtown scene got a lot more downtown-ish in early 2018, as BG Food Cartel officially opened for business across Southwest Millikan Way from the Beaverton Building.
BG Food Cartel has space for 31 food carts. That's a lot, but that's not all. The food cart pod also has an indoor-outdoor bar and public event space. There are green open spaces for children to run around or families to spread out a picnic blanket. There's even a fire pit.
As food cart pods are increasingly threatened by development in Portland, it was important to the people behind BG Food Cartel and city officials in Beaverton that the food cart pod not just camp out on a vacant lot, but have its own defined space. In sum, it's a purpose-built food cart pod, a place where food carts are intended to be and where they won't run the risk of suddenly having to find a new location because someone wants to build a parking garage there.
"BG" isn't an abbreviation; instead, it is a clever nod to the family behind the food cart pod.
The Beaverton City Council officially gave the go-ahead for food carts to come to town in 2015. In 2016, the city held a competition in which it offered up to $25,000 to help create a food cart pod. Dana Biggi, granddaughter of the late Beaverton Foods founder Rose Biggi, submitted the winning bid.
As it happens, BG Food Cartel sits at the corner of Millikan Way and another street: Southwest Rose Biggi Avenue. The Biggi family has owned the property for years, and for years, it sat empty as the Beaverton Building and other developments sprung up on the other side of Millikan Way.
BG Food Cartel didn't have a perfectly smooth opening season. On March 21, 2018, an explosion mangled one of the tenant food carts and sent a woman working inside to the hospital. Investigators said the blast appeared to be accidental, although the food cart pod was briefly closed as a precaution.
Central Beaverton has been increasingly promoted as a dining destination by Mayor Denny Doyle and other civic leaders. "Restaurant Row" features more and more places to dine and drink. An August 2019 headline in The Times declared, "Beaverton has hope for restaurant renaissance," citing BG Food Cartel along with the proliferation of new restaurants as a sign of a changing downtown core.
The food cart pod itself remains an ever-popular lunch spot, including for city employees who work across the street.
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