Food carts in Portland have become popular social sites for people of all ages. They allow for the ease of a quick pickup order or provide a nice outside ambiance where you can enjoy a fantastic meal. One space in particular that provides all of these options is the Hawthorne Asylum, on Madison Street in Southeast Portland.
As an avid food explorer, I have frequently visited this spot for the variety of different cuisines that are available. I have tried many of the carts, such as sushi burritos at Rollin’ Fresh, or sandwiches at Dr. Philly Cheese Steak, but Le Bistro Montage Ala Cart has stolen my heart and my stomach. The ambiance of the Asylum is not representative of the name, the twinkling lights and the large fireplace in the center of the pavilion generate a comfortable atmosphere for you to enjoy your delicious food.
Montage Ala Cart got its start as a restaurant under the Morrison Bridge just over 25 years ago. When COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2020, the restaurant was unable to sustain itself and shut down. Like many other restaurants, Montage was looking for ways in which they could continue to provide their popular dishes to the Portland community. Several of the kitchen’s cooks saw the growing popularity of food carts and decided to take their skills on the road.
I consider myself a good judge of a few different dishes, but none as much as macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese has been my go-to since I was very young, from the good old Olive Garden mac to restaurants that seem way too nice for an adult to be eating mac and cheese — but I do it anyway. I have made it my purpose to try to find the best in Portland, and Montage Ala Cart may be the place. They provide a multitude of different options, but their cajun spoiled style with the addition of andouille sausage can make anyone feel warm on a cold day.
The creamy texture of the dish is absolutely delectable. These cooks have it down to a science. The combination of spices, cheese, perfectly cooked pasta and grilled sausage could be called magic. They give you just enough to even have leftovers, which is always a plus. If you prefer a different meat, they also have chicken, bacon, gator, shrimp and spam. If you are a vegetarian, they have grilled broccoli and jalapenos. If you are lactose intolerant, I would recommend the jambalaya as a secondary option. I would recommend this to anyone hankering for a feel-good meal.
Evan Johnson, the manager of the cart, spoke very highly of not only his staff, but of how as a collective, they did not allow COVID-19 to halt all operations.
“We brought on about five of the cooks out of the 60 employees from the restaurant,” Johnson said. “All the credit card tips now go to the cooks, so it’s like double the pay, and a really big incentive for people that already had the culinary skills to cook the recipes.”
Johnson hopes that their popularity will only grow, and they recently have partnered with delivery and catering companies such as GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats to extend their reach within Portland.
I could not recommend a better place for a lovely, spicy and downright delicious meal. As an added treat, you will receive a rose made from foil with each of your orders, a special message from Montage and a thank you for your business.
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