Japanese food truck serves savory sandos

Sandwiches are a universal on-the-go meal. Whether you are making a Bon turkey sandwich to eat between your 11:30 and 12:40 classes, picking up a bánh mì from the Vietnamese deli or satisfying a hangover with a hearty burger, these items do not always have to be limited to convenience. 

Portland food truck Tokyo Sando is honoring the sandwich like no other kitchen in town. You will find a menu dedicated to Japanese flavors and techniques, from katsu to curry filling in their signature pillowy milk bread, a product unique to Tokyo Sando’s bright red truck. 

Tokyo Sando is the product of chef Taiki Nakajima. Nakajima was born in Japan, raised within his father’s family-run restaurant. Before settling in Portland, he spent much of his young adulthood exploring the world and its diverse cuisines, until Nakajima set his aspirations on opening a food truck in the hipster capital we call home. Bringing authentic Japanese meals to the Pacific Northwest remains Nakajima’s mission. Tokyo Sando’s Instagram story frequently showcases its mouthwatering sandwiches alongside the catchphrase “We’re sharing our Japan.” 

The current location is the Harvey Milk Street Beer Garden, an enclosed food truck pavilion with covered seating and a stage for live music. Lewis & Clark students can access the shop off of the 1st and Harrison Pio stop downtown, and then make a 15-20 minute walk north to the intersection of Harvey Milk St. and 5th Avenue. 

Price-wise, a sandwich runs between $14-16. While expensive, it is a typical price for a thoughtful lunch item in the Portland economy these days. One sandwich (or two halves, I split mine with a friend to maximize variety) left me thoroughly satiated, and I can confidently say that the experience was worth my money.

I tried the original Naka Sando, and the rotating special which was the curry-pan sando. The Naka is a classic chicken katsu sandwich; between two slices of fluffy milk bread lies a golden chicken katsu, topped off with a tangy slaw. As a lifelong purveyor of fried chicken, this might be one of my new favorite preparations.

The curry pan was equally delightful, featuring delectably panko-fried bread, encasing a warmly-spiced Japanese curry, soft-boiled egg, garnished with black garlic. The contrast of the crispy panko, soft curry and egg meld perfectly, the umami of the black garlic cutting through the richness. This sandwich invoked the comfort of a hug, which is my personal ultimate seal of approval. While the curry pan is no longer available, the current special looks just as tantalizing, the Tokyo Gyoza Scotch-Egg Sando. 

The food truck has gained widespread popularity in the local food scene, garnering features in food review website Eater. The love for their sandos has even traveled to our corner of Palatine Hill. Cole McCorkendale ’25 has become a devoted customer over the past year. 

“Part of it is honestly the people there because Mr. Nakajima and Ms. Kazuyo, who helps him there, are all super nice people. I really liked them all. And they started recognizing us at some point which was cool,” McCorkendale said. “It’s just nice to have a rapport with the people that you’re ordering food from. The food is some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. It is so enjoyable to eat every time because they make it consistently really good and almost the same every time.”

McCorkendale reflected on their favorite sandos.

“My favorites have been the curry and the Naka with the chicken. But we have also tried the eggplant one, the egg salad one and the dessert mango one which was delicious. Something I love is that all the sandwiches have a fried component,” McCorkendale said. 

Tokyo Sando has opened and closed several times over the years due to Naikajimi returning to Japan to help with his father’s restaurant. This year his father was considering retirement, but ultimately decided to continue running the restaurant to allow Tokyo Sando to operate in Portland.

“I was distraught. That is the best word to describe it. I was in tears. We wrote them a little letter because we were so sad that they were leaving. And we made sure all of our delivery instructions included heartfelt little messages about how sad we were they were leaving,” McCorkendale said. 

They summed up their appreciation for Tokyo Sando’s owner and employees as “the unsung heroes of Portland.”

The food truck remains a must-try spot for every Portland foodie. Outside of selling delicious sandwiches, Tokyo Sando will also host collaborative pop-ups with Oh!Nigiri. Oh!Nigiri is owned by beloved Tokyo Sando employee, Ms. Kazuyo, who can often be found at the window taking customers’ orders. 

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