Where We Live: Portland’s evolving food carts

Business

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Many food carts have found so much success in Portland that they have evolved into brick-and-mortar restaurants. 

One such food cart was born in 2011 on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard and, nearly a decade later, business there is still booming. 

It’s called Kure Juice Bar and it was founded by two friends: Nate Higgins and Nick Armour.  

Everything at Kure from the smoothies to the açaí bowls is plant-based. 

“We saw a need and I had been working in food service for years, selling less-healthy products,” said Higgins, the self-described “chief juicing officer” at Kure. “But I saw an opportunity to apply some of those same principals to a better product.” 

In a city like Portland where many people pay close attention to health trends, Kure has a big following. 

Avocado toast from KURE in Portland. (Courtesy of KURE)

“Plant-based food has become a movement and we’re just one of the businesses that are advocating for that movement,” Higgins said. 

The food cart’s success was enough to catapult it to greater heights. The business expanded into a downtown brick-and-mortar shop in 2013. 

There are 6 locations today, including one in the Pearl District. 

Higgins said none of it would be possible without the low-cost option of owning a food cart first. 

“If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing right now,” he said. “It was really a great launch pad.” 

Kure has taken the plant-based concept beyond smoothies. It now serves hot food and is developing retail products like protein bars. 

“We will open more stores, but we’ve kind of decided that copying and pasting locations isn’t the most fun or creative way to grow the business,” Higgins said. “So we’re looking at more interesting ways to expand.” 

Other Portland restaurants that got their start as food carts include Tastebud, Brunch Box, Off the Griddle and Gabagool

Lardo, which started as a food cart in 2009, also has 2 Portland restaurants and one in Las Vegas.

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