Big Fat Wieners is something of a triple rarity among Portland food carts. First, Dave Thornton, the proprietor, began his food cart journey not with a trailer or truck but with an actual push cart serving hot dogs in downtown PDX.

Photo of Big Fat Wieners truck

Second, Dave’s food cart (actually a converted step van) is mobile. Rather than parking in a pod, he drives to a different location or event each day. While mobile carts/trucks are how the majority of street food vendors across the nation conduct business, podless food carts in Portland are kinda like Bigfoot. You know they’re out there, it’s just that you so rarely catch a glimpse of one.

The mobile food service model for Big Fat Wieners was the result of a tragedy. As Dave puts it, someone who needed his hot dog push cart more than he did, stole his push cart and the truck he used to transport it to different locations. Left in the lurch, Dave spent some time in food cart limbo until good friends helped him bring about what today is Big Fat Wieners.

Photo of Big Fat Wieners Philly Cheesesteak hot dog

The menu at Big Fat Wieners is the third thing that makes it rare in Portland’s food cart culture. As you may have surmised, wieners are the core of the menu. This makes it rare as one can count the number of food carts specializing in hot dogs on the fingers of a single hand. It’s also unfair to characterize Dave’s dogs simply as plain ol’ wieners. Especially once you’ve attempted to eat one.

Photo of Big Fat Wieners Smoke fries

A good example of this lack of simplicity is Dave’s best-selling menu item, the Pepper Jack Philly Cheesesteak Dog (or burger if you prefer). It starts with a Hebrew National kosher dog in a bun. Then thinly sliced steak, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cheese are piled on top of the dog.

Photo of Big Fat Wieners Mac & Cheese burger

The, “hey, let’s see how much stuff we can cram onto a dog or into a burger,” menu philosophy continues with the Smokey Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese Dog (or again, should you prefer, a burger). A quarter-pound dog or burger is smothered with a smoked macaroni and cheese, topped with chunky bacon, and on top of that is placed more of the smokey mac ‘n’ cheese which has been deep-fried to add a crispy texture.

Photo of Big Fat Wieners tater tots

Dave smokes the meats and makes the sauces and spices used to prepare his food. The barbecue sauces used are Dave’s own creations. The spices used to season the tater tots, fries and for the meat rubs are mixed to Dave’s own secret recipes. The pork Dave uses in smoked for twelve hours right in the truck.

As Big Fat Wieners is a mobile food cart without a fixed location, knowing how to find the cart is an essential part of enjoying the food. Facebook and Twitter are the two best places to discover Big Fat Wieners location for the day. Check Big Fat Wieners Facebook page and their Twitter feed to find out where they’ll be and when they’re open.

Listen now as Steven Shomler and Ken Wilson talk with Dave Thornton about why Big Fat Wieners come in pink boxes and what it’s like to be mobile food cart in a pod-based town.