At first glance, Chicken & Guns doesn’t appear to be a food cart. It resembles more an 1850’s railroad maintenance shed that’s been converted to a diner and then years later transported—complete with railroad lanterns and corrugated metal roof—into the modern era at the Cartopia pod on SE Hawthorne.
As you look at the cart, you fully expect to hear a train’s steam whistle along with the train’s bell as it huffs itself to a stop at the nearby train station. You can almost hear the sound of boot heels on the wooden platform as men, with their spurs jangling at every step, cross the platform to belly up to the counter at Chicken & Guns.
Chicken & Guns is, without a doubt, one of the coolest-looking food carts in Portland. Built from rustic, reclaimed wood salvaged from a 200-year-barn, the food cart’s time-spanning appearance harkens back to an age when we traveled by train and cooked simple rustic meals over an open fire.
In fact, cooking over an open fire is the genesis for the fare offered by Chicken & Guns and business partners Dustin Knox and Todd Radcliffe. Each has on many occasions traveled through Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It was during those travels that they would encounter people cooking chicken at the roadside over makeshift wood-fired grills.
Often the cooks were soldiers at checkpoints making a meal. With their guns at their sides they grilled their chicken. Hence the name, Chicken & Guns. Dustin and Todd wanted to capture the flavors, enhanced by smoke and fire, they had experienced during their travels and bring that experience to Portland.
The Chicken & Guns menu is comprised of chicken grilled over mesquite and white oak (your order can be for a quarter, half or whole bird) and served on a bed of potatoes grilled over the same flame. The chicken is rubbed with a combination of spices from Venezuela and the Caribbean. The topping for the chicken and potatoes is a spicy Peruvian aji sauce. Your chicken can also be served over a salad made of a variety of fresh framer’s-greens. For your side dish you can choose either the potatoes or the salad. Or make up your own combination. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available.
Chicken & Guns is located in the Cartopia food cart pod at the intersection of SE 12th and Hawthorn. The cart is open Tuesdays through Sundays.