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Tumalo's food cart pods are legit

The everything burger is piled high with goodness in Tumalo, where food carts have invaded. Photos by Jean Straight.

The everything burger is piled high with goodness in Tumalo, where food carts have invaded. Photos by Jean Straight.

Food carts have been prevalent in Central Oregon for years now, but it wasn't until the advent of The Lot that they started becoming almost omnipresent in Bend. Now it's Tumalo's turn. If you're looking to do a food cart crawl outside Bend, this is your chance, as Tumalo now has at least eight food trucks and two pods within a few blocks of each other.

The two food truck pods sit remarkably close together, but with varying degrees of curb appeal. With a setting that's comparable to The Lot, The Bite offers more ambience and is varied enough to supply multiple styles of food without too much overlap.

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Even while it's similar to The Lot, there's something much homier about it. The friendly locals all seem to know one another and get cozy as they sit around the large fire pit, shooting the breeze. There are hay bales, corn hole games on the grass and a hub with around a dozen beers on tap, so there really is something for everyone.

Among the trucks on site is the much-missed Rico's Tacos. I still miss Rico's from back when they had the brick-and-mortar location in Bend. They were open until 10pm and you could stroll in at 9:30 and walk out with the single best torta in Central Oregon. Rico's recently left The Lot, in Bend only to move to the almost-identical Bite in Tumalo. Rico's is always consistent, so you know exactly what you're gonna get (especially when you stick with their burritos and tacos).

Also at The Bite is Nuthin' Fancy BBQ—a name that undersells how delicious their food is. I tried the pulled pork and pulled beef sandwiches and the meat was so tender and fresh that I instantly wanted another one.

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Owner/operator Raymond Williams got into the chef game a little later than usual. "I worked as a diesel mechanic for 25 years," says Williams. "My back wasn't going to hold up for much longer. My wife and I talked and decided to get a BBQ trailer. I had been into it for 10-plus years. I found the trailer on Ebay and the rest is history."

Williams has a special way of smoking his meat. He explains: "It's slow-smoked using charcoal as the heat source and apple wood for the smoke. Served with our homemade BBQ sauce. Smoked on a vertical reverse flow smoker."

Last but not least, I tried The Rogue Chef. I have been on a hunt for the best Reuben in Central Oregon, and when I saw The Rogue Chef had one, I started drooling. With house-cured mesquite pastrami, a spiked cider reduction, sauerkraut, melted Gruyere and house Russian dressing on a cocoa rye... it sounded like this would be the one. The champion among all Reubens. But, alas, they were out of pastrami the day I visited and my dreams were dashed.

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Instead, I ordered the everything burger. The 1/3 lb Wagyu (American Kobe) patty was slathered in melted pepper jack, sautéed Maker's Mark onions, an amazing peppercorn aioli, lettuce, tomato, onion, thick-cut bacon and topped with a perfectly-fried egg. Every single bite was delicious, with the creamy yolk tying everything together and the tender, caramelized and peppery bacon genuinely being some of the best bacon I've ever tasted. I'm glad they were out of pastrami because now I have an excuse to go back to this incredibly delicious food cart.

The Bite is cozy, warm and homey. It feels like a neighborhood haunt where everyone is invited. For Bendites who love good food, a trip to The Bite is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

The Bite

19860 Seventh St., Tumalo

Every day, 11am-9pm

thebitetumalo.com

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