An enticing red picnic table has appeared on the lush green patch of lawn outside of Pine Mountain Sports at the corner of SW Century Dr. and SW Colorado Ave. Nestled along the wall of the business is an innocuous-looking white cube, housing Bend's newest food cart. Hot Box offers a short, but specific menu of hearty portioned breakfast and lunch burritos and sandwiches.
With the nearby Lot condensing a few of the carts formerly peppered along SW Century Dr. to its communal pod setup, Hot Box is filling the cart-void for the west-side business parks and is offering lunches that land somewhere between hearty ribs at neighboring Baldy's BBQ and the light crunchy salads at Croutons.
We tested several of the tantalizing menu items, starting with the Pork Belly Cubano, which smartly included two types of meat, the roasted pork belly and smoked ham, topped with nutty-Swiss cheese and crunchy vinegar pickles. The only criticism was a need for more pickle, because what was there was such a sweet, fresh dill addition. The flavors were dynamic and layered, just as food cart cuisine should be.
The Philly Cheesesteak was a beer-drinkers' dream, drenched in white American cheese and colorful sautéed peppers on a hoagie bun, perfect for soaking up excess suds. A margarita grilled cheese sandwich was a fairly basic staple with provolone, tomato and basil, but the balsamic reduction drizzled over the bread was, as a Source staffer proclaimed, "bomb," and made the sandwich more like a caprese salad (with fresh provolone rather than mozzarella) settled between two slices of crispy toasted bread.
We also sampled the carnivore's version of the breakfast burrito, stuffed with eggs, cheese and potatoes (the vegetation version also includes black beans, kale and quinoa) wrapped up with eater's choice of breakfast meat, smoked pork chilie verde, bacon, chorizo or sausage gravy. We tried the pork and the meat was tender, if not overly flavorful—just a hint of it in every bite. The burrito could have used a bit of added spice, as the potatoes and eggs were a bit overwhelming, but the hearty portion size landed like a brick on our table and was more than satisfying.
After spending several years in Portland, owner Marcus Mitchell moved to Bend, working in fine-dining kitchens at Brasada Ranch and Kanpai. With the coaching of the owners of Spork, Mitchell opened the cart just over a month ago.
"In Portland, the food cart scene is incredible. I watched it just explode. Down here, it seems to be just developing," said Mitchell. "It seems like a good time to get in on it."
Mitchell said he's just making his favorite foods and describes the cart genre simply as "breakfast and lunch."
"I used to eat breakfast burritos every single day. I love breakfast burritos. I figured it would be a good thing to do," explained Mitchell. "I want to feature my favorite sandwiches. The cheesesteak, the Italian and the cubano. I want to try, not to reinterpret them, but make them my own. I try to study the origin of sandwiches and do it right."
255 SW Century Dr.
Open Wed.-Sun. 9 am-3 pm