Cleverly cooked fillings make Smart Donkey a must-visit cart destination.

Image courtesy Denise Castañon.

The unassuming corner of Southeast Powell Boulevard and 50th Avenue has turned into a destination for quick and tasty eats. Super Deluxe burgers opened its doors in 2018 and now the Smart Donkey food cart has brought its burritos with perfectly cooked ingredients to the former car wash next door. 

Smart Donkey is the latest venture from Chef Oswaldo Bibiano, one of Portland’s most lauded Mexican chefs. Bibiano gained acclaim with his restaurant Autentica and his Uno Mas taquerias. He brings a chef’s skills and precision to the humble burrito, which under his care becomes the perfect pandemic comfort food.

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My family visited the cart on a rainy Sunday evening. A tent and heater kept us dry while ordering, and provided a cozy atmosphere for the two tables and seating at the bar. (The cart features beer and cider on tap, wine, as well as margaritas, mimosas and micheladas. And they also have a lot of uncovered seating beyond the tent.) The covered tables were occupied, so we decided to take our burritos to go.

Image courtesy Smart Donkey

I had a hard time choosing from the 11 options because they all sounded delicious. Most are filled with rice, beans, pico de gallo and cheese. They were sold out of the barbacoa and picadillo burritos, so I finally decided on El Basico ($12) that had all the main fillings plus carne asada. My husband went with the Urupan ($11) which was similar to mine, but with carnitas. Our 9-year-old daughter chose the Pobre Rico ($7), which was just beans and cheese — her favorite. (Smart Donkey also has two other vegetarian options.) My 7-year-old son, Cruz, loves carne asada and carnitas, but he is one of those kids who doesn’t like them wrapped up together with other fillings. He decided he’d try a bite of my burrito and then make his own sandwich at home. 

I was impressed with how quickly our order came out. And the hefty, foil-wrapped burritos were still hot when we got home. Once we started digging in, we agreed the burritos were delicious. The meaty carne asada steak was extremely flavorful, the carnitas, too. Tender beans, perfectly cooked rice and ultra fresh pico de gallo elevate these burritos to epic heights. My daughter was too busy eating to give me more than a thumbs up when I asked how her burrito tasted. My husband and I also appreciated the tangy, salty, but not exceedingly spicy salsa verde given to us on the side. 

None of us could finish our sizable burritos. My daughter and I finished our leftovers for lunch the next day. And I am already thinking about when we can go back. Smart Donkey has cleverly incorporated lots of outdoor seating that will be welcome in
warmer months. We have visions of happily eating there on a sunny afternoon.

Smart Donkey, 3420 SE 50TH Ave.
Instagram: @smartdonkeypdx.

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Denise Castañon
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