Two new food carts opened in September at Astoria Station, a lot at 13th and Duane streets anchored by Reach Break Brewing, adding to its diversity of culinary offerings.
Alma’s Mexican Cuisine offers home-cooked dishes from the Hidalgo region, while Dee Dee Thai Street Food serves up eclectic South Asian delicacies.
For Alma Delia Castelan Hernandez, the cart is the fulfillment of a dream. “I love cooking,” she said, adding that it wasn’t easy to launch the business, but she did it “with the help of God and my family. We all fought hard to make it happen.”
A single mother of six, Castelan Hernandez started her culinary career at Bornstein Seafoods in Astoria. Her sister, Maria Castelan, aids in the running of the cart as well. The cart is open on most days from noon to 8 p.m.
Alma’s serves home-cooked meals rooted in the cuisine of Hidalgo, a small region north of Mexico City. In addition to Mexican classics like tacos, burritos and enchiladas, the menu is spiced up with huaraches, sopes and Castelan Hernandez’s personal favorite – tamales. Pozole, menudo and hot chocolate warm visitors on cold fall days.
“People seem to like the food,” Castelan Hernandez said. “I hope more people come and try it and enjoy it.”
In Thai, “dee” means good, while “deedee” means very good. “It’s southern Thai street food,” said owner Tanya Popkin, who grew up on an organic farm in Thailand and is both Laotian and Thai. “We use fresh ingredients. My mom makes the curry.”
In addition to a range of meat choices in the classic Thai noodle, curry and fried rice dishes, Dee Dee offers gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free dishes. “You’re going to see a lot of broccoli on my menu,” Popkin said. She plans to add a bento combination and pho to the menu in the coming months. The cart is open daily from noon to 8 p.m.
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland, Popkin started her Thai food journey with a cart in Portland. Now she also owns and operates two A Mighty Thai restaurants, in Manzanita and Seaside.
The new cart in Astoria is like a return to her culinary roots. “I love being here, I love the location. My next one is going to be around here too, it’s going to be a surprise.”
Claudine Gregory, who owns the property hosting the brewery and food carts – the burger cart Coastal Smash and seafood cart Wahoo Charlie’s are the other two wheeled kitchens on the premises – liked Castelan Hernandez’s and Popkin’s ideas.
“When speaking with them, I got a really good feel for them and felt that they really wanted their business to prosper,” Gregory said. “We have a wonderful team now.”
The new cart additions have bolstered the draw of the pod at Astoria Station. “When you have different foods, it brings different people because there are more choices,” Gregory said.
Gregory seems to feel a sense of completion, if not closure, as well. “This was Warren’s dream,” she said, referring to her late husband, Warren Williams, who died in 2016. “He wanted to develop a place for people to gather, enjoy a beer or other beverage with good food, and have a great outdoor-indoor experience. I’ll try to finish his work. It’s a very friendly, fun place.”