Saturday, February 15, 2014

Honkin' Huge Burritos in Portland, Oregon

Shelly's Garden: Home of Portland's Best Burritos

Shelly's Garden in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, Oregon isn't just any lunch cart. It's the place where people who want a great lunch go. 

For over 20 years, Shelly Sorenson has been making her vegetarian burritos, filling stomachs and pleasing palates with a tasty blend of ingredients and a large variety of sauces from sweet and mild to hot and spicy.


Get Thee to an Eatery!

The best burritos are in the city's best location

 The best thing to do when you're hungry for lunch in Portland is get on the MAX light rail or a bus (the city is noted for its great public transportation), get off at Pioneer Courthouse Square, aka Portland's living room, and look for Shelly's cart. It's usually near Mr. Portland, the statue of a guy with an umbrella. You may have to stand in line for a bit if it's lunchtime, but Shelly's quick and her burritos are worth the wait.

If you think a Honkin' Huge burrito is too much for one sitting and you didn't bring a friend to share it with, there are smaller sizes available. Even the smallest size makes for a filling lunch. Also, she's willing to cut a Honker in half and package it up so you can have lunch today and tomorrow. Chat with her while she puts your burrito together - she's very friendly.

The Making of a Honkin' Huge Burrito

Honkin' Huge, Medium, or Small

The burritos are vegetarian, but even if you're a meat-eater, they're so tasty you won't want to pass them up. While there are basic ingredients, she gives you a lot of choices.

She slaps a tortilla on the grill then puts on a ladle of smooshed pinto beans, adds the rice, shredded cheddar cheese, then she'll ask if you want sour cream or yogurt. Next is the shredded lettuce, and she'll ask if you want onion, then she adds the guacamole. Tomatoes can be added either inside or outside. Next Shelly asks which of her wide variety of sauces you'd like to add. They range from mild and sweet to hot and spicy. One of my favorites is Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue sauce.

With a few folds, the tasty and healthy burrito is ready to go into the folded paper tray. If you want to eat right there in Pioneer Square, it's ready to go, or if you're headed back to the office, she'll wrap some aluminum foil over the top, and you can get a paper bag, very handy if you are getting more than one or the Honker is divided into two portions.

You'll probably want something to drink to wash it all down. There's a variety of canned soda, but Shelly's specialty is fresh-squeezed lemonade in the summer.

And don't forget the napkins, plastic forks and knives.

Speaking of making things, the Honkin' Huge Burritos cart was built by Shelly's father. He built it well and he built it to last.

A Burrito from Shelly's Garden

Pioneer Square, Portland, Oregon 

Shelly Sorenson makes a burrito at her lunch cart in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, Oregon. Her assistant Sarah portrayed the customer. Shot on the fly between filling orders for hungry Portlanders. 


There's more behind the scenes

It's a pretty full day

Shelly usually is open for business at 11:30 in the morning, which is good for people who start work long before 9 a.m. and go to lunch before most folks, as I did during two jobs in the downtown area. She's usually on the scene until 2:30. That's only part of the day. Add in a half hour before opening, another half hour after closing, four hours of preparation and about an hour for shopping, and she's got a full day.

There are times when she has assistants take over for her, but she's at the cart most of the time it's open. She told me she really loves what she's doing, can't imagine doing anything else unless she really had to, and hopes to be serving up burritos, Honkin' Huge or otherwise, for many years to come.

Often if she can't be open for her regular hours due to weather, events in the Square, etc. she'll post something to her Facebook page at:

There is another page called Honkin' Huge Burritos! (notice the exclamation point), created by a burrito fan, but the one linked above is Shelly's page where you can keep up with openings and closings.

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Portland's Living Room 


Pioneer Courthouse Square wasn't always Portland's living room. In the 1800s the city block was the site of a school, and toward the end of that century an eight-story hotel was built. The hotel was replaced by a parking garage in 1951, then the site became a designated public space in the 1970s. A design competition determined the look of the square, and the project was completed in 1984, partly funded by donors who purchased bricks for the square. The bricks are inscribed with the donors' names.

There are a number of interesting architectural and artistic features in the square. One of the more popular ones is a statue of a man in a business suit holding an umbrella (Portland gets about 2/3 of its annual rainfall in the winter months). The official name for the statue is Allow Me, but it is better known as "Umbrella Man" or "Mr. Portland." There are often people posing for pictures with him.

The Square plays host to a number of activities during the year, from a gathering place for welcoming in the New Year, to music performances at noon in the summer. Once people were invited to come to the square with their guitars on a Sunday afternoon in June 2003 to join in singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" to set a Guinness World Record for the most guitars brought together to perform one song. They succeeded. The square also was the setting for "Sand in the City," a professional-level sand castle building competition. In keeping with the commonly seen bumper sticker that says "Keep Portland Weird," Pioneer Courthouse Square was the scene of an all-city pillow fight in 2006.

The photos and text in this blog post were originally posted to my lens Honkin' Huge Burritos, which has now been deleted.

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