The Movable Feast: Food Cart Cuisine Increasingly Diverse, Delicious
There has pretty much always been something like the food truck or food cart, or street food vendor. The taco truck has been a pretty ubiquitous institution in many cities. So much so that these traveling taquerias have sort of blended into the background, just one more part of the tapestry of a tasty urban backdrop.
But recently, a new trend has emerged, driven by burgeoning numbers of creative vendors and fueled in part by social media, which serves to track the whereabouts of their mobile establishments. You can now find almost any type of cuisine in the form of a cart or truck somewhere. Below is a sampling of the wide variety of mobile food nationwide – and these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Marisco’s German Taco Truck (San Diego): Marisco’s German Taco Truck sounds by name like it could be a disaster. In actuality, it has some of the best seafood tacos in San Diego. They are known in particular for their tacos de marlyn, which are marlin tacos with bell peppers, onions, celery, and Monterey jack cheese. Marisco’s has no Web presence, but it has multiple fixed locations, the most popular located at University and 35th Street.
Koo’s Catering Truck (Orange County): Way before food trucks became a trend, Koo’s has quietly been there, in the out-of-the-way town of Tustin. Nonchalantly parking itself in front of the Freshia Korean Market, Koo’s sells only hotteok, a sweet rice pancake that’s sort of like a Korean version of a crepe. Koo’s also has no Web presence, but it’s easy to find near the Freshia market at 14551 Red Hill Ave.,
Tustin, CA 92780.
Nom Nom Truck (Los Angeles): Pretty much any article about food trucks talks about Kogi BBQ, so I’m not even going to bother. Because in the wake of Kogi, many other fantastic trucks have sprung up, including the Nom Nom Truck. The Nom Nom truck serves banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) to-go, and, having had one, I can personally vouch for the crunch on the outside/soft on the inside bread and the fresh, delicious ingredients. Nom Nom truck also serves Vietnamese tacos with the same fillings as the banh mi. You can track its location online, via nomnomtruck.com.
The Burger Bus (Santa Barbara): The Burger Bus isn’t just burgers from a converted school bus. Burger Bus burgers use local ingredients of the highest quality. Bread from a local bakery, grass-fed beef from a local meat producer, cheeses from a local creamery and farmer’s market produce. This husband-and-wife enterprise has a penchant for putting locally produced jellies on their burgers as well, for interesting flavor profiles. You can follow their location on their website (www.theburgerbus.com/) or follow the schedule on Twitter (twitter.com/TheBurgerBus) for regular updates. [Ed note: As Santa Barbara is Osmosis Online's de facto HQ, I can personally vouch for this delightful establishment]
Aunt Lali’s Treats (Santa Cruz): The ice cream truck is archetypal in American culture, so how can I not include one? Aunt LaLi’s trucks make their way around Santa Cruz, dispersing a wide variety of brand name ice cream, candy, and drinks. One of their trucks is entirely electric for extra environment points. There isn’t really a way as of yet to track Aunt LaLi on her travels, but if you’re extra-ambitious you can hire her to come to your event for a guaranteed appearance by e-mailing: AuntLaLi@AuntLaLi.com.
Phat Salads and Wraps (Napa): Phat Salads and Wraps is meant to provide a healthy alternative to the taco truck. Now owner Gia Sempronio trucks around the Napa Valley providing healthy salads and wraps for breakfast and lunch. To find its location, call 707-363-9658.
Roli Roti (various locations in Northern California): Roli Roti is a rolling rotisserie truck. Rotisseur Thomas Odermatt, the son of a Swiss butcher, was born and raised to prepare meat and citizens across the Bay Area can now benefit from his skill and expertise. Odermatt rolls his truck to various farmer’s markets. [Ed Note #2: Another one I can personally vouch for]. Find out when he’s at your local farmer’s market here: www.roliroti.com/locations_new.html
Sam’s Chowder Mobile (San Francisco): On a foggy San Francisco day, what could be better than having a nice hot bowl of chowder brought straight to you? Sam’s Chowder House in Half-Moon Bay has sent its famous chowder and lobster rolls on the road to San Francisco. San Franciscans can follow it on Twitter for locations.
Waffles and Dinges: Of all the food trucks I found in my search, this was probably the most unexpected. Waffle and Dinges brings Belgian waffles to the streets. Dinges means “toppings,” and there is an array of fresh fruits and sweet sauces to pile atop your portable waffle. You can find out how to catch a wild breakfast here or by subscribing to its Twitter feed twitter.com/waffletruck.
Papa Perrone’s: Papa Perrone’s is basically like an Italian grandma’s kitchen inside of a truck. Looking at its menu, you can almost hear someone telling you to “mangia!” the baked ziti and homemade meatballs. It’s specialty is arancini, or fried rice balls in both vegetarian and omnivore varieties. Keep up with Papa Perrone’s travels on Twitter here.
Fojol Brothers of Merlindia: Describing themselves as a “traveling culinary carnival,” the Fojol Brothers claim to come from Merlindia, which as far as I can tell is a more magical version of India. This is a traveling band of people from a fictional country using fictional names and wearing costumes as they serve you. It’s basically … a LARP version of street food. The food is Indian, including curries, lentils and other traditional Indian dishes, plus lassi-on-a-stick popsicles. Follow the carnival on Twitter: twitter.com/FojolBros.
Sweetflow Mobile: Sweetflow Mobile combines two trends in one. Just before food trucks, frozen yogurt came back in a big way, so it’s no surprise that someone made a frozen yogurt food truck. It’s also environmentally conscious in both fuel use and packaging. You can track them on their site with a Google Latitude map: www.sweetflowmobile.com
Bui’s Lunch Truck: This is Philly so naturally we’ll start with cheesesteak. You can obviously get them everywhere, but Bui’s serves them from a truck. Even more pertinent, they also serve a “Hangover Special,” an egg sandwich with pork and hot sauce . . . but, then again, most of their dishes could be considered hangover specials. (Pepperoni, Egg and Cheese with Sriracha Mayo Sandwich anyone?). Bui’s is a non-moving truck, always located at 38th Street and Spruce.
Denise’s Soul Food: Yeah . . . soul food on a truck. Denise serves classic American soul food like fried chicken along with Caribbean food like jerk chicken or oxtail. Denise’s also has a consistent location at 30th Street and Market.
Skillet (Seattle): Skillet takes the style of restaurant that’s very popular right now: local, seasonal, bistro-style food, and takes it on the road in an Airstream diner. Skillet serves items like tomato-basil soup and duck tacos. You can check its Web site for location details or join its Facebook group.
Kaosamai Thai Mobile Kitchen (Seattle): Kaosamai is Thai food, cooked first in a restaurant kitchen, then brought to the streets and finished in the truck. Kaosamai serves its Thai lunches from a few locations. Follow the mobile kitchen on Twitter to catch up with it: twitter.com/Thaifoodtruck.
Addy’s Sandwich Bar (Portland): Addy’s Sandwich Bar serves up mini-baguette sandwiches out of a sleek black truck. Sandwiches come in meat-eating and vegetarian varieties and feature ingredients like house-cured ham and line caught tuna. See their menu, location, and news on: http://addyssandwichbar.com.
The Big Egg (Portland): If it’s not enough to have just lunch and dinner out of a truck, the Big Egg is there for you in a shiny yellow breakfast truck. The Big Egg naturally serves egg dishes, including breakfast wraps, and also has a non-egg breakfast sandwich. Keep up with hours, location and menu at the blog.
Iyanze Truck aka The African Truck (Chicago): Where the West Coast has its taco trucks, Chicago has African trucks. Among the plethora of African food trucks in Chicago, Iyanze is one of the more reliable, as it’s usually to be found at the same location. All of the food is pre-prepared and there’s no menu, so you have to be adventurous and just go, hoping for the best. Pick what looks good to you and enjoy! Understand that this is real African food so you’ll be dealing with ingredients such as tripe and goat, and lots of spice. You can find Iyanze at North Park Drive between East Illinois Street and East North Water Street, Chicago IL 60611; 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Kakilima (Madison, WI): This is less about one food cart than it is an example of a small oasis of food-cart dining in the Midwest. At the Library Mall in Madison, WI there is a small oasis of international mobile food stands serving food from all over the world. Kakilima, which serves is this year’s winner of the Vending Oversight Committee’s annual contest, which entitles it to the prime location for the next year. Kakilima is located on the Library Mall at the bottom of State Street.
Harvest Moon Grille (Charlotte, NC): The Harvest Moon Grill is a cart run by the Grateful Growers farm. The menu changes weekly and all of the ingredients are pulled from their farm and other local farms. Menu items include things like pulled pork sandwiches, hamburgers, and veggie sandwiches for lunch and breakfast sandwiches and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Visit its Webs site for locations and menus: www.ggfarm.com/welcome-to-grateful-growers/harvest-moon-grille.
Street Foods LLC (Charleston, SC): Street Food LLC doesn’t just specialize in one type of food, it specializes in all street foods, depending on what the CIA-trained chef-owner wants to make. One day it may be neo-Japanese; the next time you see the truck, it may be Oaxacan. To follow this cart, find them on Twitter or Facebook
Que Crawl (New Orleans): The Que Crawl, or the Big Purple Truck, specializes in meat products. The menu is ever-changing, but you can definitely find New Orleans favorites like po’ boys, andouille sausage, and gumbo along with barbecue classics like pulled pork sandwiches. The Que Crawl can be found after 10:30 pm outside of Tipitina’s at 501 Napoleon Ave. The menu is chalked on a board on the side of the truck.
The cuisines and locations are daunting in scope and number! As long as this list is, it’s barely the beginning. Please feel free to suggest more via firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll update the story . . .