10 terrific food trucks in America
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
A food truck revolution is sweeping across America. Thousands of mobile eateries — once disparaged as "roach coaches" — have popped up nearly everywhere, turning street food into an art form and satisfying the desire for fast, tasty, inexpensive eats for as many as 2.5 million diners a day.
No city worth its salt (and pepper) is without a fleet of food trucks these days, and whether you're craving a taco, burger, pizza, sushi, dim sum, Indian dosas, Greek sausages, Filipino halo-halo or Texas barbecue, these restaurants-on-wheels are frequently better than their sit-down competition.
Jonathan Gold, food columnist for the prestigious Smithsonian magazine, sees food trucks as "the new incubators of culinary innovation" in America. He contends that the food-truck phenomenon that has exploded in cities across the country in recent years has its roots in Los Angeles where for decades a mobile fleet of taqueros (taco trucks) has roamed the city's Mexican-American neighborhoods.
Gold says, however, that the food truck revolution was truly set in motion in 2008 when Roy Choi, a classically trained chef, left the brick-and-mortar scene to take his Korean-Mexican fusion food to the streets with a food truck named Kogi.
It is only fitting, therefore, that we lead off our report on 10 of America's most popular and innovative food trucks in Los Angeles with a closer look at Kogi.
Los Angeles, California
As an icon of LA street food, Kogi showcases the culinary talents of Choi — a Korean-born graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and Food & Wine magazine's choice as the nation's Best New Chef in 2010.
Choi's beef short rib taco with a special 21-ingredient sauce quickly emerged as his signature dish. Other menu favorites include spicy pork, chicken and tofu tacos and burritos, quesadillas and the Korean specialty kimchi.
From one truck, which Newsweek declared "America's first viral eatery," Kogi has has expanded to a fleet of five trucks whose locations are tweeted each day to more than 100,000 followers.
Website: www.kogibbq.com, Twitter: @kogibbq.
2. Two for the Road
San Diego, California
This truck earned top honors in a 2015 nationwide food truck survey conducted by the popular foodie website The Daily Meal. Owners Lisa and Roberto specialize in American comfort food, including burgers, inventive variations on the hot dog and a tasty spinach-and-artichoke grilled cheese sandwich — but they get the most raves for their New England lobster rolls and crab cakes.
Roberto studied at a culinary school in Italy before immigrating to the U.S. and has served as a chef in top hotel kitchens in San Diego and Las Vegas.
Website: twofortheroadsd.lucksmediagroup.com. Twitter: @TwofortheroadSD
3. The Frying Scotsman
The Frying Scotsman is none other than professional chef James King, raised near Glasgow but presently a Portlander (by marriage).
King serves up generous portions of authentic British-style fish and chips, featuring your choice of cod, haddock or red snapper. The chips, or "chippies" as the Brits call them, are wonderful hand-cut wedges, not to be confused with ordinary French fries. Other menu entries include mushy peas and deep-fried Scottish haggis.
You’ll find the Frying Scotsman at SW 9th and Alder in downtown Portland.
4. John Mueller Black Box Barbecue
John Mueller gained considerable fame for his Austin barbecue restaurant — and later a food truck named John Mueller Meat Co. — until financial and personal problems forced him out of business. Barbecue buffs are rejoicing the fact that he's back, opening a trailer setup in downtown Georgetown (30 minutes north of Austin) last April, with partners Gary Brown and Justin Bohls handling the books.
Devoted now to just smoking, he turns out everything from pork shoulder to chicken to beef sausage — but it is his savory brisket and beef ribs that draw the greatest praise, smoked to perfection by one of the country's top pitmasters.
5. Taceaux Loceaux
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Big Easy's vibrant uptown bar scene has attracted a flock of food trucks catering to late night revelers, but the brightest star of the fleet is Taceaux Loceaux. As its name suggests, this truck serves up a mix of "Nola-Mex" tacos.
These definitely are not your ordinary fast-food-type tacos. Favorites include the Aiee, loaded with spicy-hot andouille sausage, the Carnital Knowledge, containing slow-cooked pork, shredded cabbage and chipotle aioli, and the top selling Messin' With Texas, a taco brimming with barbecued brisket. Most customers order their tacos with a side of mouth-wateringly tasty avocado fries.
Check on Twitter for the truck’s current location.
This small, unassuming orange food cart has gained a huge national reputation with its all-natural, locally sourced wieners and brats — topped with a choice of scratch-made beer and honey-spiced mustards, relishes and caramelized onions. Mobile Cuisine newsletter named Natedogs America's Hot Dog Vendor of the Year for 2017 and, even more impressively, Expedia selected it as one of the nation’s top five food trucks.
The stand is usually found along 6th Street near Nicollet Mall.
7. Bite Into Maine
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Possibly the most scenically situated food truck in the country, this one sits from May to October on the oceanfront in Fort William Park — right beside the iconic Portland Head Lighthouse. Enjoy the view while feasting on one of six varieties of lobster rolls, freshly prepared by husband and wife team, Karl and Sarah Sutton.
Legions of satisfied customers say the Suttons' rolls are the best to be found anywhere, citing as favorites the Maine-style (dressed with mayo and chives), the Connecticut-style (drenched in hot butter) and picnic-style (with coleslaw, hot butter and celery salt). More adventurous varieties are spiced up with chipotle, curry or wasabi. Round things out with side dishes such as corn, potato salad, coleslaw or blueberry salad.
8. Sheherazad Food Truck
Living up to its motto of "Ancient Eats on the Modern Streets," this truck dishes out an exotic array of authentic Iraqi and Middle Eastern dishes — many of which originated from the generations-old family recipes of its owners.
Prepared using only fresh locally sourced meat, produce, herbs and freshly ground spices, Sheherazad's menu includes falafel, hummus, kabobs, lamb shanks, meat pies, dijajahmer (Iraqi red chicken), and top-selling chicken or beef shawarma. Look for the truck around Copley Square.
9. El Olomega
New York, New York
Visit Brooklyn's Red Hook Park on any summer weekend, and you'll find soccer players vying for space with siesta seekers, but most noticeable is the crowd gathering around a bright yellow food truck named El Olomega.
The truck, operated since 1988 by sisters Teodora and Ana Maria Lainez, is famous for authentic Salvadoran pupusas — griddled corn flour tortillas generously stuffed with the customer's choice of chicken, shrimp, pork, veggies, beans and cheese. Consistently named among New York City's best food trucks, El Olomega won the 2013 Vendy Award as the city's top food vendor.
10. Ms. Cheezious
Conceived by a trio of former food industry executives who hatched up the idea while relaxing poolside during a conference in Las Vegas in 2010, Ms. Cheezious has developed into a spectacularly successful enterprise now including two trucks and a pair of restaurants.
Featuring a menu that greatly expands upon the classic American grilled cheese sandwich, Ms. Cheezious trucks offer a mind-boggling choice of 17 sandwiches. Go for one of their standards, like the Grilled Blue & Bacon (bacon, blue cheese and green onions), Crabby Cheese Melt (crab salad and sharp cheddar) or the Croqueta Monsieur (ham croquettes, tavern ham, Swiss cheese and béchamel).
For dessert? How about a Sweet Meltdown, with a ricotta and orange marmalade blend on Texas toast, drizzled with chocolate sauce. If the menu is too much for you, you can build your own sandwich, choosing from among eight cheeses, five breads and six fixings. Check on Twitter for the location of trucks.
Website: mscheezious.com. Twitter: @mischeezious
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