101 Best Food Trucks in America 2014 (Slideshow)
For the third year in a row, we’re taking a deep dive into the very best of America’s food truck scene. From grilled cheese and pizza to tacos, lobster rolls, and some of the most creative fusion dishes on the planet, these are the 101 best food trucks in America.
Chef and owner Shane Autrey calls his truck, Smoke Et Al — which serves a variety of barbecue — a “boutique smoker.” Using real wood smoke and other techniques to flavor his barbecue fare, Autrey serves dishes such as “Fiddlers Biscuits” (shredded smoked chicken on sour cream sage baked biscuits with wild flower honey and green onions) and a third of a rack baby back ribs, dry-rubbed and hickory-smoked. Keep your eye on this chef, as Autrey is beginning to becoming a household name; he recently took first place in the Chow Masters challenge on the Travel Channel.
Smoke Et Al
When founder Matt Kornmeyer was fired from his job in May 2010, he described how "a strange smile came over [his] face." He saw what most would consider a step back as an opportunity — he could now open the food truck he had been inspired to start since a trip to Portland, Ore. Kornmeyer always knew he wanted to open a restaurant, and from this dream Scratch Truck was born. The menu changes regularly, but continuously serves indulgent comfort foods with interesting flavors. The namesake feature is the Scratch burger, a 1/3-pound custom ground burger with bacon marmalade, gorgonzola cheese, and arugula served on roll with fries. The menu also features a polenta and black bean burger and a Tuscan chicken sandwich. His signature Bacon Marm is so delicious it is now for sale at select retailers in Indianapolis.
Beginning as a food cart with a team of just two people in 2012, Guerrilla Tacos set out “Striving to provide the highest quality, best tasting tacos in Los Angeles,” and many argue that they have accomplished this lofty goal. Their menu selections change daily as their dishes are built around what they are able to purchase fresh from their vendors every morning, but one can generally count on seeing, for breakfast, chorizo tacos with fingerling potatoes, habanero chili, cilantro, and pickled onion; or Neuske's bacon tacos with chile de árbol, scrambled eggs, fried Brussels sprouts, and queso fresco. Later in the day, choose from a selection of tacos with such ingredients as roasted artichoke hearts, red pepper escabéche, spinach, and morita chiles, or something more unusual like the lamb kidney with persimmon chile peppers and avocado.
Specializing in American comfort food, this truck’s menu changes weekly, but count on there always being a special burger and interesting variations on the hot dog, as well as regional specials like New England lobster rolls. Their ingredients are fresh, never frozen, and hormone-free, which is a telltale sign that owners Lisa and Roberto know what they’re doing. Other signs? Roberto attended culinary school in Italy before immigrating to the U.S., and has been the chef in several top hotel kitchens in Las Vegas and the truck’s hometown of San Diego. Lisa’s background in the travel industry has allowed her to travel the world, so you know the regional specials are authentic, not to mention delicious.
Two For the Road
Marfa’s Food Shark may be one of the most out-of-the-way trucks worth a pilgrimage. It’s a "Mediterranean-by-way-of-West-Texas" food truck that has been holding it down in a tiny desert town since 2006.
Co-owner Adam Bork is an artist-musician who advertises around town with his collection of old cars, including a Barcelona matador that was actually made to fly in one Bond movie. His newest and biggest project has been the opening of Future Shark, a cafeteria and day lounge.
The Food Shark's lead menu item, on which most of the rest of the menu is based, is the Marfalafel: a large flour tortilla filled with falafel balls, fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, tahini, yogurt, harissa sauce, and hummus. Desert falafel that does you right — don’t mess.
LOCATION/SCHEDULE: Thursday through Saturday, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. under the pavilion between the railroad tracks and Marfa Book Co.
Neither co-owner of Riffs Fine Street Food truck, B.J. Lofback (Detroit) or Carlos Davis (Barbados), is actually from Nashville, but at this point, their truck is probably beloved enough in the city for it to adopt them as native sons. Lofback (a self-described "culinary school dropout" who credits Emeril Lagasse and Alton Brown for teaching him "a ton") and Davis (a culinary school grad and hotel chef) were inspired to launch Riffs in 2011 after reading about the Kogi Truck in a post on Serious Eats. They’ve gone on to win Nashville’s Battle of the Food Trucks with a menu that leans heavily toward Asian and Caribbean flavors and the motto "Eat. Good. Food." Notes Jim Ridley of the Nashville Scene, "Whether the selection is a spicy Asian beef salad dusted with crunchy noodles, a terrific jerk chicken on skewers or a citrusy fish taco, they embody the energy and variety the mobile-food movement has brought to Nashville's restaurant scene — a tropical breeze currently enjoying the momentum of a hurricane."
Serving Vietnamese fusion like bánh mí, tacos, spring rolls, and more, Nammi Truck is now plural, with two serving the Dallas and Fort Worth area, as well as a brick-and-mortar spot in the Valley View Center mall in Dallas. At the trucks, patrons begin by choosing between barbecued pork, grilled pork, lemongrass beef, lemongrass chicken, and Vietnamese veggie tofu. Next, they decide if they would like it delivered via bánh mí, taco, or rice bowl. Need something lighter? Try one of their more fusion-centric dishes, like Nammi nachos of fried shrimp chips, Asian slaw, green scallions, minced jalapeños, and drizzles of spicy housemade mayo and cilantro cream, along with your choice of protein, or the Spicy Saigon sliders of lemongrass-seasoned beef on Hawaiian rolls with Asian slaw, cucumbers, fresh jalapeños, and cilantro.
Showing up in various parts of The Lou, Cha Cha Chow offers non-traditional tacos (short rib, "Baja style" roasted chicken, curried sweet potato — the latter two on flour tortillas) along with a pretty good burger and a "Cuban Crime of Passion" — pulled pork, pickles, cheese, and mustard on a double-toasted roll. Seasoned fries served with spicy ketchup are a noteworthy side dish.
If you’re looking for a big menu, you’ve sought out the wrong truck. Miami’s Latin Burger & Taco Truck isn’t about tons of options. Former Food Network host Ingrid Hoffman’s truck does just a few things, but does them well. There are burgers. There are fries. And there are tacos. A few options to dress things up, but that’s about it. And you don’t need much more. When it comes to the tacos ("the 3 amigos"), the sampling includes shredded chicken cooked in tomatillo, pulled pork, and chicken mole. But you’re more likely here for the signature dish: the Latin Macho, a chorizo, chuck, and sirloin burger topped with Oaxaca cheese, caramelized onion, jalapeños, and Ingrid Hoffman’s "special avocadolicious sauce" or red pepper mayonnaise.
Flickr/ muy yum
Boston-bred husband and wife duo Patrick Lynch and Ali Fong entered The City of Boston’s Food Truck Contest in 2010, and to their great surprise, came out as winners. The next year, they opened the first Bon Me truck serving Vietnamese street food, and the rest is Bean Town history. Their now four-truck fleet offers a rotating menu of three mains, fillings to place in the mains, sides, drinks, and desserts, and with specials every day such as Sichuan peppercorn chicken, it’s easy to see why local demand enabled them to open a brick-and mortar location in Cambridge, with a second restaurant in the Fort Point neighborhood across from the Boston's Children Museum planned for this fall.
The art for the Ms. Cheezious truck? A scantily clad blond beach babe who practically looks like she’s pulling off her red and white polka dot bathing suit with one hand while holding a melting gooey cheese sandwich in the other. The promise? That the "hottest sandwich lady in Miami" serves "full-bodied flavors" that will "arouse your palate" and promises "to keep you coming back for more." Looking for more good-natured innuendo? "Steamy," "turned on," and "hot" get thrown into the mix, too. The menu includes grilled cheese sandwiches, six standards, and a build-your-own option, with eight cheeses, about five breads to choose from, and six fixings to throw into the mix. Grilled blue and bacon, goat cheese and prosciutto, and crab salad with Cheddar are just a few of the standouts that can be ordered with sides of turkey three-bean chili or tomato soup for dipping, and conventional sweet potato fries. Husband-and-wife team Brian and Fatima Mullins are the force behind the trucks (MC1 and MC2) voted Miami New Times’ best in 2012.
What started out as a small storefront became the Maximus/Minimus catering truck (named after Kurt Beecher Dammeier’s son Max), which with some help from local designer Colin Reedy, morphed into a giant, distressed metal gray pig complete with snout and perked-up ears. (The design was enough to rank Maximus/Minimus among The Daily Meal’s Most Outrageous Food Trucks.)
This truck has a very basic menu — just about four or so options including vegetarian and grilled chicken sandwiches, slaw, "Max & Cheese," as well as beverages like ginger lemonade and hibiscus nectar. But the flagship is the truck’s inspiration pulled pork, which started as braised pork with a barbecue sauce developed at Dammeier’s restaurant Bennett’s. There are two versions of the sandwich, the MAXImus (made with hot and spicy peppers, onions, and fruit juices) and the miniMUS (sweet and tangy with tamarind, honey, and molasses). They also offer Beecher’s Flagship cheese for an additional cost.
Since its opening three years ago, The Peached Tortilla has landed a spot on Food & Wine’s list of the best sliders in America 2012, as well as the number 34 spot on last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list. There’s a fairly long menu of tacos and burritos among other options including riffs on bánh mí, Chinese barbecue, and pad Thai. Want the truck to come to you? Check out their lunch box option; choose your protein and rice and they’ll deliver.
The Peached Tortilla
Before they launched a food truck in 2013, Jason Vowell and Wylie Whitesides first teamed up to unofficially cater the parties they would throw at their office together. Later they purchased a truck for sale online, and Skillet was born. Wanting to avoid limiting themselves to one culinary category or item, they picked a general name so they could serve whatever struck their fancy. The menu changes often, but some dishes served have been green curry fried rice, a BLW (bacon, lettuce, and watermelon), and boudin burger sliders on pretzel buns. They admittedly cater to the late night partiers or those who are suffering in the morning from the escapades of the night before, but you don’t need to be under the influence to enjoy their satisfyingly delicious fare.
Although founder David Choi freely admits he didn’t invent the Korean BBQ taco concept, he believes Seoul Taco has taken it to the next level. Fascinated by the way food defines every culture, he found that locals in many cities kept singing the praises of Korean BBQ tacos. So he tried them. And had his mind blown. The rest is history. Fare from Seoul Taco includes the Gogi Bowl, with rice, fresh veggies, fried egg, sesame oil, and spicy gochujang pepper sauce; burritos with kimchi fried rice, lettuce, cheese, carrots, sour cream, and Seoul Sauce; and tacos with Korean salad mix, green onion, Seoul Sauce, crushed sesame seeds, and a wedge of lime.
Life partners and chefs Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer each have more than 20 years of experience, and also one of the most lauded trucks in the country, earning a spot on U.S. News’ list of America’s most creative food trucks in January 2013. Carlson reportedly cooked for Gray Kunz, Christian Delouvier, and Daniel Humm, while Summer is credited for opening Morimoto’s pastry department and working at Jean-Georges’ JoJo. Ingredients are organic when possible, and from family farms and co-ops within Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the food is served in 100 percent biodegradable packaging. Speaking of which, the menu (seasonal), ranges from signature Indian-spiced mini-donuts, tempura soft-shell crab sandwich, and grass-fed beef tongue tacos to bison burgers, bacon beer brats, and Thai and Indian vegetable curries. There’s literally something for everyone — something Wisconsinites have recently been made aware of at the truck’s Bay City brick-and-mortar location.
Voted Best New Food Truck and Food Truck of the Year at the 2014 Curbside Cookoff Food Truck Awards, Arepa Zone also snagged Breakthrough Dish for their Sifrina Arepa at the same competition. The truck was also named on Eater’s list of The 22 Hottest Food Trucks Across the US Right Now, and it’s easy to understand why with a menu that boasts authentic Venezuelan cachapas (corncakes similar to arepas), tequeños (fried cheese-filled breadsticks), and, you guessed it, arepas. See what all the fuss is about and try a ham and queso de mano cheese cachapas, tequeños that come in sets of five with a side of their housemade AZ sauce, or a chicken and avocado salad arepa.
Featured on HLN’s Making it in America, The Blaxican serves Mexican soul food fusion fare to those hungry for it in Atlanta, offering deeply satisfying plates like like Buffalo chicken tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, and crumbled blue cheese, and Philly nachos with grilled marinated steak, grilled onions and peppers, melted queso, lettuce, pico de gallo, jalapeños, and sour cream. This is a truck that not only has soul, but a lot of heart, as it uses tips and donations collected via their site to help feed those less fortunate through various organizations around Atlanta. They recently opened a brink-and-mortar location that serves the same menu as their truck, along with salads, rice bowls, and tortas.
Flickr/ jason riedy
Bloomberg Businessweek, Smithsonian, U.S. News & World Report, TIME, GQ, and QSR have all named Streetza to their lists of the best, funkiest, coolest, and most creative food trucks in America. What’s behind all the love? Scott Baitinger and Steve Mai co-founded a truck that serves hand-stretched dough baked in a 650-degree oven and crowd-sources everything from pizza toppings to the art on the side of the truck. There are conventional slices, special slices, Milwaukee neighborhood slices using "the best stuff from Milwaukee’s neighborhoods," and slices sourced from Twitter. Things can get crazy; no joke. Look out for vegetable curry and rice, pickled herring, caviar, and potato chips. Other notable slices include S’Mores Pizza, Crab Legs Pizza, and Corn Dog Pizza. And that’s just some of what you’ll find in the "Milwaukee neighborhood slice" category. It doesn’t even touch what’s come across the wire on Twitter.
The colorful Emerson Fry Bread truck, a new addition to this year’s ranking, might very well be the only truck in the country that specializes in a fusion of Native American and Mexican cuisine. Offerings include a Green Chile Chicken Indian Taco (with fry bread instead of a tortilla, a carne asada-topped variation, plenty of sweet variations, and a cult-favorite prickly-pear-based drink.
Emerson Fry Bread
An old blue-and-yellow step van with the exhortation "Admit it…you need a sandwich" on the side, Ebbett's turns up everywhere from the Mission District to the Embarcadero to Emerywille and Oakland, with a seasonal sandwich menu that includes tofu with Asian slaw, grilled English cheddar with bacon and apples, and what can only be termed a Bay Area Cuban — Niman Ranch pulled pork, artisan ham, Gruyère, jalapeño relish, and chipotle aïoli on an Acme Bakery roll.
Flickr/ gary soup
Ah, souvlaki, the "hamburger of Greece." You may be able to find a great souvlaki on every street corner in Athens, but in New York it’s not quite as easy. (New Yorkers, don’t you feel as though the city needs a quality gyro resurgence? Where did this once proud sandwich go?) Promising "a little bit of Mykonos in the heart of New York City," Souvlaki GR has been working to solve that problem the past few years. The owner of the young truck, Kostas Plagos quickly rang up Vendy awards in 2010 as Best Rookie and in 2011 as the People's Choice winner, and opened up a brick-and-mortar version on the Lower East Side.
What’s the fuss? Warm pita wrapped around charcoal-grilled chicken, pork, or sausage with tzatziki, tomato, and onions. There’s also a great Greek burger, the fries are sprinkled with feta (which you can order baked, too), and all your favorite mezedes, from skordalia and hummus to melitzanosalata and taramosalata (eggplant and salmon roe, if you always have trouble remembering which is which).
something about the presentation was just a bit, well, much. In the case of Baby's Badass Burgers, Eater LA noted that means tiny booty shorts, tight tank tops, and high heels worn by the "burger babes," who you can view here.
The truck, the creation of ex-New York restaurateur Erica Cohen and event planner Lori Barbera, has a mysterious section named, "View the Goods," and the logo features a scantily clad girl holding up two burgers near where, well, where the strap of her bra is falling off. All of this, of course, makes it pretty wildly popular on LA’s streets and also on TV — the truck has had cameos on both Entourage and CBS’ The Defenders.
There are seven ½-pound "maneater-sized" burger options on the menu made with ground Angus and served on Kings Hawaiian Rolls, as well as a turkey and vegetable option, all with names drenched with the innuendo you’d expect (Cougar, Mamacita, She’s Smokin!, The Other Woman, and The "Perfect 10"), but The Bombshell is the move: "A ½-pound Maneater sandwiched between two bacon grilled cheese melts, topped with grilled onions and a side of baby’s special sauce." As the menu says: "Baby-Liscious."
Baby's Badass Burgers
Innovative sausages with South African flare are the name of the game at this “Afro-Midwestern mobile sausage wagon” that’s also spawned a brick-and-mortar outpost. Offerings include Red Hots with truffle Cheddar, sweet pickles, sport peppers, and mustard relish (a fine play on the Chicago dog), as well as more outlandish creations like a smoked alligator sausage with fried okra, onions, and chipotle mayo. It seems primed to pick up where Hot Doug’s is leaving off; in fact, they’re offering a free frank to anyone who sports a Hot Doug’s tattoo.
Partners Joey Hong and Andy Park launched this Korean BBQ truck in 2011, and offer a straightforward and solid menu of Korean-style beef, pork, chicken, or tofu tucked inside a taco, quesadilla, or burrito; in a bowl; or on top of a hot dog or kimchee fries. If you’re in Dallas, Ssahm is the destination for Korean barbecue fusion.
Aside from having one of the best food truck names on the planet, Tamale Spaceship serves some darn tasty Mexican cuisine, inspired by Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling). Nine different tamales are on offer, including the Picturesque (Yucatecan-style roasted pork), Complicate (flank steak with Oaxacan black mole), and No Ones (barbacoa-style roasted chicken with Michoacán -style peanut mole), as well as a killer guacamole.
Do you ever get cravings for Asian, Indian, Caribbean, Latin, and Southern flavors all wrapped into one convenient flatbread? At Roti Rolls, chef Cory Burke prides himself on his implementation of "farm-to-truck" ingredients, which manifest themselves in completely unique ways. The truck has won the title of Charleston City Paper’s "Best Rolling Food Machine" in Charleston three times already. With appearances at Bonnaroo and other big-time festivals, Roti Rolls finds ways to get its food out to non-Charlestonian eaters. In December 2012, Burke opened the doors of his own brick-and-mortar restaurant, The Green Door.
Flickr/ Charlestons The Digitel
Chef and owner Richard Hales has been fighting the good food truck fight for a while now in Miami since launching his food truck in 2010. Having dealt with more permit and event issues than he’s likely interested to recall, it’s no surprise that his affordable some 30-item menu is also available at brick-and-mortar locations. But you can still get your "Popcorn" Shrimp Ssäm with spicy sticky rice and banchan in the truck, provided the cops aren’t harassing him. Also try the Kurobuta Pork Belly "Bao" Sweet Chili Bun.
Flickr/ Bob B
After finding inspiration in the falafel shops of Amsterdam, Gail Lillian "pondered how to deliver the same ingenuity, accessibility, and flavor intensity to the streets of the Bay Area." She decided to deliver it "via the cutest truck on Earth." All the falafel, salads, and sweets on the Liba Falafel Truck are made from scratch, the falafel sandwich is served on locally baked pita, and the falafel salad on organic greens (you can top them or stuff them with braised eggplant, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts with red apple and mustard vinaigrette, spiced carrot ribbons, rosemary peanuts, feta, hummus, harissa, fried pickled onions, and more). All the take-away products are compostable ("every little thing" claims Liba’s website under the tab titled, "Falasophy"), and at day’s end, you guessed it, Liba’s oil "gets turned into biofuel." Does it get any more green, cuddly, and cute? Guess what? The food’s good, too.
Sometimes it’s better to let people speak for themselves. That’s the case with the Clover Food Lab's founder Ayr Muir: "We’re here to make food you love, the kind you talk about and look forward to eating. The Clover Food Lab is serving up a new type of fast food. This food is local, it’s just-cut, when we can it is organic." And he means it. There is no back-of-house, no freezer, the menu changes daily with available seasonal ingredients. Even the beverages are "a part of [their] culinary conversation." Cinnamon lemonade, blackberry switchel, hibiscus iced tea — ask any chef in the truck and they can tell you where the ingredients for the drinks come from just as confidently as they can with the ingredients of a sauce. Offering both breakfast and lunch, Clover Food Lab only offers the freshest ingredients in everything it makes, in what Muir describes as, "clean flavors."
Korean tacos, Japanese tacos, Vietnamese tacos; for a while the cuisines from these smaller Asian countries had been allying with that of Mexico and taking over the streets. What about China? Tan Truong, who owns San Francisco’s dessert and wine spot Candybar, had the same idea, a truck "where east meets south… of the border." The Kung Fu Tacos truck's brief menu includes Asian Asada, Nun Chuck Chicken, Mu Shu Veggie, Wu Shu Char Siu (roast pork with green papaya), and their signature roasted duck with mango salsa, hoisin sauce, and green onions.
Flickr/ telstar logistics
The 5411 Empanadas truck (that’s fifty-four eleven, not five-four-one-one) "started in 2009 when three friends from Argentina wanted to bring a piece of their country to Chicago." It may have started small, but despite the restrictions it has faced in Chicago (which have recently loosened up somewhat), 5411 has done very well. In addition to having one of the city’s most iconic food trucks, they also run the 5411 Store featuring desserts and homemade alfajores, as well as fresh empanadas (of course).
The truck’s menu features 10 savory empanadas, with beef being the best-seller, and one dessert empanada (banana and Nutella). The move? The chef’s pick is the Malbec beef: slow-braised beef and sautéed carrots and onions in a malbec reduction with a side of chimichurri sauce.
Bright pink and bearing a painting of a blonde bombshell, “Philadelphia’s First & Only Mac ’N Cheese Food Truck,” opened in the fall of 2012 and has been a mob scene ever since. Two varieties of mac and cheese are offered, one with five cheeses and a secret spice blend and another that’s closer to Alfredo sauce, with garlic, basil, and tomato added for good measure. It doesn’t stop there, though: you can get yours mixed with barbecued chicken, tossed with Philly cheesesteak components, or in a handful of other creative ways. If you’re feeling really adventurous, opt for the Return of the Mac, which sandwiches the mac inside a grilled cheese.
You’d better be able to back it up when you bill yourself as the "best thing in Nashville since country music." Mas Tacos Por Favor’s fervent following would seem to do just that. Besides, Teresa Mason, who started Mas Tacos in 2008 in a 1970s Winnebago, swears that tagline is a direct quote. With fried tilapia tacos and carnitas (and a tortilla soup shout-out from The New York Times’ Kim Severson) this good, it’s not difficult to believe.
Flickr/ sean davis
This Chicago food truck turning out delicious, classic sandwiches, is the love child of husband-and-wife duo Sam Barron and Sarah Weitz, who both have an extensive culinary background (Sam spent time at Chicago’s Everest as well as a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain, and they both cooked in Europe). On the menu are some truly iconic sandwiches, but they’re prepared with the precision of high-caliber chefs. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better Reuben, meatball sub, Buffalo chicken, or old-school griddled salami sandwich anywhere.
The Fat Shallot
You know those people who scoff at grilled cheese being made at restaurants, right? It may or may not be simplistic, but given the love that people have for grilled cheese sandwiches, and the success of so many across the country, one could argue that a restaurant serving the dish isn’t that bad of an idea.
The truth is that there are some monster grilled cheese trucks doing some much beloved things across the country, and The Grilled Cheeserie in Nashville, Tenn., is one of them. Run by Los Angeles transplants Crystal De Luna-Bogan (a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef) and her husband Joseph, The Grilled Cheeserie has been mopping up in Nashville with more than 24,000 Twitter followers and five specialty melts, among them a grilled pimento mac and cheese, a Buffalo chicken melt, and a "Melt of the Moment" (this month’s is the GDG Caprese Melt, with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil pesto, and rosemary garlic butter).
The Grilled Cheeserie
As the name suggests, it’s all about the pierogi here, and it’s one of Chicago’s most popular food trucks. Three varieties of handmade, pan-fried pierogi are available: braised beef, sauerkraut and mushroom, and the top-selling Cheddar and potato, topped with your choice of spicy grilled onions, chopped bacon, sour cream, or sauerkraut (or all of the above). Simple, perfect, and perhaps the making of an empire: a brick-and-mortar outpost called Polak Eatery is opening this weekend.
"The nation's only truck with an onboard smoker" — or at least that is what owner and St. Louis native Ryan Gessel claimed in an SF Weekly article of his Midwest-style barbecue food truck just before its launch. Gessel was referring to the small Southern Pride smoker with digital controls he installed, which allows him to drop the temperature to 150 degrees and slice tender falling apart pieces of brisket to order. In addition to the 13-hour smoked Texas beef brisket (sliced or chopped), Gessel serves four-hour smoked St. Louis style barbecue ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked turkey breast and drumsticks, "skinny legs" dry-rubbed drumsticks, and "St. Louis salsa," black beans, white corn, red bell pepper, cilantro, purple onion, jalapeño, and lime juice. Don’t forget to try the Buttermilk Pie.
Flickr/ gary soup
In 2011, Bucktown bar owner Jim Lasky and executive chef Cary Taylor jumped into the Chicago food truck scene. While the bar doesn’t do lunch, the truck reportedly sold out the first day in 25 minutes. Since then, The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck has earned titles such as Time Out Chicago’s Best New Food Truck 2012, and one of Chicago Mag’s 18 Awesome Food Trucks. The truck features a menu with 12 options: six vegetarian and six decidedly non-vegetarian. Varieties include an asparagus, ramp, and goat cheese mac and cheese; a New Mexican green chile, habanero, and cotija rendition; and truffle, sun-dried tomato, roasted artichoke, and goat cheese. Chef Taylor’s meatier mac and cheeses include riffs on pizza and Buffalo wings. There’s one with pepperoni, tomato, and basil and another with pulled chicken, Buffalo sauce, and blue cheese.
If you love the flavors of Asia and Mexico, crave fresh ingredients, and want a memorable meal, check out Vellee Deli. The menu: the Mojo, a jumbo lemongrass and ginger sausage topped with pico de gallo and fresh papaya; fish tacos; and Chicken Currito, a spicy Thai curry with chicken, potatoes, romaine lettuce, rice, and creamy sauce. The Vellee Deli burrito was awarded City Page’s Best of Minneapolis burrito award, and has racked up several other awards around the Twin Cities as well.
"Gogi" in Korean means "meat." Owner Eric Nguyen hopes you’ll be reciting his truck’s name, "Oh My Gogi!" after sampling his food: Korean BBQ tacos, kimchi quesadillas, and OMG! Fries, in addition to tofu marinades combined with some of the most popular Mexican street foods. Choices of filling include beef short rib, chicken, and spicy pork, and of course, you’ll want to liberally add on the homemade Oh My Gogi! BBQ salsa, a Mexican salsa roja mixed with Korean spices.
Oh My Gogi! BBQ
Fivetenburger’s chef-owner Roland Robles hasn’t suffered for lack of acclaim. His Eel River Ranch 100 percent grass-fed organic 6-ounce burgers have been named one of Grub Street's Top 50 in San Francisco, and his mobile kitchen was named one of SF Weekly’s Best Burgers in 2013.
There are now two trucks, and the burgers are just as popular as ever. They come with lettuce and tomato, house-made pickles, onions, mayo, ketchup, and mustard with your choice of American, Cheddar, and Swiss, you know, like most burgers do. But these aren’t "most burgers." Often, extra toppings substitute as innovation and execution. At Fivetenburger, sure you can add applewood bacon, a cage-free egg, and garlic oil fries, but these burgers shine in their simplicity. Everything’s cooked, toasted, and served in its appropriate ratio. Not feeling like a burger? That same execution is applied to the hot slaw- and hot mustard-topped handmade beef and pork sausage from Taylor’s in Oakland, the New York steak sandwich, and the chicken sandwich with pickled onions, all served in rolls from Bui Phong Bakery.
So here’s how the story goes (at least according to the Jefe’s Original Fish Taco & Burgers truck’s website) in 100 words or less: "Mid-19th century, a young surfer called 'Jefe' ('boss' in Spanish) dominated the waves of Ensenada, Baja, Calif. When not surfing, Jefe helped his father run the family fishing business and his mother with her beach taqueria. People asked Jefe what made him a good surfer. He swore it was mom's fish tacos. Time passed. One year, his father's boat was lost at sea while Jefe competed in a surfing contest, and his mother passed away. Years later, he reopened his mother's taqueria. It became very popular. Jefe died in 1976, but his recipes were rediscovered by a distant relative."
Whatever you believe about that story (keeping in mind that this truck is Miami, not Baja), if you’re among the uninitiated, you need to try two things on the menu. One is the Ensenada-style fish taco with beer-battered crispy fish, shaved fresh green cabbage, pico de gallo, crema, and lime. The other is the Double Cheezer Miami-Style (two patties, two slices of American cheese, and extra everything (for free), which means tomato, lettuce, pickle, onion, and Jefes’ "boss sauce"). Smacks of In-N-Out? Tacos aren’t the only thing worth emulating from California.
Your wish list is about to get a bit shorter. Cucina Zapata serves up Thai food in a taco, so you can go ahead and cross that one off of your food fantasy mash-up list. Dishes include items like Cucina Zapata’s Cap’n Crunch-crusted tilapia burrito topped with avocado, pico de gallo, and peanut sauce. Or the sweet potato curry. Or the Thai short rib tacos covered in veggies and topped with avocado. Boom in your mouth.
LOCATION/SCHEDULE: Check Twitter
Launched in early 2010,Vizzi Truck's menu was said to have been "inspired and crafted by taking French cooking techniques… mixing it with coastal flavors from around the globe, and finishing each bite with subtle Pacific flair." Those "coastal flavors" from around the globe show up on chef David Fuñe’s truck menu in the form of garlic-poached lobster tail, tarragon remoulade, arugula, and crème fraîche on sweet Hawaiian bread. Confused? Relax. Apparently, it doesn’t all have to make sense. Food also isn’t the truck’s only raison d’être — their other goal is to introduce customers to "the sights and sounds of undiscovered talent."
Louisville might not be the first place you’d expect to find a lobster truck, but this one, which launched last November with a menu of lobster rolls, bisque, chowder, and biscuits, is doing fine. Chopped lobster mixed with a tangy sauce costs just $10, with a Cheddar-baked biscuit thrown in for good measure, and Louisville can’t get enough.
Two oversize food trucks with graffiti-covered brick wall-pattern exteriors, South Philly Experience covers much of the LA area, for both lunch and dinner, from Venice and Santa Monica to downtown to the Valley. Yes, of course there's cheesesteak. Also Buffalo steak, pizza steak, and so on (including chicken versions of one and all), not to mention, no, not wings but "tails," which are more or less chicken fingers, deep-fried in batter and served with Buffalo-style hot sauce, celery, and blue cheese. Dessert? Tastykakes, of course.
LOCATION/SCHEDULE: Check Twitter
Flickr/ sean yoda rousse
No prizes for guessing what the signature meat is at this popular sandwich truck, The People's Pig, which has its own mesquite grill, in downtown Portland. The meat is hormone- and antibiotic- (though happily not fat-) free, and while there is a changing daily menu — flank steak and even chicken have been known to appear — you can always count on porchetta, boneless roast pork roast seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and fennel. They also just opened a new brick-and-mortar location.
Tacos, bánh mí, gyros, bistro food, Spanish sandwiches, meatballs… a few years ago, it kind of felt like you’d seen it all. Then in 2009, Schnitzel & Things showed up on the New York City food truck scene and won the Rookie of the Year at the Vendys. Clever, huh? Not something you would have thought you’d find on a food truck, right?
The hand-pounded, lightly breaded, thin cutlets of fried veal, chicken, pork, cod, and (yes there's a vegetarian option) eggplant are really good; so too, the sides, especially the Austrian potato salad (Yukon Gold dressed with white wine shallot vinaigrette and scallions) and the cucumber salad.
For anyone who knows Spanish, the name of this one makes perfect sense. For those who don’t, "El Camión" means "the truck," and this one in particular has been known to be "full of goodness," according to The Seattle Times. El Camión serves quite a few different carnes, including carne asada, pollo asado, carnitas, cochinita pibil, adobada, chorizo, lengua, tripas, cabeza, and fish. There are tacos, burritos, quesadillas, gorditas, mulitas, tortas, tamales, and breakfast burritos. It’s a big menu, and that doesn’t even include the platos, which are worth a spin through of their own. Whatever you get, take comfort that founder McGinnis makes all six of his salsas from scratch.
Stationed on 13th and Norris Streets in the heart of Temple University’s main campus, the Creperie’s offerings are so creative that even if you show up with one in mind you’ll most likely end up choosing one of their wild creations, which include General Tso’s chicken, pizza, sirloin steak with barbecue and ranch, peanut butter and banana, and even one with cheesecake, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
LOCATION/SCHEDULE: 13th and Norris Streets, daily
After working at multiple sushi bars and Japanese restaurants, the friends behind this hit decided to put their expert knowledge to the ultimate test and see if they could create a successful food truck. Victory! The end result was Sushi Fix, where everything is crafted with the utmost care and dedication. Think years of practice scaling fish, to ensure proper sushi cutting; a commitment to the freshest local ingredients, and "washing sushi rice until finger tips don’t feel."
LOCATION/SCHEDULE: Check Twitter
Like the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, and the Atlanta Braves, there’s probably also something vaguely wrong with Coreanos’ caricature of a short Asian man standing under a sombrero, but as with food truck innuendo and sport, you just have to go with it when it comes to Coreanos' truck design. In another homage to LA’s Kogi, Houston’s Coreanos truck serves "Mexican cuisine with Korean in-between."
Of course, that means Korean barbecue tacos, quesadillas, and burritos with your choice of marinated beef short rib, spicy twice-cooked pork belly, spicy marinated chicken, or marinated tofu. Don't forget the fries either. Three Wise Fries are French fries with marinated beef short rib, spicy marinated chicken, spicy twice-cooked pork belly and topped with grilled onions, cheese and "El Scorcho" sauce. That LA homage is driven home by two great menu items: the hot dogs. There’s the L.A. Hot Dog (bacon-wrapped hot dog with grilled onions, grilled jalapeños, and mayo), and the Coreanos dog, also bacon-wrapped with grilled onions but also topped with caramelized kimchi and "El Scorcho" sauce.
Chef Matt Marcus is a CIA-trained chef with time put in at Heston Blumenthal’s three-star Fat Duck in Britain and at Sonoma, Calif.’s acclaimed but now-defunct Cyrus. But the menu served on the "Intergalactic Food Truck" he runs with founders and friends Ryan Soroka and Alex Vassilakidis, includes dishes with names like "Pork Snuggies" (pork belly bao), "Sabotage" (a five-hour roasted pork sandwich), and "Frank the Pretzel" (a homemade chicken poblano sausage with sautéed onions and whole-grain chardonnay mustard on a pretzel bun). He may not take himself too seriously, but Houston’s food lovers have, appreciating the Eatsie Boys enough to have enabled them to launch Mmmontrose Café last fall. While the Eatsie Boys brand has changed with the café and brewery, they haven’t forsaken their truck, and neither have their patrons. While you’re more likely to see the truck catering private events, it’s out, it’s moving, and you can find it at the brewery at least once a week. "We’re a food truck until the day we die," said Soroka. "Our truck is our identity and it is how our business was built. We’ll never abandon the truck."
The Eatsie Boys
This gourmet taco truck is anything but ordinary. The “Messin’ with Texas” is a top seller, filled with slow-cooked brisket, cabbage, and salsa picante, and other offerings include tostadas, chili cheese fries, and avocado fries. They tend to set up shop outside of popular bars, and are certainly a sight for sore (and slightly tipsy) eyes.
Some are sweet, others are savory — but all are delicious at this food truck where dishes are made-to-order in minutes. Using all fresh ingredients, Tokyo Crêpes tickles your fancy with dishes like the spicy corn cheese; the mid-east miracle, featuring falafel, feta cheese, spinach and homemade tzatziki sauce; and the banana tell, a marriage of banana and Nutella.
Small burgers, big plans. Twenty-six-year-old Ric Guerrero launched Slidin’ Thru four years ago after being dumped and ended up with a truck so popular that it has been credited for helping to spawn the Vegas food truck movement, as well as a brick and mortar location. The cartoon-themed truck’s ridiculously delicious-looking sliders with names like Pep Pep (lettuce, tomato, pickle, Cheddar, special sauce, sautéed onion), Chicky Boom (lemon garlic chicken salad with Sriracha), Buffalo Soldier (grilled chicken with lettuce, tomato, crispy onions, Swiss, hot sauce, and ranch dressing), and Captain’s Order (tomato, arugula, feta, and balsamic reduction) keep drawing lines. For good reason.
Igor and Beckie Panasewicz had a proven track record before opening their gluten-free Quiero Arepas food truck. They began by hosting Venezuelan dinner parties in 2009 (Igor was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela where, according to their website, "his memories of enjoying arepas late night after music gigs finally encouraged him to learn to make them for himself"), opened their arepera El Caribe, and their vendor booth was a familiar sight at both the Cherry Creek and City Park Esplanade farmers’ markets. They make their own arepas, use produce from local farmers, local and all-natural meats, and cheese from local cheesemakers in the some 16 different arepas they serve on their rotating menu. Shredded chicken or beef, smoked salmon, sautéed mushrooms, hummus, slow-roasted pork, sliced sausages, eggs scrambled with tomatoes and onions, vegan burger patties — these are just some of the fillings nestled inside the sliced-open cornbread with cheese and other combinations of raved-over accompaniments.
One of the country’s few roving sushi trucks, Fishlips sets up shop in Santo Monica and El Segundo during the day and all around town at night. It’s gimmick-free, with rolls, handrolls, temari sushi (ball-shaped sushi), teriyaki, and sukiyaki, and fish options including yellowtail, tuna, salmon, and some funky specialty rolls like the Spicy Rainbow Roll, with tuna, hot sauce, sesame oil, avocado, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimps, eel, ponzy, and eel sauce. Might have well just called that the Kitchen Sink Roll!
Matt? Who dat? Seattleites know. Why? Ever had a muffuletta in New Orleans? Then you know how hard it is to get a really good one anywhere outside the city. The bread, the flavor, and the ratio of it to cheese, meat, and chopped olive salad — it just seldom comes together. Lucky for Seattle, they have native New Orleanian chef Matthew Lewis, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who counts among his experience tours with Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Alabama, and Seattle’s own Restaurant Zoe and Canlis. Besides the New Orleans-style French bread made for him by a local baker, Lewis claims to make "everything handmade right down to the mayonnaise."
Besides that mean muffuletta on his Creole food truck Where Ya At Matt? , you’ll find his riffs on all the N'awlins classics: jambalaya (rice, chicken, and house-cured Andouille sausage), chicken and Andouille gumbo thickened with okra, red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, and of course, beignets. Of course, no New Orleans menu would be complete without a po’boy and Lewis serves nine different options, which Eater has referred to as one of Seattle’s 18 iconic sandwiches. And while the oyster, shrimp, roast beef, "big bold Creole pork," smoked portabella, smothered chicken, Andouille, and catfish are all reputable, it’s hard to go with anything other than the Peacemaker — fried oysters, house-cured bacon, and Cheddar piled high with lettuce, tomato, pickles, Mama Lil’s Pickled Peppers, and aioli- a dish so delicious that it, along with Matt’s beignets and po'boys, are in the lineup for Eater’s 21 Must-Have Food and Drink Dishes. Really, Seattle? With Lewis’ new Fremont brick-and-mortar spot Restaurant Roux going strong, you’re just being greedy.
La Camaronera is one of Miami’s most well-respected restaurants, an institution known for its super-fresh fish and popular market. Their truck, The Fish Box, roams Little Havana, selling some of the restaurant’s most popular creations, including their fried lobster sandwich, always made to order. Fried seafood doesn’t get any better than this.
"Big Blue" launched in 2009, touting Hawaiian-Korean curb cuisine ("Two cultures, one food truck"), the brainchild of Kamala Saxton and Roz Edison. The pair came up with the idea for Marination Mobile while eating their own marinated spicy pork tacos and commiserating over some unfortunate investments in Wall Street.
Look for tacos filled with sweet and savory kalbi, pork, miso ginger chicken, or "sexy" tofu. They also do a kimchi quesadilla and rice bowl, and serve sliders stuffed with shredded Kalua pork or SPAM. Speaking of SPAM, if you’re looking for something you don’t see too often on a menu outside Hawaii, try the SPAM musubi, grilled SPAM on a block of rice all wrapped up with nori, an occasional menu guest star. Be sure and check out their brick-and-mortar location, as well as Ma Kai: a full bar with breakfast every day except Monday.
In June 2011, former IT professional Brian Farrell introduced the District of Columbia to homemade and gourmet lasagnas made with from-scratch pasta and served on the go. The "scratched" metal finish on this food truck is just where the hard work began for Basil Thyme.
People also seem to really enjoy the food Farrell serves with the help of chef Alberto Vega. There are five different kinds of artisan lasagnas, among them the Linda ("traditional" lasagna with seasoned beef), the Cantena (wine and shallot sautéed chicken with spinach), the Guiseppe (black truffle lasagna with gorgonzola and portobello truffle cream sauce), and the newer lobster or crab lasagnas. It was the Washington City Paper’s readers' pick for second-best food truck in the city in 2012.
As food trucks have become more mainstream, more high-visibility chefs have gotten in on the act. So it is with Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, two Top Chef Masters contestants, long known as Food Network’s "Too Hot Tamales," and as successful West Coast chef-restaurateurs who took the upscale modern Mexican cuisine of their successful Border Grill restaurants to the streets with the Border Grill Truck. Border Grill recipes were adapted to be on-the-go, and if the truck menu isn’t quite as extensive as the restaurant’s, it doesn’t miss by much. There are five or six different taco options (including Yucatan pork, carne asada, and Baja fish); three quesadilla options; corn tortilla cones filled with Peruvian ceviche made with sustainable fish, pickled onion, and aji amarillo; sides like cumin fries, and of course, guac and chips.
Did somebody say bacon? This San Francisco truck is all about the bacon, be it on a burger with sautéed onions and Cheddar, inside a grilled cheese with bacon jam, on a fried chicken sandwich, or in slab pork belly form with a fried egg or in a taco (there’s bacon in there as well). Bacon is also in the fries, along with pickled peppers, and in the desserts (chocolate-covered or with caramel corn). Oh, they also sell straight-up plain old bacon too. If you can’t flag down the truck, there’s also a brick and mortar location on Frederick Street.
Flickr/ andi fisher
As natives of Minneapolis know, Josh Thoma has been no stranger to trouble when it comes to the restaurant business. But he sure seems to have hit it big with Smack Shack, the popular food truck he co-owns with Kevin Fitzgerald. The truck (white with a giant lobster painted on its top), which touts the motto, "Shrimp, Sausage and More," serves lobster rolls that have been voted one of the best in the country by Bon Appétit, shrimp and sausage po'boys, a roasted leg of lamb sandwich, burger, and lobster mac and cheese. For $6 more, you can upgrade your lobster roll to a "King Roll," twice as much lobster as the basic model.
Twitter’s your best bet for finding the truck Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or you can just head over to their sprawling brick and mortar restaurant.
Flickr/ marcus metropolis
The Hotel Bel-Air's former grill chef Erwin Tjahyadi made a splash in 2010 for serving Asian-Mexican fusion that didn’t involve tacos, but burritos, when he launched Komodo. Since then, Tjahyadi’s legend has grown, and his black-and-white Komodo dragon truck has gone brick-and-mortar. But the truck still rages on, serving menu classics like seared top sirloin, grilled marinated chicken, fish n’ grapes, spicy Singaporean-style shrimp, and Indonesian shredded pork rendang with sides like truffle or garlic fries (or tater tots) and meatballs with romesco sauce.
Be they Korean, Asian, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, or Malaysian, Asian-Mexican fusion tacos are old news. But burritos? Undeterred by chef David Chang’s stab at the Asian burrito, the chef behind this Los Angeles food truck, Yo Pratioto, took the burrito concept and applied a perhaps even more daring spin on it: sushi. You get your choice of traditional tortilla or near transparent sesame-studded soy paper wrapped around a healthy portion of vinegary-sweet sticky rice rolled around spicy tuna and cucumber with your choice of fillings like barbecue eel, crabmeat, or shrimp tempura. And if that’s not enough fusion for you, there are always the spicy tuna nachos.
Once upon a time, Jim Pittenger repossessed cars. Now? He splits hot dogs right down the center, chars them on a gas grill, and tops them with Coca-Cola-soaked grilled onions and a "swizzle of cream cheese unloaded from the front end of a caulking gun." Some of the dogs on the menu at Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs include rattlesnake and pheasant, linguisa, duck cilantro, southwest buffalo, pheasant, and Louisiana Red Hots, but the elk, wild boar, and reindeer have been attested to by none other than everyone’s favorite gastrogrouch Anthony Bourdain.
In 2005, chef Einat Admony and her husband Stefan Nafziger, homesick for their favorite Tel Aviv street food, opened their own falafel shop on Waverly Place. Five years later, and with much anticipation, they launched the food truck version of Taïm. And while some of New York City’s chicken and lamb carts might not be too happy about their presence (don’t worry Moroccan mystic on 21st and Fifth, you and your secret eggplant and onion stash have nothing to be insecure about), most of Gotham’s street lunch seekers are, especially those who don’t eat meat (though it’s a welcome break for even the most ardent carnivore). The menu features the standard falafel sandwich with hummus, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage, and tahini, as well as platters and salads and sides made from just about the same ingredients. But you shouldn’t miss the special red pepper falafel they frequently offer, and make sure to ask for everything (and extra of it) and they’ll add s’rug (Yemeni hot sauce), amba (pickled mango chutney), Israeli pickles, and spicy peppers for a spicy, crunchy, wet, delicious mess.
Flickr/ dan dickinson
After competing in the first L.A. Vendy Awards, chef Sumant Pardal took the title in 2012. But Pardal is no culinary newcomer; he's been in business in the greater Los Angeles area for more than 25 years, owning (by his count) at least 12 restaurants, and feeding hungry Angelenos with his India Jones Chow Truck for the past five. The fare? Frankies. For the uninitiated, frankies are a Mumbai street food, an egg-washed Indian wrap, filled here with lamb, chicken, beef, shrimp, paneer, or mushroom and cheese. There are also curries (butter chicken, tikka masala, or one of the other vegetable or meat curries of the day), and paratha (spicy stuffed roti) served with raita, aloo (potato), gobhi (cauliflower), or keema (minced beef).
The uninitiated ask, “What’s a pupusa?” Those who’ve experienced Solber Pupusas usually answer, “a forty-five minute wait that’s worth it.” This traditional food from El Salvador consists of grilled corn masa patties that are hand-shaped and stuffed with cheese and meat (chicharron, chicken, fish, even pepperoni) and vegetable (pumpkin flower, beans, spinach, and zucchini). Winning the Vendy’s in 2011 was almost like the food world’s version of an Oscar for lifetime achievement – Solber Pupusas has been being served at the Red Hook ballfields for more than a decade.
Cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac were born and raised in Maine, and years later, while living in L.A., they decided to open a lobster truck, which first hit the streets in early 2012. Today they’re dishing up classic Maine and Connecticut-style lobster rolls as well as lobster tacos, crab rolls, shrimp rolls, lobster tots, and deep-fried Maine lobster on a stick, as well as lobster bisque and New England clam chowder, all while running a mail-order business as well as pursuing franchise opportunities. Thought you couldn’t fine super-fresh Maine lobster in L.A.? Think again!
Ever waited on a Paris "rue" and seen one of those street vendors with a line of people behind you hungrily expecting that their crepe with ham and cheese will be the next one to be folded over into paper and handed over for a few euros? Then you remember that warm, salty cheesiness, the reaffirming enjoyment of life that comes with biting down into well-made freshly cooked crepe. It’s thin. It’s crispy. It’s salty, gooey, satisfying, and soul-affirming in a way that almost shouldn’t be possible. And yet it is. The partners behind Crepes Bonaparte know that love, too.
The truck was an offshoot of founder Christian Murcia’s graduate project at USC’s School of Entrepreneurship. As Food Network notes about one of its past The Great Food Truck Race contestants, "Emulating the experience of ordering a crepe off the streets of Paris, Christian, [his wife] Danielle Law , and his childhood friend Matthew Meyer, take crepes out of the fine dining realm." Every month features a new crepe of the. All of the crepes are served from the truck by folks wearing berets, black vests, and ties to the sound of French pop. Own it, baby. Own it.
Chef Thomas Odermatt calls himself "more of a caterer nowadays," but this son of a Swiss “Metzgermeister” (master butcher) who still pulls his Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie truck into farmers’ markets, would deserve to rank among America’s best food trucks just for his prescience. Odermatt went into the food truck business over 10 years ago, a good five or six years before the trend took off, a time before Twitter, when, as Inside Scoop SF reported, getting a break publicity wise was tough, and the truck’s big media break came when news of the truck being stolen made the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle ("It's the first truck with a giant chicken ever stolen in the city, a police dispatcher said.").
After earning his master’s in organic farming in Zürich and attending UC Berkeley, Odermatt became more interested in the "wood fired ovens of Chez Panisse and the lively farmers’ markets," and took the popular rotisserie dinners he’d been making for friends on the road in a food truck. If you’re lucky enough to find Roli Roti at a market, you’re probably just going to want to order each of the three signature items: the RoliRoti Combo (a quarter chicken and a side of rosemary roasted potatoes), the porchetta sandwich, and the roasted pork knuckle. Be sure to check out their seasonal menus, too.
KoJa Kitchen, a portmanteau of "Korean" and "Japanese," serves a menu combining flavors from both cuisines between toasted rice cake patties. It’s a clever and different idea that’s refreshing in a field that’s filled with corn tortillas, flour tortilla wraps, bao, and burger and hot dog buns. Look for Korean barbecue beef, chicken with pineapple, and teriyaki "vegetarian chicken," and the signature Kamikaze criss-cut fries topped with Korean barbecue beef, sautéed onions, kimchi, green onions, and Japanese mayo. There’s a clever play on the tiramisu, too, the "Mochimisu," a short tower of lady fingers and mascarpone layered with chocolate mochi.
Flickr/ i am jeffrey
“Be Careful How You Pronounce It," noted one headline announcing the arrival of Robert "Mags" Magsalin and Colin Fukunaga’s exotic burger and fry truck back in 2010. Just keep in mind that it’s a last name when you say the truck’s name out loud (who’s kidding who here, you know what you’re going to call it), and get ready to choose from a menu of just five burgers (plus a chicken katsu sandwich).
Fukuburger’s "All-American" burgers with a Japanese twist feature toppings like wasabi mayo, pickled red ginger, avocado cream, Japanese barbecue sauce, and furikake (dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, and salt).
Some say that the American Dream is dead; others try their hand at pursuing it. So it was with Mutsuo "Jay" Hamada, a Silicon Valley IT guy who according to SF Weekly, after being laid off in 2008, sold his house, and moved to Japan for six months to apprentice "in Kanagawa Prefecture with a young ramen chef called Roku to learn the intricacies of tonkotsu." Believing ramen to be impractical for a food truck, Hamada settled on something else he’d learned a little about, Japanese curry.
"The recipe for JapaCurry is based on Jay's special style and the curry is made from scratch and takes several days of cooking with secret spices and superior ingredients," his site notes. Lucky for you, all you need to do is order katsu (deep-fried pork or chicken) curry over rice, sausage, pumpkin, or kara-age curry, settle in, and enjoy. With a consistent food truck following, and a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Izakaya Roku, Hamada's gamble on selling his house seems to be paying off.
Behind the Food Carts
Cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac were born and raised in Maine, and years later, while living in L.A., they decided to open a lobster truck, which first hit the streets in early 2012. Today they’re dishing up classic Maine and Connecticut-style lobster rolls as well as lobster tacos, crab rolls, shrimp rolls, lobster tots, and deep-fried Maine lobster on a stick, as well as lobster bisque and New England clam chowder, all while running a mail-order business as well as pursuing franchise opportunities. Thought you couldn’t fine super-fresh Maine lobster in L.A.? Think again!
Roxy’s gained national visibility via season two of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. While the season was ultimately won by the brash trio behind The Lime Truck, Roxy definitely held their own.
Brothers and bandmates James and Mike DiSabatino teamed up with trained chef Marc Melanson to sling some pretty sick cheesy sandwiches (griddled with mayonnaise instead of butter). The truck features a rotation of sandwiches perhaps best described by James as "grilled cheese without borders." The menu rotates, but staples include the Green Muenster (Muenster, guacamole, and applewood bacon), Mighty Rib Melt (fontina, braised short ribs, and caramelized onions), and, of course The Rookie Melt (Vermont Cheddar and vine-ripe tomatoes). Sandwiches and sides are cooked to order, and take comfort: you can add bacon to anything.
In case you’re wondering about tracking them down, they’ve now got two trucks roaming the streets of Boston to make it a little easier.
Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Self-described as "a food truck catering to the lowcountry's most discriminate tastes," Pot Kettle Black specializes in "regional immigrant sandwiches and soups." The force behind PKB is chef Jon Caton, whose wayward bistro the Charleston City Paper notes has served winners like dipped Italian beef, muffulettas, pimento grilled cheeses, and perhaps most notably, The Duck Hunt, a duck confit, arugula, and Brie baguette.
Pot Kettle Black
St. Louis has something you probably don’t: a badass food truck serving Filipino-inspired cuisine with the motto: "Fresh. Local. Filipino." The founder and chef Joel Crespo and Brian Hardesty have been open for a couple of years and already they’ve taken over the Gateway to the West, their Guerrilla Street Food truck being named the 2012 "Best Food Truck in St. Louis" by the Riverfront Times.
The rotating menu of dishes might require a little explanation to those who are less than familiar with Filipino cuisine, but you don’t need a passport to order Guerrilla’s signature dish, the "Flying Pig:" slow-roasted pork set on jasmine rice, topped with egg, and accented by calamansi tartness and Sriracha heat. Or try the "Cold Shrimp Noodles.”
Sometimes you just have to fully embrace a theme and go with it. That’s what chef and owner Justin Turner has done with his Houston burger bus, an old-school short bus that takes the school shtick all the way from labeling press as "report cards" and truck swag as "school supplies," right down to the name of every burger. But it’s all done with a good-natured wink and elbow to the ribs to bring you in on the fun.
Turner, the former personal chef for Miami Heat forward Shane Battier, is said to have gotten his start flipping burgers at Wendy’s at age 16, but the burgers from Bernie's Burger Bus are a blend of three cuts of natural Black Angus beef, served with homemade toppings including the ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles.
The burgers? There’s The Principal, of course (classic burger), The Substitute (blue cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions), the seasonal Study Hall (Cheddar, barbecue sauce, and pork belly) and Fire Drill (roasted tomatoes, pepper jack, chipotle aioli, spicy guac, and crispy tortilla strips). But let’s face it, if you’re going back to school, you’re going to either want to take down The Bully (two patties, Cheddar, fixings, and roasted tomatoes), or go to Detention (two applewood-smoked bacon grilled cheeses sandwiches used as the bun, two patties, Cheddar, "tipsy onions," and fixings). And if you finish detention, you get on the Bernie’s wall of fame.
They run three buses throughout the Houston area, so unless you confuse them for an actual school bus, Bernie’s Burgers shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Bernie's Burger Bus
The “AZ” in AZ Canteen stands for Andrew Zimmern, and his food truck is his self-styled “food adventure,” hawking a wide menu of dishes that span the culinary spectrum, from andouille, oyster, and crab gumbo to griddled veal tongue sliders, Pat La Frieda goat sausage grinder, Nicaraguan dulce de leche shaved ice, and a goat butter burger with roasted tomatoes, charred onions, and sweet pickles. The truck made an immediate splash when it first hit the streets last year, and if some of the creations sound a little bizarre… well, would you expect anything different from Andrew Zimmern?
Flickr/ Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The highest-ranked newcomer to our list, Pepe is run by none other than José Andrés, the reigning king of Spanish cuisine in America. The truck rolls through D.C., Maryland, and Virginia during lunchtime every day, offering Spanish flauta sandwiches as well as seasonal soups, desserts, and non-alcoholic sangria. So what’s on a traditional Spanish flauta, exactly? How about seared Ibérico pork with serrano ham, roasted green peppers, caramelized onions, and aioli? Or a grilled cheese with manchego, Murcia, Valdéon, goat cheese, and membrillo? Or seared beef tenderloin, caramelized onion, piquillo pepper confit, and blue cheese? Andrés, we heart you.
Billed as "San Antonio’s only Pakistani food truck," Rickshaw Stop is a family-owned-and-operated affair run by Sameer and Meagan Siddiqui with the help of Sameer’s mother Gety, Aunt Bina, and Uncle Shabbir. "Each recipe we use has been created and approved by the entire Siddiqui/Khan family," their site proudly notes. Rickshaw Stop’s two main items are kebabs and samosas. Sounds simple, but the simplest things sometimes require the most attention, and the Siddiqui/Khan quality assurance team has made sure of that. Rickshaw Stop marinates both their beef and chicken for at least 48 hours "to ensure all of the Pakistani flavors are distributed throughout the meat — no exceptions." If they don’t, they’ve explained, "the flavor is completely different." And that’s simply not acceptable. Not when they hold themselves to the standard of serving food you’ll likely only have had if you’re "friends with a Pakistani family or you’ve spent extensive time in Pakistan." The move here is obvious: get The Tony and ask for one of each kebab (one beef, one chicken), plus two samosas. For $6 you can get a chicken or beef kebab, marinated in a Pakistani spice mix, char-grilled over an open flame, and served taco-style in thin, flaky Pakistani paratha bread with onions, cilantro, and three sauces: Spicy (cilantro/mint), Sweet & Sour (tamarind), and Mild (yogurt/cilantro).
Flickr/ matt richmond
It’s just the kind of embarrassment of riches that food trucks have brought that New Yorkers can fight over who has the better lobster roll truck. (It also says a lot about the migration of lobster rolls as a sandwich that besides finance guy Luke Holden’s lobster roll truck Nauti, he also now has seven New York locations, and five in the Beltway.) Born and raised in Cape Elizabeth, a small town on the coast of Maine, Holden "grew up lobstering, built his own skiff, and launched a lobster company while still in high school." These days, the lobsters are taken from the dock to Luke’s family seafood business Portland Shellfish. According to the Luke’s Lobster site, "In just hours, the frisky pinchers are steamed, picked, and individually wrapped before they’re sent south." At Luke’s Lobster, chilled lobster is served in a buttered and toasted split-top bun "with a swipe of mayo, a sprinkle of lemon butter, and a dash of our secret spices." You can order it without mayo, butter, and spices, too if you’d like, or opt for either the crab or shrimp roll, but this menu's move is the lobster roll.
Sam’s ChowderMobile is the offshoot of Sam’s Chowder House, a 225-seat seafood restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Half Moon Bay, Calif., that opened in 2006. Of course, the 24-foot-long truck headed by owner Paul Shenkman serves New England clam chowder (made with clam broth, cream, clams, potatoes, smoked bacon, onion, and thyme), but the mobile menu also features fried seafood favorites like calamari, fish and chips (Old Bay fries), a piled-high shrimp or Andouille po’boy, and a lobster roll.
They’ve also received significant attention including a spot on the Cooking Channel’s Eat Street, recognition as one of the top 12 food trucks in San Francisco by Zagat, and an appearance at number 29 on last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list.
Flickr/ gary soup
The offerings at Red Hook Lobster Pound are so delicious, they made our list twice. Originating in Brooklyn, N.Y., Red Hook Lobster Pound has since expanded to Washington, D.C. and Montauk, N.Y., with plans to open in more cities in the future. The owners, so the story goes, "were tearing into the fresh live lobsters that they’d brought home from a trip to Maine, wishing that someone would start a business bringing live lobsters to Brooklyn," until it dawned on them, "why not us!" Six months later, The Red Hook Lobster Pound opened. Ralph Gorham haggles with lobstermen in Maine each week, and wife Susan Povich devised the menu. There are shrimp rolls, a lobster BLT, bisque, and New England and shrimp and corn chowder, but let’s face it, it’s really about the lobster roll here.
Flickr/ mr tin dc
You’d have thought it would have hurt team Korilla BBQ for being called cheaters for adding more than $2,000 of their own money into their cash drawer on what has basically been the representative show for food trucks on cable TV (Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race). But chef Tyler Florence sending this truck packing didn’t relegate its owners Edward Song, Paul Lee, and Stephan Park to obscurity — it has quite the following in New York City.
Taking a cue from Kogi like so many others before it, Korilla BBQ does the whole Korean-Mexican fusion thing, but in orange tiger-striped fashion. Offering three ways to KBBQ: tacos, burrito, or the chosun bowl, the menu features several playfully named options including the "Ribeye of the Tiger," "Porkinator," "Wonder Bird," and "Kimchi Time."
Flickr/ h bomb
If you’re a Top Chef fan, you likely know the man behind East Side King even if you haven’t sampled its menu. Behind the four East Side King trucks are the asphalt ambassadors from the likeable and disarming Top Chef season nine winner and former executive chef at Austin’s Uchiko, Paul Qui. Chef Qui’s truck menus represent his spin on Japanese street food, the results of what Southern Living reported as two research-and-development trips to Japan after winning Top Chef. The results? Fried potato noodles with pork and kimchi stew, mapo tofu chili, a pork melt and pork chop sandwich, and fried chicken fried rice.
East Side King
"Steadfast in the belief that the heavy metal and culinary worlds were bound to collide one day in a victorious marriage of massive meat and riffage," buddies and bandmates chef Ryan Harkins and Matthew Chernus won it all in 2010 with their over-the-top burgers when they beat fellow Los Angeles food truck Nom Nom during Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race.
You’ll be tempted to order the Molly Hatchet (fennel sausage gravy, bacon, and maple syrup), the Dee Snider (peanut butter, jelly, bacon, and Sriracha), and the Witte (pronounced "Wit-e," a burger topped with cream cheese, deep-fried bacon, beer and Sriracha onions, and malt vinegar aioli), but you haven’t "grilled ‘em all" until you’ve tackled the Behemoth: two grilled cheese "buns" with Cheddar, bacon, beer-soaked onions, pickles, and "Grandma’s Mosh Pit BBQ Sauce" and a side of hand-rolled tater tots.
Last year, Grill ‘Em All also opened a stationary location on Alhambra, Calif.’s Main Street. If not entirely unique in its menu (they have some truck favorites including "Napalm Death"), then it certainly is for its mural depicting a wizard "cavorting" with medieval burger trolls. They’ve moved a lot of their operation to the stationary location, but still bring the truck to the streets. Be sure to check their schedule ahead of time.
Does the lobster roll at the Lobsta Truck (whose inspiration comes from what has to be considered one of the best, if not the best lobster roll in the country) serve as much lobster as its muse Red's Eats in Wiscasset, Maine? No. But the Lobsta Truck is also serving $12 rolls on the road, all the way across the country in Los Angeles, where Maine lobster doesn’t come quite as easily as out of the traps from the water nearby Red's, and they certainly have the right idea in mind that it doesn’t get much better than Red's.
Former seafood distributor and truck owner Justin Mi was inspired by the idea to start an LA lobster roll truck after doing a lobster roll tour through Maine (something that can practically inspire you to just move there). He flies in fresh lobsters from Maine and Canada several times a week (and those famous top-loading buns), and offers a simple menu that has been a hit in LA, and now also in San Francisco. There's little more than the lobster roll (clam chowder, lobster bisque, chips, whoopie pie, and an ice cream sandwich), but they've added one West Coast item that's likely to make many East Coast seafood lovers jealous enough to start thinking how they can get their own version: a fresh Dungeness crab roll.
What’s sisig? It’s a Filipino dish made from pig’s head and liver, often seasoned with calamansi and chili peppers, and at San Francisco’s Señor Sisig, it’s obviously the star of the show, except that as SF Weekly noted, chef Gil Payumo makes the trucks version with pork shoulder instead of offal, "for a cleaner and meatier sisig." Payumo launched the truck in 2010 with high-school friend Evan Kidera and the two have been slinging sisig on tacos, fries, nachos, and in burritos ever since. You have basically five options at Señor Sisig, with your choice of protein being pork, chicken, or tofu. There are tacos with onions, lettuce, and cilantro cream sauce. A Señor Sisig burrito takes those toppings minus the onions and adds adobo rice, pinto beans, and salsa, but their signature is probably the California Sisig Burrito featuring fries, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. If that’s not out there enough, "Silog it" for $1 more and add an egg to your sisig.
Brash and cocky, the trio behind the Orange County, California-based Lime Truck (owner Daniel Shemtob, with Jason Quinn and Jesse Brockman) wore lime-green headbands in the fast lane through much of season two of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Road Race, winning the show. The three founders, who launched the truck in June 2010, pride themselves on "local, organic, and sustainably sourced fresh ingredients, paired with hip, inventive recipes." The truck offers a variety of Mexican-inspired items with a fun twist, from their ahi tuna poke nachos to carnitas fries. To keep up with their growing fan base, the truck now has merchandise available online.
The Lime Truck
You might not remember this, but San Francisco’s Chairman Bao Bun Truck really stuck in the craw of New York City restaurateur turned food and pop culture commentator Eddie Huang. Apparently, it was a bit much that another business serving Asian food took the word "bao" and deigned use it in the name of their food truck. "I'm 28 years old, I opened the restaurant last year, I did it all with my own money," Huang told SF Weekly’s BuzzMachine. "Street trucks are like independent businesses, many times ethnic. To co-opt something like this reeks of corporations." Then he started talking about suing them, too. If that’s the case, Roy Choi should basically have sued every food truck across the country.
Regardless, the Chairman Bao Bun Truck did change its name to "The Chairman,” and still draws lines for its simple menu of steamed and baked buns, which are known for having featured pork belly with pickled daikon, crispy garlic tofu with miso greens, and red sesame chicken with pickled carrots and cucumber. It’s a San Francisco favorite and has been honored as one of San Francisco’s best food trucks by San Francisco Magazine.
What started for Michele Grant and chef Dave Danhi as a weekend activity entering their Cheesy Mac and Rib melt into LA’s seventh annual Grilled Cheese Invitational became the inspiration for The Grilled Cheese Truck. Their calling? "Not just the classic bread, butter, and cheese," notes their site, "but amazing creations that are constructed with the best ingredients, local produce, and made with nothing but love."
The menu features no fewer than six savory melts (the Plain and Simple melt, the Cheesy Mac and Rib, the Brie melt, the Buffalo Chicken melt, the Three Cheese melt, the Goat Cheese melt) most with a variety of complementing ingredients. But the menu goes beyond classic and clever combinations; there are also additions:15 savory (among them, BBQ smoked pork, mac and cheese, bacon, avocado, and smoked turkey) and six sweet, including Nutella, toasted marshmallows, roasted banana purée, candied pecans, peanut butter, and graham crackers.
They made it to last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks in America list at number 22.
The Grilled Cheese Truck
In 2007, Thomas DeGeest quit his job at IBM, bought a yellow 1968 Chevy box truck, and parked on a corner of Broadway in SoHo to sell his first Liege waffle. He made $84 that first shift and never looked back. Some six years and several trucks and carts later, DeGeest helms one of the most iconic, lauded (they were at number 13 in last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list), and beloved trucks in the city, not to mention carts as well as an East Village brick and mortar outpost.
Wafels, whether Brussels (rectangular, doughier, and saltier) or Liege (usually more ovoid, chewy, and sweet), come with your choice of dinges (sides) that include dulce de leche, Belgian chocolate fudge, maple syrup, whipped cream, walnuts, bananas, butter, Nutella, strawberries, and perhaps one of the most underrated toppings of our time, speculoos. Imagine Golden Grahams cereal in dessert sauce form. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it actually originates from a thin, crunchy cookie typically made using butter, sugar, and a combination of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and sometimes ginger), and if it’s your first topping, it’s free (for $2 you can load your wafels with every topping in the truck).
While a dessert truck, there are definitely some elusive savory options worth investigating (they’re not available at the carts), including the seasonal "pulled pork wafel”: BBQ pulled pork, coleslaw with a coolickle (yes, the Kool Aid pickle), and sweet BBQ sauce.
What started at Ralph Gorham's and Susan Povich's kitchen table (yes that Povich — she's the daughter of former A Current Affair host and daytime TV star Maury Povich), has turned into a hugely successful multi-city lobster roll truck. The truck, "Big Red," opened in 2010 in New York City, bringing "Maine-style" lobster rolls to the masses. The Red Hook Lobster Truck has a variety of seafood indulgences to offer. There are shrimp rolls, a lobster BLT, lobster bisque, and New England and shrimp and corn chowder, but let’s face it, it’s about the lobster roll: lobster, served cold with celery, spices, a touch of homemade mayonnaise and on a J.J. Nissen split-top bun (or Connecticut-style, warm and buttered). Save for Pearl Oyster Bar's version, many folks (including Time Out New York, Zagat, and us) agree that it's one of the best lobster rolls in New York; it appeared in the top spot in last year’s list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America.
The team recently opened a shop in Montauk, N.Y., with partner Sweet’tauk Lemonade. In addition to their new ventures, the truck is still driving around New York. The lunch move? The Hookup: a lobster roll with Cape Cod chips and a choice of Maine Root Sodas (root beer, ginger brew, mandarin orange, blueberry, sarsaparilla, or lemon-lime).
"Has a 1991 Grumman / Chevy P30 become a Buddha?" asks The Cinnamon Snail’s website. No, you don’t have to prepare to get into chaturanga, but this is a full-on vegan and organic food truck — right down to the grill, which, when the truck was gutted, was replaced with "a brand-new commercial grill which had never touched animal flesh." So what food inspires centeredness and bliss? What kind of menu serves "food to help you transform into a being of pure light who can serve all living creatures simultaneously and eternally"? Well, a seasonal one to start. But the truck, a longtime dream of Adam Sobel (who previously ran a vegan catering service in New Jersey), has a menu that features breakfast, raw food, sandwiches, and pastries. There are burritos with scrambled tofu and refried beans, blue corn or fresh plum pancakes with pine nut butter and chamomile blood orange syrup, and sandwiches featuring seitan burgers, tempeh, and grilled tofu. Despite being vegan, this truck clearly caters to a pretty universal crowd, which explains it winning the 2012 Vendy Award and Mobile Cuisine magazine’s "America’s Favorite Vegetarian Food Truck," making New York Post’s top trends of 2012, earning first place on the Best of Yelp NYC Restaurant list of 2012, in addition to coming in eighth place on last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list.
"Thanksgiving of 2008, Kogi BBQ had first rolled out as the little Korean-taco-truck-that-could, peddling $2 Korean barbecue tacos on the streets of LA. Little did they know that within… months, they would become an icon of LA street food. Kogi set off a flavor bomb that would shake up the foundations of the industry so that street food would never be looked at the same way." That’s from Kogi’s site. What’s the saying? It ain’t bragging if it’s true? So it goes with chef Roy Choi’s truck, which you can credit (or at this point, blame) for the proliferation of Asian tacos across the U.S. Korilla, TaKorean, Jogasaki, these guys, among many others, should be paying Choi royalties. After appearing at number one on our 101 Best Food Trucks list in 2012 and at number two last year, the truck continues to be an icon in the food truck world. Serving delicious Asian tacos at an incredibly reasonable price, this truck has made headlines and was named the fifth-best restaurant by Jonathan Gold in 2013. The company now has four trucks (one specifically for catering events). The group has also opened two restaurants, Alibi Room and Chego. With more than 128,000 Twitter followers, it is clear that this truck as reached celebrity status.