#79 Where Ya At Matt?, Seattle from 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015
101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015
People’s Food Truck
101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015
Food trucks are more than just kitchens on wheels. Even if the buzz around the food truck renaissance started off frenzied and then cooled a bit, the resilience of these mobile eateries is a testament to the fact that creative, quite literally chef-driven food need not be limited to wallet-busting restaurants with month-long waiting lists. Here is our fourth annual list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America.
#101 Swizzler Gourmet Hot Dogs, Washington, D.C.
In 2012, three juniors at North Carolina's Wake Forest University invented a new fast food concept — quality hot dogs spiral-cut lengthwise so they could better hold and integrate their toppings, which fall nicely into the grooves — as part of a class project. The idea was good enough to survive graduation, and in 2014 the trio launched this mobile doggery. The franks are grass-fed beef. The offerings range from the J(ersey) Dawg (sauerkraut, diced onions, and spicy brown deli mustard) to the Acropolis (homemade tzatziki, feta, Kalamata olives, red onion, and cherry tomatoes), with flavors of Italy and the South along the way. We’re almost certain that the only reason this gem isn’t higher on the list is because they are brand new on the scene.
Foodie Call / Facebook
#100 Foodie Call, New Orleans
This cleverly named food truck serves burgers, sandwiches, fries, and a mouthwatering crawfish pie made with popcorn rice, local crawdaddies, sweet corn, and mushrooms in a crispy empanada shell. It’s all in the details: Their original burger is latticed with Cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, and their ham and brie sandwich is elevated by a complex fig mustard. They can call us anytime. Foodie Call made our list of 101 Best Food Trucks in 2012, but dropped off in the following years. Since we opened our votes up to the public this year, we’re guessing fans of the truck have been devoted to their food all along.
Sakaya Kitchen / Facebook
#99 Dim Ssäm à Gogo by Sakaya Kitchen, Miami
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 he makes his affordable 30-item menu available at brick-and-mortar locations as well as his truck. But you can still get your "popcorn" shrimp ssäm with spicy sticky rice and banchan on wheels — provided the cops aren’t harassing Hales. Also try the kurobuta pork belly "bao" sweet chili bun. Every once in a while, you’ll find them at the beautiful Wynwood Art Walk.
Snowday / Facebook
#98 Snowday, Brooklyn
Snowday serves self-described “gourmet lumberjack” fare, meaning they take maple syrup and utilize it in some delicious, sweet-meets-savory ways. Exhibit A: their signature grilled cheese sandwiches, which you can order plain or with smoked ham, pea shoot pistou, or strawberry chutney. All the food is sourced from farms in New York. Even better, it serves an excellent cause. The truck employs formerly incarcerated youth, aiding these marginalized individuals through the difficult transition back into society.
Solber Pupusas / Facebook
#97 Solber Pupusas, New York City
Pupusas, a traditional food from El Salvador, consist of grilled corn masa patties that are hand-shaped and stuffed with cheese, meat (chicharrones, chicken, fish, even pepperoni), and/or vegetables (pumpkin flowers, beans, spinach, zucchini). Winning the Vendys in 2011 was almost like the food world’s version of an Oscar for lifetime achievement — Solber Pupusas has been serving these treats at the Red Hook ballfields for upwards of a decade. Is the 45-minute wait worth it? Customers will almost always say absolutely.
Rigatoni’s Mobile Crab Cakes / Facebook
#96 Rigatoni’s Mobile Crab Cakes, Prospect Park, Pa.
“The best crab cakes are not in Maryland,” boasts the writing on the Rigatoni’s Mobile Crab Cakes truck, “They’re here.” In Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, that is. Don’t believe us? Check out the lines outside the truck on their Facebook page. After all, who could resist their delightful take on the specialties of Baltimore and Philadelphia in the form of their crab pretzel, a soft pretzel topped with crab dip and Cheddar cheese? Their crab-stuffed onion ring ain’t too shabby either.
#95 Arepa Zone, Washington, D.C.
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 — a grilled corn patty stuffed with chicken salad, avocado, and shredded Cheddar — at the same competition. With a menu that boasts authentic Venezuelan cachapas (corn cakes similar to arepas), tequeños (fried cheese-filled breadsticks), and, you guessed it, arepas, we can see why Arepa Zone is finally getting a coveted spot in Union Market. See what all the fuss is about and try a ham and queso de mano cheese cachapa, or tequeños, which come in sets of five, with a side of their house-made AZ sauce.
Liba Falafel Truck
#94 Liba Falafel Truck, San Francisco
Liba Falafel Truck is cute and green — in color and environmental philosophy — which only makes their falafels, served on San Francisco-made pita bread, more delicious. You can enhance your sandwich or platter 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. Creativity is encouraged. At the end of the day, all the oil that helped create these perfectly crunchy falafels is turned into biofuel.
The Fat Shallot
#93 The Fat Shallot, Chicago
Husband-and-wife duo Sam Barron and Sarah Weitz know their stuff. The high school sweethearts traveled throughout Europe and Asia, honing their cooking skills while working on small local farms (and a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain to boot), as well as eating the street food that would eventually end up inspiring the Fat Shallot. You might expect these well-traveled folks to have an ostentatiously worldly menu, but they stick to the classics: grilled cheese, a buffalo chicken sandwich, truffle fries, and the like, doing it all very well. This bright red truck is always a friendly sight in the Windy City.
Scratchtruck / Facebook
#92 Scratch Truck, Indianapolis
As the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens. That was the case for Matt Kornmeyer, who opened Scratch Truck after being laid off from his day job. Nowadays, he serves creative spins on the comfort food from his childhood to the people of Indianapolis, who get to enjoy items like the Scratch burger, a 1/3-pound custom-ground burger with bacon marmalade, gorgonzola cheese, and arugula; “Poutine De Peru,” with yellow pepper sauce, queso fresco, and cilantro; and strawberry sriracha shortcake with basil whipped cream. The menu changes regularly, but the food is consistently excellent.
Thoroughfare Food Truck / Facebook
#91 thoroughFARE, Greenville, S.C.
With a sleek, black-and-white design and a motto of “simple dishes, fresh ingredients, and big flavor,” thoroughFARE boasts a vegetable-forward menu that changes weekly. Past items include mahi mahi fish tacos with kale slaw, tater tots blanketed with white Cheddar gravy, and — since it is in South Carolina, after all — a fried green tomato B.L.T.
Sheherazad Truck / Facebook
#90 Sheherazad, Boston
Specializing in the food of Baghdad, one of the world’s most delicious but dangerous destinations, Sheherazad serves items like potato chap (fried potato shell stuffed with ground beef, raisins, and parsley); a wrap consisting of fried eggplant with yogurt, garlic, pomegranate seeds; and khushaf, a dessert made of dried fruits, nuts, and rose water. Like the truck’s namesake, each dish seems to tell a story, one that is unfamiliar to the typical American palate yet tasty enough that you just want more.
Basic Kneads Pizza
#89 Basic Kneads Pizza, Denver
We are suckers for a good pun and even more so for a good pizza. Basic Kneads operates four different units around Denver. The brothers eschew strict Neapolitan guidelines for D.O.C. pizza so that they can integrate local ingredients, experiment with toppings, and use the family dough recipe they’ve developed over the years: a mix of organic whole-wheat flour and refined Colorado flour (they also do a gluten-free crust). There are eight pies on the menu, starting from the basics (Margherita, pepperoni, fennel sausage) to more extreme pies like their sweet Thai chili chicken.
#88 TruckU Barbeque, Las Vegas
Barbecue and Mexican food is a marriage made in heaven, particularly in the hands of celebrity chef and Food Network star Mike Minor. At TruckU Barbeque, slow-cooked meat is covered in a sweet molasses-based sauce, and then incorporated into South-of-the-Border favorites like tortas, tacos, and burritos. Be sure to try some of their more unusual items, like the blackened catfish taco with barbecue aïoli, citrus cabbage slaw, guacamole, and charred corn relish or the pulled pork and duck fat fries burrito with their house “TruckU” sauce and chipotle-honey coleslaw. The truck is easy to spot, too, as HGTV star Luca Paganico designed the black-and-red exterior covered with eye-catching tattoo artwork.
#87 Taceaux Loceaux, New Orleans
This gourmet taco truck is anything but ordinary, even for New Orleans; it’s adorned with an illustration of da Vinci’s The Last Supper, with calacas (Mexican cartoon skeletons) in place of Biblical figures (and tacos on their plates). The taco known as 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. The truck tends to set up shop outside of popular bars, and are certainly a sight for sore, slightly tipsy, eyes.
#86 Longshot Lobsta, Louisville, Ky.
Louisville might be famous for their hot brown sandwiches, but lobster rolls? You better believe it. This truck, with a menu of lobster rolls (Traditional, Main [sic], and Connecticut), 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.
People’s Food Truck
#85 People’s Food Truck, Atlanta
When Atlanta chef and restaurateur Ford Fry joined forces with City of Refuge, a local organization dedicated to stabilizing communities in need, People’s Food Truck was established. Now, proceeds from the money customers spend on tacos or po’boys with fillings like fried delta catfish with Mississippi comeback sauce, papas fritas with cotija queso, and fried chicken doughnut sandwiches go toward feeding the city’s food-insecure population.
#84 Kaiteki Ramen, Oklahoma City, Okla.
You may not know it, but the food of uber-trendy chain Mission Chinese is inspired by the cuisine of Oklahoma City. This low-key culinary powerhouse city is also home to Kaiteki Ramen, which serves piping hot ramen, pork belly bao, Japanese-style fried Brussels sprouts, and more out of their sleekly designed black and white truck.
Uyghur Kitchen / Facebook
#83 Uyghur Kitchen, Boston
Perhaps one of the best things about the Boston food truck scene is how it picks up on some of the world’s most underappreciated cuisines, such as Iraqi food (Sheherazad), and now that of the Uyghurs. For those who don’t know, Uyghurs are Muslims who live primarily in the Xinjiang region of China, and in their food, you’ll find meaty dishes with Chinese influences. The Uyghurs even have their own bagels. While you won’t find bagels at this fantastic food truck, you will find two different types of kebobs (chicken and lamb) presented three ways (skewer, wrap, salad) — all done expertly.
Pennypackers Food Truck / Facebook
#82 Pennypackers, Somerville, Mass.
This family-run business, which also includes a catering business and a brick-and-mortar restaurant, serves seasonal food with big, vegetable-heavy flavors. Their house specialty, the porchetta sandwich, comes with an accompaniment that changes daily. Expect items like the lamb meatloaf sandwich with smoked tomato relish, mint, and watercress; taleggio and peach sandwich with balsamic onions, hazelnuts, and basil leaves; and a wild rice and blackberry salad.
Love Balls Bus / Facebook
#81 Love Balls, Austin
“Are you a love balla?” asks the website of this Austin food truck. We certainly are. From Thursday to Saturday, Love Balls serves takoyaki, spherical Japanese snacks consisting of octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and onion, with toppings that vary from classic (Kewpie mayo, seaweed powder, bonito flakes) to caprese (tomato, mozzarella, Kewpie basil mayo). From Monday to Wednesday, you can order kara-age (fried chicken) or tako kara-age (fried octopus), vegan Japanese curry with rice, and more.
Frencheeze Food Truck / Facebook
#80 Frencheeze, New Orleans
Many food truck websites will tell you about how the truck started, what inspired it, and how they source their food. Not Frencheeze. Their “about us” reads: “Lover of bread, cheese, and butter.” Well, so are we, and we definitely love this truck’s grilled cheese sandwiches, right from the simple 4th Grader (Cheddar cheese on toast) to The Gary (goat cheese, grape jelly, and smoked bacon on a croissant). Try to catch this truck next time you’re in New Orleans.
#79 Where Ya At Matt?, Seattle
Where Ya At Matt? brings New Orleans-style po’boys, muffulettas, jambalaya, and more to Seattle. They have been called one of the best food trucks in America by Thrillist, and Eater named their fried oyster po’boy one of the city’s most iconic food truck dishes. But don’t stop at the savory: Their beignets, as well as sweet potato and pecan pies, are just as excellent.
#78 The Chairman, San Francisco
This food truck used to be the cleverly named “Chairman Bao,” but dropped the “bao” when New York restaurateur–turned–cultural icon Eddie Huang indicated he might sue them (Huang founded New York sandwich shop Baohaus). Name change aside, The Chairman draws lines for its simple menu of steamed and baked buns with fillings like Muscovy duck confit with green papaya, pickled red onions, and mint.
Ste Martaen / Facebook
#77 The Vegan Food Truck by Ste Martaen, Chicago
While this food truck does mostly private events and festivals, as well as a vegan supper club, the people who have had the experience of enjoying their fare tend not to say “You wouldn’t even know it’s not meat.” That’s because items like jibarito sliders with tofu and jalapeño crema and “p*rk” sliders with jackfruit and barbecue sauce are so creative that you’re not trying to assess whether they’re passable meat substitutes, just enjoying them on their own merits. Make sure to try any of their cheeses, which they make on their own.
Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie
#76 Roli Roti Gourmet Rotisserie, San Francisco
After earning his master’s in organic farming in Zürich and attending UC Berkeley, Thomas Odermatt became more interested in the "wood fired ovens of Chez Panisse and… lively farmers markets," and took the popular rotisserie dinners he’d been making for friends on the road in a food truck. 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, deserves to rank among America’s best food trucks just for his prescience. If you’re lucky enough to find Roli Roti at a market, you’re should order one each of the three signature items: the Roli Roti 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.
#75 Jogasaki Sushi Burrito, Los Angeles
Asian-Mexican fusion tacos are old news. But what about burritos? Undeterred by chef David Chang’s stab at the Asian burrito, Yo Pratioto, the chef behind this Los Angeles food truck, 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, in turn rolled around spicy tuna and cucumber with your choice of fillings (barbecue eel, crabmeat, and shrimp tempura are among the options). And if that’s not enough fusion for you, there are always the spicy tuna nachos.
Onetaco UrbanTaqueria / Facebook
#74 One Taco, Austin
At One Taco, you’ll certainly want more than one taco. How does one choose between the breakfast tacos alone, which include options like the Big Kahuna, with fried egg, sausage, potato, and cheese, or the I Heart Bacon, with egg, bacon, potatoes, cheese, and more bacon? For lunch or dinner, get The Gringa, which is a taco al pastor with the delightful addition of melted cheese.
#73 Komodo Truck, Los Angeles
The Hotel Bel-Air's former grill chef Erwin Tjahyadi made a splash in 2010 by serving Asian-Mexican fusion that involved burritos, as well as tacos, at Komodo. Since then, Tjahyadi’s legend has grown, and his black-and-white Komodo dragon-themed truck has gone brick-and-mortar. But the truck still rages on, serving menu classics like seared top sirloin, grilled marinated chicken, fish and 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. Fun fact: The truck is named after an Indonesian lizard, a rare, endangered, lethal species with weak hearing and sight but a powerful sense of taste.
#72 Food Shark, Marfa, Texas
This "Mediterranean-by-way-of-West-Texas" food truck has been holding it down in this stylish, tiny desert town since 2006. The leading lady of the Food Shark menu is the Marfalafel: a large flour tortilla filled with falafel balls, fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, tahini, yogurt, harissa sauce, and hummus. Co-owner Adam Bork is an artist–musician who advertises around town with his collection of old cars, including an AMC Barcelona Matador that was actually made to fly in one James Bond movie.
Urban Street Grill
#71 Urban Street Grill, Greensboro, N.C.
The Urban Street Grill food truck services North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region — comprising the region around Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point — and beyond; check their website for updated schedules. Their Korean-Mexican fusion results in dishes like ribeye bulgogi, salsa roja tacos, and kimchi fried rice-stuffed burritos, but their best dish is a fusion of Korean and American: the bulgogi cheesesteak, with black sesame mayonnaise, sesame soy lettuce and cabbage, and house-pickled cucumbers and jalapeños.
#70 Red Hook Lobster Truck, Washington, D.C.
Originating in Brooklyn, Red Hook Lobster Pound has since expanded to Washington, D.C., and Montauk, New York, with plans to open in more cities in the future. The owners, as 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," when 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 shrimp and corn chowder, but let’s face it, it’s really about the lobster roll here. It’s so good that this truck, once again, appears twice on our list of America’s best food trucks.
#69 Señor Sisig, San Francisco
Sisig, a Filipino dish made from pig’s head and liver, often seasoned with calamansi and chiles, is the star of the show at San Francisco’s Señor Sisig. Chef Gil Payumo makes the truck’s version with pork shoulder instead of offal, but his compromise for American taste buds doesn’t take away from the delectable dish. 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. 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 to add an egg.
#68 Pierogi Wagon, Chicago
A self-described “incubator of modern Polish eats,” Pierogi Wagon serves both classic pierogis — braised beef, Cheddar and potato, sauerkraut and mushroom — and new twists on classic Polish dishes to the people of Chicago. Their takes on zapiekanka, an open-faced sandwich made of half of a baguette topped with mushrooms and cheese, include The Farmhand, which comes with pulled pork, sriracha barbecue, melted Gouda and aged Polish cheeses, grilled corn relish, and cilantro lime aïoli. We can understand why this Yelp reviewer wrote them a haiku.
#67 La Cocinita, New Orleans
Rachel Billow and her business partner, Venezuelan chef Benoit Angulo, started their business in the Big Easy, where running a food truck actually doesn’t always jibe with the city’s nickname (among other restrictions, you have to change locations after 45 minutes in one spot). But Billow and Angulo have not just making it work, but making it work really well. While La Cocinita does offer tacos, that ever-popular food truck nosh, it also serves other, less noticed Latin American dishes, like arepas and tostones (smashed and fried plantains).
Butter food truck / Facebook
#66 Butter Truck, Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s Butter Truck proves that PB&Js are more than just sandwiches your parents packed for you the night before school. While chef Nicole Zalewski includes items like peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches, she also takes that sweet-salty flavor combo and takes it to the next level, in the form of items like mac and cheese cupcakes (baked mac and cheese topped with ricotta “icing” and Togarashi-spiked Parmigino-Reggiano “sprinkles”) and pink lady grilled cheese (smoked Gouda, sharp Cheddar, and mirin-poached apple on five-seed bread).
#65 Nammi Truck, Dallas
Nammi Truck serves Vietnamese fusion like bánh mí, tacos, spring rolls, and more. Patrons begin by choosing between barbecued pork, grilled pork, lemongrass beef, lemongrass chicken, and Vietnamese tofu. Next, they decide if they would like it delivered via bánh mí, taco, or rice bowl. If you’re looking for fusion, get the Nammi nachos with fried shrimp chips, Asian slaw, green scallions, minced jalapeños, and drizzles of spicy house-made mayo and cilantro cream, along with your choice of protein, or the Spicy Saigon sliders, comprising lemongrass-seasoned beef on Hawaiian rolls with Asian slaw, cucumbers, fresh jalapeños, and cilantro.
#64 Fukuburger Truck, Las Vegas
Fukuburger gets its name from co-founder Colin Fukunaga’s last name, not an expletive. He and Robert "Mags" Magsalin serve "All-American" burgers (and a chicken katsu sandwich) with a Japanese twist, featuring 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).
Clover Food Lab
#63 Clover Food Lab, Boston
Serving both breakfast and lunch, Clover Food Lab offers only the freshest ingredients in everything they make, creating what founder Ayr Muir describes as "clean flavors." Even the beverages are "a part of [their] culinary conversation." Cinnamon lemonade, blackberry switchel, hibiscus iced tea — any chef in the truck can tell you where the ingredients for the drinks come from just as confidently as he or she can the components of a sauce. In the past, they’ve served fried blue oyster mushrooms with rhubarb aïoli, a chickpea fritter sandwich, and perfectly textured doughnuts.
The Lime Truck
#62 The Lime Truck, Los Angeles
Lime Truck owners Daniel Shemtob, 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, from which they emerged victorious. And we can see why: The trio prides themselves on "local, organic, and sustainably sourced fresh ingredients, paired with hip, inventive recipes," such as ahi tuna poke nachos and carnitas fries. Their newly added blistered bok choy shows that they can also do vegetables very, very well.
#61 The Spread, Cleveland and Akron, Ohio
We know New York and Montreal are famous for bagels, but Cleveland? While the Midwestern city may not have a signature bagel, The Spread is bringing this beloved bread right to the people of Northeast Ohio. It’s all about simplicity and letting the bagels, which come in plain, whole wheat, and everything versions, speak for themselves. That being said, their special, with salami, capocollo, turkey, and bacon, is a must-try.
Jefe's Original Fish Taco & Burgers
#60 Jefe's Original Fish Taco and Burger, Miami
Here’s a brief history of this truck, according to their website: "Mid-twentieth century, a young surfer called 'Jefe' (the Spanish word for boss) dominated the waves of Ensenada, Baja California. 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. One year, while Jefe competed in a surfing contest, 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." It goes without saying that you must eat the Ensenada-style fish taco with beer-battered fish, shaved green cabbage, pico de gallo, crema, and lime. Maybe catch a wave later and see how you fare?
#59 Streetza, Milwaukee
Food trucks are all about serving the people without frills or pretentiousness. Nobody does that quite like Streetza, which crowdsources everything, from pizza toppings to the art on the side of the truck. Conventional slices, special slices, Milwaukee neighborhood slices using "the best stuff from Milwaukee’s neighborhoods," and slices whose components are suggested by Twitter fans come out of their oven, which is heated to 650 degrees. Things can get crazy; no joke. Look out for vegetable curry and rice, pickled herring, caviar, and potato chip piStreetzaes. Other notable toppings include spaghetti, crab legs, and corn dogs.
#58 The Blaxican, Atlanta
The Blaxican serves Mexican soul food fusion fare to those hungry for it in Atlanta, offering deeply satisfying plates 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 truck has not only soul, but a lot of heart: They use tips and donations collected via their site to help feed those less fortunate in collaboration with various organizations around Atlanta.
Cleveland Catering / Facebook
#57 Nelly Belly Food Truck, Cleveland
Many of the applewood-fired pizzas at Nelly Belly Food Truck are traditional — you’ll always find pepperoni and three cheese on the menu — but then there are items like the Big Kahuna Belly, which comes with fried coconut shrimp and pineapples, or the very local pizza with Lake Erie yellow perch and lime pepper tartar. They also serve piadinas, which are Italian flatbreads that are slightly smaller than pizzas. Feel free to fold yours in half and eat it like a taco.
Hey!. You Gonna Eat or What? / Facebook
#56 Hey!...You Gonna Eat or What?, Austin
This red truck is covered with such yellow-lettered slogans as: "Solidifying our reputation as Austin's rudest business," "Stop being a princess. Use your freakin' hands," "Gluten allergy? Cowboy up, you wussy," and "Insultingly great food." Is the aggressiveness worth it? Sink your teeth into their fried green tomato BLT with poblano aïoli and you will definitely think so. Plus, the people behind this truck are actually quite affable.
The Dining Car
#55 The Dining Car, Boston
The Dining Car has a menu consisting of meals you are more likely to find in a fancy restaurant than a food truck, and that’s the point: bringing fine dining-inspired foods to the streets. Expect sandwiches with lamb slowly roasted in cabernet, crispy cauliflower with curry aïoli, and a fantastic truffle goat cheese sandwich with wildflower honey and toasted walnuts.
Mei Mei Boston
#54 Mei Mei Boston, Boston
Run by three siblings, Mei Mei is dedicated to sustainably sourced food and creative takes on Chinese cuisine. Get their Double Awesome, a scallion pancake sandwich with pesto, Cheddar, and two runny eggs, or the pierogi dumplings with sriracha fried rice. After the success of the truck, Mei Mei opened a brick-and-mortar location, which was voted the best restaurant in Boston by Eater and is a go-to spot for renowned London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi when he's in town.
#53 Coreanos, Houston
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. What you absolutely cannot miss are their Three Wise Fries: French fries with marinated beef short rib, spicy marinated chicken, and spicy twice-cooked pork belly, all topped with grilled onions, cheese, and "El Scorcho" sauce. Their homage to LA’s Kogi BBQ is driven home by their hot dogs: There’s the LA Hot Dog (bacon-wrapped hot dog with grilled onions, grilled jalapeños, and mayo), and the Coreanos dog, also bacon-wrapped with grilled onions but topped with caramelized kimchi and "El Scorcho" sauce.
The Dapper Dog / Facebook
#52 The Dapper Dog, Philadelphia
The Dapper Dog is one of the reasons Esquire called Philadelphia “the late night capital of the United States.” Their menu often changes according to “relentless hot dog research and seasonal changes,” but their popular options are The Mack, a hot dog topped with mac and cheese, and the classic Chicago dog. Specials include hot dogs topped with asparagus and provolone and a bacon-wrapped dog topped with green apple slices, gorgonzola cheese, and jalapeños.
#51 Bacon Bacon, San Francisco
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 a taco. 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.
#50 Tasty Kabob, Washington, D.C.
You can’t go wrong with a halal food truck, so what is it that Tasty Kabob does particularly right? It is their locally sourced meats, particularly their lamb, which has been honored by the American Lamb Board, and how you can taste its freshness even through all the delicious red and white sauces we know and love. This truck is popular among college students and Washington, D.C., bigwigs alike.
Cha Cha Chow / Facebook
#49 Cha Cha Chow, St. Louis, Mo.
Cha Cha Chow offers an ever-changing menu of non-traditional tacos, such as curried sweet potato on griddled flour tortilla, and a succulent burger, which comes with spicy ketchup, cheese, grilled onion, and poblano pepper on a toasted baguette. On some occasions, you can get a cheeseburger taco, or a "Cuban Crime of Passion" — pulled pork, pickles, cheese, and mustard on a double-toasted roll.
#48 KoJa Kitchen, San Francisco
"KoJa" is a portmanteau joining of "Korean" and "Japanese," and KoJa Kitchen serves a menu combining flavors from both cuisines between toasted rice cake patties. Look for Korean barbecue beef, chicken with pineapple, and teriyaki "vegetarian chicken," and the signature Kamikaze waffle fries topped with Korean barbecue beef, sautéed onions, kimchi, green onions, and Japanese mayo. There’s a clever play on the tiramisù, too, the "Mochimisu": a short tower of ladyfingers, Oreos, and mascarpone layered with chocolate mochi. It is no wonder this truck has made our list every year that we’ve had it, in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
#47 Red Hook Lobster Pound, New York City
This multi-city truck (there is also one in Washington, D.C.), owned by Ralph Gorham and Susan Povich — yes, the daughter of daytime TV star Maury Povich — brings Maine-style lobster rolls and other seafood shack favorites to the masses. There are shrimp rolls, a lobster BLT, lobster bisque, and New England shrimp and corn chowder, but let’s face it, it’s about the lobster roll: lobster, served cold, with celery, spices, and a touch of homemade mayonnaise on a J.J. Nissen split-top bun (or Connecticut-style, warm and buttered). Don’t forget to wash it down with one of their Maine Root sodas (root beer, ginger brew, mandarin orange, blueberry, sarsaparilla, or lemon-lime).
Foolish Waffles / Facebook
#46 Foolish Waffles, Philadelphia
Dapper Dogs and foolish waffles: Philadelphia certainly takes the cake when it comes to Victorian novel-esque names for food trucks. Foolish Waffles serves mostly savory but a few sweet waffles too. Their chile honey-glazed buttermilk fried chicken waffle with pickled bourbon jalapeños, which you can also get bánh mì-style, is stellar, and if you must go sweet, pick their Liège sugar waffle topped with mascarpone whipped cream, black pepper bacon toffee, salted caramel, and Maldon smoked sea salt.
Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co. / Facebook
#45 Stoked Wood Fired Pizza Co, Boston
With its offerings named “Best Pizza” by Boston Magazine this year, Stoked Wood Fired Pizza aims to serve pies that embody the intersection of Neapolitan-, New York-, and New Haven-style pies, resulting in something that is uniquely Bostonian. Soft and light on the inside with a charred, crispy outer shell, pizzas like their Buffalo veggie, with house-made Buffalo sauce, mozzarella, seasonal roasted veggies, gorgonzola cheese, and classic pepperoni, confirm the hype.
#44 Pepe, Washington, D.C.
With so many pizza, taco, and Asian fusion trucks on the scene, it’s great to see a fusion-free mobile eatery — especially because said truck is helmed by none other than José Andrés. Pepe rolls through D.C., Maryland, and Virginia during lunchtime every day, offering Spanish flautas (flute-shaped sandwiches), as well as seasonal soups, desserts, and non-alcoholic sangria. The menu changes often, but here’s what you can expect to find in their flautas: seared ibérico pork with serrano ham, roasted green peppers, caramelized onions, and aïoli; grilled cheese with manchego, Murcia, Valdeón, goat cheese, and membrillo; seared beef tenderloin, caramelized onion, piquillo pepper confit, and blue cheese; and for dessert, a chocolate and hazelnut ice cream flauta. You can’t go wrong with a side of patatas bravas, either.
#43 Roti Rolls, Charleston
With appearances at Bonnaroo and other big-time festivals, Roti Rolls is finding ways to get its food out to non-Charlestonian eaters, and how grateful people are for that. Who wouldn’t satisfy their cravings for Asian, Indian, Caribbean, Latin, and Southern flavors all wrapped into one convenient flatbread? Options like Smoky the Bear Dawg, with blood sausage, Thai pimento cheese, kimchi, and a sunny-side up egg, or the Frittata Mama, with baby corn, asparagus, onion, peppers, and tahini with citrus slaw, represent a variety of cuisines.
The Bacon Truck / Facebook
#42 The Bacon Truck, Boston
Operated by two high-school friends who were brought together by their love of bacon, the light pink-colored Bacon Truck serves only one item that doesn’t ostensibly include bacon, and that’s habanero garlic pickles. By all means, order them as a side, but do not miss The Hangover, which consists of bacon, bacon scallion hash, Cheddar, and havarti with a fried egg, or the Turkey Avo, with truck-roasted turkey breast, bacon, beefsteak tomatoes, lettuce and chimichurri aïoli. And for dessert? Nutella-covered bacon.
Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese
#41 Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Boston
Brothers and bandmates James and Mike DiSabatino teamed up with trained chef Marc Melanson to establish Roxy’s, where they sling sandwiches that swap butter for mayonnaise in order to make what James describes 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 the Rookie Melt (Vermont Cheddar and vine-ripened tomatoes). While they did not win season two of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, their popularity is only increasing.
#40 Bon Me, Boston
Founders Alison Fong and Patrick Lynch started Bon Me in 2011, transforming a used DHL delivery truck into their first food truck; they now have five servicing the Boston area. Here’s how it works: You choose between a sandwich, rice bowl, noodle salad, or salad, and decide on a filling. Their options for fillings, like their wheels, “rotate daily,” but stalwarts include paprika tofu and miso-braised pulled pork. Their specials also impress: the iconic three-cup chicken, for instance, or a Korean-style chicken inspired by late nights in New York’s Koreatown. As for sides, let’s hope you get the chance to try their black tea-soaked deviled eggs.
#39 Go Gyro Go, St. Louis
Is it "jy-ro" or "ear-o"? However you say it, you’ll call the rendition served by Go! Gyro! Go! "tasty." Owners Nick and Laura Cowlen bought their truck in 2011, outfitted it themselves, and set out into the streets of St. Louis with food inspired by the family recipes of his yia-yia and papou (both from the island Zakynthos off the southwest coast of Greece) and his own experiences when visiting the motherland. The menu is pretty simple: gyros. There’s the classic beef and lamb, chicken souvlaki, chicken tahini, and veggie gyro. Go with the classic: spiced beef and lamb wrapped in a freshly grilled pita with sliced tomato, red onion, feta, parsley, and homemade tzatziki.
Oh My Gogi!
#38 Oh My Gogi! BBQ, Houston
The owner of this truck, Eric Nguyen, hopes you’ll exclaim "Oh My Gogi!" after sampling his Korean barbecue tacos, burgers that utilize ramen buns and Texas toast, and so-called OMG! Fries with Korean beef and colby jack cheese. Gogi means “meat” in Korean, but don’t just opt for the meat dishes here; their veggie quesadilla, with stir-fried kimchi and Monterey Jack, will have you saying “Oh My Gogi!” just the same.
The Taco Truck
#37 The Taco Truck, Boston and Multiple Locations in New Jersey
Don't let the generic name fool you into thinking these are just your average tacos. From catfish tacos on flour tortillas to seasonable vegetable tacos on corn tortillas, when it comes to the Taco Truck, it's all in the details. The truck’s popularity has allowed the owners to open brick-and-mortar locations in Boston's Harvard Square and New York's High Line Park, as well as in Hoboken, Morristown, and Princeton, New Jersey. But it all started in that truck.
Taïm Mobile / Facebook
#36 Taïm Mobile, New York City
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 (and a location in Nolita) later, they launched the much anticipated Taïm Mobile. You don’t want to miss these falafels, which are smaller in size than the falafel balls you’re used to, but have double the flavor and crunch. They frequently offer special red pepper falafel and sometimes one made with spicy harissa, and when you order them, make sure to ask for everything, and extra of it: They’ll add s’rug (Yemeni hot sauce), amba (pickled mango chutney), Israeli pickles, and spicy peppers for a spicy, crunchy, wet, delicious mess. You can expect only the best from these chefs, who are behind the beloved New York City restaurants Bar Bolonat and Balaboosta.
Daddy’s Bonetown Burgers / Facebook
#35 Daddy’s Bonetown Burgers, Boston
Daddy’s Bonetown Burgers serves juicy burgers out of their truck, which features a large decal of a high-heeled boots-wearing, bikini-clad woman in the form of a devil, sitting on a shark-shaped rocket and eating a burger. It’s very much the Guns N’ Roses brand of rock and roll. But how do the burgers stack up? People love them. Whether you order the Kick Out the Jam, their 100-percent Angus burger with pickled red onions, bourbon bacon jam, and Monterey Jack cheese, or the Richard Simmons, a black bean and quinoa burger with cilantro aïoli and Cheddar, consider yourself welcomed to the jungle (of flavor).
#34 Lobsta Truck, Los Angeles and San Francisco
The lobster roll at Lobsta Truck is inspired by the legendary version at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine, one of America’s best seafood shacks. While lobster in California is not quite the same as lobster in Maine, even though owner Justin Mi flies in fresh lobsters from Maine and Canada several times a week, these $12 rolls are still fantastic. There's little more than the lobster roll on the menu — you’ll find 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: a fresh Dungeness crab roll.
#33 Ssahm BBQ, Dallas
In Dallas, you shouldn’t travel for the best Korean-Mexican fusion; you should let it travel to you. It does help to know this truck’s schedule, though, which they update on their website. Partners Joey Hong and Andy Park offer a straightforward and solid menu of Korean-style beef, pork, chicken, or tofu either served tucked inside a taco, quesadilla, or burrito; in a bowl; or on top of a hot dog or kimchi fries.
Bernie's Burger Bus
#32 Bernie's Burger Bus, Houston
Bernie’s Burger Bus is in 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" on their website right down to the name of the burgers. There’s The Principal (classic burger), The Substitute (blue cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions), the seasonal Study Hall (Cheddar, barbecue sauce, and pork belly) and the Fire Drill (roasted tomatoes, pepper jack, chipotle aïoli, 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 cheese sandwiches used as the bun, two patties, Cheddar, "tipsy onions," and fixings). If you can actually stomach the whole Detention, you get on the Bernie’s wall of fame. But perhaps you want to save room for their fries, which we included in this year’s list of America’s 50 Best French Fries.
East Side King
#31 East Side King, Austin
Perhaps the most beautifully, psychedelically designed food truck around, East Side King is run by a man every Top Chef fan knows: 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, which includes fried potato noodles with pork and kimchi stew, mapo tofu chili, a pork melt and pork chop sandwich, and fried chicken fried rice. Don’t miss their ramen, either; it was toward the top of our list of America’s Best Ramen Shops.
Guerrilla Tacos / Facebook
#30 Guerrilla Tacos, Los Angeles
Guerrilla Tacos puts local and sustainable food first. Their menu selections change daily, as their dishes are built around what they 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; and 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 cauliflower with Castelvaltrano olives, dates, chives, morita chiles, and pine nuts.
#29 Luke's Lobster, New York City
Born and raised in Cape Elizabeth, a small town on the coast of Maine, Luke Holden "grew up lobstering, built his own skiff, and launched a lobster company while still in high school." 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 opt for either the crab or shrimp roll instead, but really, when these lobsters are served just hours after they are caught, why would you?
Mac Mart Food Truck / Facebook
#28 Mac Mart Truck, Philadelphia
Named among the best food trucks in America by Thrillist, Mac Mart Truck in Philadelphia also serves what Eater calls the “Breakfast Sandwich [That] Beats All Other Breakfast Sandwiches”: mac and cheese sandwiched between two hash brown patties and drizzled with buttermilk ranch, bacon optional. You can get yours mixed with barbecued chicken, tossed with Philly cheesesteak components, atop a charred hot dog, or in a handful of other creative ways. Also, you never have to choose between grilled cheese and mac and cheese here: Their Return of the Mac sandwich includes mac and cheese in between buttery slices of white bread.
#27 Border Grill, Los Angeles
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, two Top Chef Masters contestants and successful West Coast chef–restaurateurs (and members of The Daily Meal Council), 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 though the truck menu isn’t quite as extensive as the restaurant’s, it doesn’t miss by much. There are five or six different tacos (including Yucatán 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.
#26 Easy Slider, Dallas
With perhaps one of the cleverest food truck names on this list, Easy Slider serves creative mini burgers that use certified Angus beef and farmers market produce out of their red, white, and electric blue vehicle. They introduce sweet flavors into savory sandwiches in not-too-sneaky ways: by using strawberry jam in their burger with bacon and goat cheese; peanut butter instead of cheese in their bacon burger; and sea salt caramel with grilled red onions in their Sugar Derby burger. You don’t want to miss their Baby Bella, with a Texas-born portabella mushroom patty topped with the basic components of a caprese: mozzarella, tomato, and basil pesto.
Guerrilla Street Food / Facebook
#25 Guerrilla Street Food, St. Louis
The rotating menu of dishes at Guerrilla Street Food 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. It’s slow-roasted pork set on jasmine rice, topped with egg, and accented by calamansi tartness and sriracha heat. Don’t miss the Filipino blue crab ceviche, with crab, chiles, black sesame, cilantro, palm sugar, and atchara (unripe papaya pickle), served over sliced watermelon, either. "You're content to wait for trucks bearing tacos, pizza, or whatever to park near you," the Riverfront Times noted. "[but] Guerrilla Street Food, you hunt down."
#24 Seoul Taco, St. Louis
I know what you’re thinking: another Korean-Mexican fusion truck? However, there is a reason Seoul Taco has remained one of the country’s top food trucks since 2012: the food is really flipping good. 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. They opened a brick-and-mortar location, too, which was called one of the hottest St. Louis restaurants of the year by Eater.
#23 Crepes Bonaparte, Los Angeles
Have you ever tried a savory crêpe on the streets of Paris? Then you remember that warm, salty cheesiness, the enjoyment of life that comes from biting into a well-made freshly cooked one. 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 and emulate that. All the crêpes are served to the sound of French pop by folks wearing berets, black vests, and ties, but it’s not all about looks here; the crêpes are excellent. Savory crêpes like In Da Club, with bacon, mozzarella, tomatoes, and avocados, and sweet crepes like the Al Capone, with blackberries, mascarpone, and chocolate drizzle, are must-trys.
Jack’s Chowhoud / Facebook
#22 Jack's Chowhound, Dallas
After spending time in Los Angeles, owner and operator Jack Mooney decided to open a food truck in his native Texas. According to the Dallas Observer, Jack’s Chowhound “looks like the love child of an old mail truck and your mom’s wood-paneled station wagon,” and my, what good food comes out of that odd-looking truck. The smoked Gouda on their famous pulled pork grilled cheese is the perfect match for the smoked pork shoulder, and if you’re going to order steak frites from a truck, make it this one.
Fired Up Taco Truck / Facebook
#21 Fired Up Taco Truck, Cleveland
Fired Up Taco Truck serves tacos and empanadas out of their converted S.W.A.T truck, which is now covered in paintings of flames. Cleveland goes crazy for these tacos, and we can see why. Popcorn shrimp served in a flour tortilla with Fired Up slaw, corn and green chile salsa, Jack Cheddar, seasoned fries, barbecue, and lime crema? Color us impressed. Don’t feel bad for the vegetarians; they get to enjoy pineapples in their tacos and empanadas.
#20 Mariscos German, San Diego
Mariscos German made our list of America’s Best Tacos, so it is high time they earn their rightful spot in our best food trucks list. This is the quintessential San Diego fried fish taco: generous in size and filled with grated cabbage and fresh, battered pieces of fish fried to golden brown perfection, all topped with a creamy sauce. If you’re really hungry, order the Baha Trio — one fried fish taco, one marlin taco, and one shrimp taco — and wash it all down with a cheap can of beer or some coconut juice sipped right out of the coconut.
Munch Mobile Kitchen / Facebook
#19 Munch Mobile, Boston
Serving mocktails, like a Negroni with caramelized juniper water, and elevated cuisine sans pretentiousness, Boston’s Munch Mobile offers nosh like mushroom sliders with Beemster cheese, Brussels sprouts slaw, and herb aïoli; wild boar meatballs; and bruschetta with avocado goat cheese, basil, white balsamic, heirloom tomatoes, and jamon serrano chips. Don’t miss their papas fritas, with cherry pepper ketchup, feta, pickled red onions, and micro cilantro.
Barrio Tacos / Facebook
#18 Barrio, Cleveland
A large calaca (stylized Mexican skeleton) with arms open wide adorns the Barrio food truck, inviting you to build your own tacos. You can choose from five different kinds of tortilla, such as the White Widow, a soft flour tortilla with guac, sour cream, and “crunch”; nine different kinds of filling, including a fish of the day; queso fresco, smoked Cheddar, or Chihuahua cheese; and a bevy of toppings, salsas, sauces, and sides. But hey, it looks like these guys know what they’re doing, so try one of their suggestions, like the El Puerco, with pulled pork, quesos blanco and fresco, salsa roja, and chipotle honey; or their taco of the month, which features the most seasonal ingredients.
#17 Pink Bellies, Charleston, S.C.
Pink Bellies serves Vietnamese favorites like phở and bánh mì to the people of Charleston, and they love it. The menu options rotate, but here’s what to expect: pork belly marinated in oyster sauce, garlic, and shallots, in a rice bowl or between locally-made baguettes; the “Realest Bánh Mì,” with pâté, pork belly, loin ham, head cheese, chiles, cucumbers, pickled carrots, cilantro, and scallions; or shrimp and noodles with pork cracklings. Pair it with a Vietnamese iced coffee or toasted sweet iced tea (matcha green tea, ginger, toasted rice), and your belly will be pink and happy.
Riffs Fine Street Food
#16 Riffs Fine Street Food, Nashville
Neither of the co-owner of Riffs Fine Street Food truck, B.J. Lofback (Detroit) nor 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) and Davis (a culinary school grad and hotel chef) won Nashville’s Battle of the Food Trucks with a menu that leans toward Asian flavors, but stays away from any restrictive cuisine umbrella. As they write on their website, “Riffs was born from a desire to just be creative with food, the concept being NOT having a concept.” What’s the result? Tomato sashimi in a sushi burrito, tater tots with gochujang barbecue sauce, and Tennessee Benedict, which consists of a buttermilk biscuit with fried chicken, gravy, poached eggs, and tater tots. The team recently opened Funk Seoul Brother to focus their talents on the cuisine that made them love food trucks in the first place: Korean.
The Grilled Cheese Truck
#15 The Grilled Cheese Truck, Los Angeles
The Grilled Cheese Truck has been a mainstay in the top 50 portion of our 101 Best Food Trucks list since 2012. Their cheesy mac comes fully loaded with sharp Cheddar and barbecue pork; their French onion soup melt features Gruyère with onion soup compote and a Parmigiano-Reggiano crust; their Pepperberry Melt includes chili, cilantro lime sour cream, tomato salsa, and Fritos. Those are just a few of their classic and clever combinations. There are also savory additions, like mac and cheese and bacon; sweet additions, like utella, toasted marshmallows, candied walnuts, and peanut butter; sides, like tomato soup and tater tots; and, finally, “crusts,” like jalapeño or bacon-Parmesan, which line the corners of the mac and cheese.
Smoke Et Al
#14 Smoke Et Al, Nashville
Smoke Et Al collected an enormous number of votes from our survey takers, pushing them from their No. 101 spot last year to a spot much closer to No. 1. Chef and owner Shane Autrey calls his truck — 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 took first place in the Chow Masters challenge on the Travel Channel in 2014.
#13 Cucina Zapata, Philadelphia
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 a 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. It’s a refreshing change from the Korean barbecue we normally see paired with tacos.
Korilla BBQ / Facebook
#12 Korilla BBQ, New York City
You’d have thought it would have hurt team Korilla BBQ to be 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 the scandal certainly didn’t shrink this bright, tiger-striped truck’s popularity — they have over 27,000 followers on Twitter and just recently opened their brick and mortar restaurant in the East Village in Manhattan. Korilla BBQ offers a base of burrito or bowl; four proteins (bulgogi, barbecued pork, marinated chicken, and tofu); B.F.K.R (bacon, kimchi, sushi rice) or sticky rice; and various toppings.
SeoulFull Philly / Facebook
#11 SeoulFull Philly, Philadelphia
SeoulFull Philly won a Vendy for Rookie of the Year in Philadelphia this year for their Korean-American comfort food. You’ve got to admire them for the delicious ways they utilize Cheez Whiz: on tater tots alongside kimchi and scallions and atop a Korean-style cheesesteak. Our favorite item is definitely Corn on the Seoul: deep-fried corn on the cob, gochujang crema, cotija cheese, scallions, and toasted sesame seeds.
#10 Kogi BBQ, Los Angeles
We might be able to thank chef Roy Choi, one of the coolest people in food and drink, for our love of Korean-inspired Mexican food, or even, arguably, our nation’s love of food trucks. “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? After appearing at No. 1 on our 101 Best Food Trucks list in 2012, No. 2 in 2013, and No. 1 again in 2014, it’s a bit of a surprise that Kogi BBQ is on the lower end of the top 10, though that’s by no means a bad thing. It could be because Roy Choi has extended his talents beyond food trucks, with restaurants like the Caribbean-inspired Sunny Spot and hip lounge Alibi Room, or it could be because so many new food trucks have popped up since Kogi first opened in Thanksgiving 2008. Nevertheless, Kogi BBQ still remains one of America’s very best, and you shouldn’t dare call yourself a food lover if you stop by Los Angeles without trying one of their short rib tacos.
Emerson Fry Bread
#9 Emerson Fry Bread, Phoenix
The colorful Emerson Fry Bread truck might very well be the only truck in the country that specializes in Native American cuisine — one of the most underrated cuisines of the world — with a Mexican twist. Offerings include a green chile chicken Indian taco (with fry bread instead of a tortilla), a carne asada-topped variety, and a cult-favorite prickly-pear-based drink. Apparently, these guys are doing something right, because they ranked at No. 82 last year. They are a testament to the creativity needed to run a successful food truck.
#8 Wok n Roll Food Truck, Cleveland
The owners of Wok n Roll, Matt and Tricia, met while working together at KFC in 1999. Today, they churn out fusion foods, such as Korean poutine with made with tater tots and topped with Monterey Jack, kimchi, and black sesame seeds; non-fusion foods, like no-frills bibimbap or okonomiyaki; and specialties like crab rangoon, which fall into neither category. The truck is a newcomer to our list, but with its mouthwatering options and popularity, it looks like it’s here to stay.
The Grilled Cheeserie
#7 The Grilled Cheeserie, Nashville
Run by Los Angeles transplants Crystal De Luna-Bogan (a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef) and her husband Joseph, the Grilled Cheeserie has been winning Nashville over, and has more than 32,000 Twitter followers (8,000 more followers than last year). Why? Well... it could be their fantastic specialty melts, among them a grilled pimento mac and cheese, a Buffalo chicken melt, and a "Melt of the Moment" that changes according to what’s in season. In the world of food trucks, creative takes on classics are always a good thing.
Oink and Moo BBQ / Facebook
#6 Oink and Moo, Philadelphia and Various Locations in N.J.
Oink and Moo has operated in New Jersey since 2012, enjoying its status as a well-kept Garden State secret in towns like Hoboken and Asbury Park. However, shortly after the truck expanded to Philadelphia in 2014, they won a Vendy award for Rookie of the Year. We’re pretty happy the secret is out. The concept is simple: beef or pork barbecue done well (not well-done). They do have two brick-and-mortar locations, one in Florham Park, New Jersey, and the other in Philly, but where’s the fun in that? You want to enjoy pulled pork like this as soon as it’s off the heat.
#5 Rickshaw Stop, San Antonio
“We’re fairly certain you’ve never eaten anything like the kebabs you will order from our truck,” reads the Rickshaw Stop website, “unless you are friends with a Pakistani family or you’ve spent extensive time in Pakistan.” We’d have to agree. This family-owned-and-operated affair, run by Sameer and Meagan Siddiqui with the help of Sameer’s mother Gety, aunt Bina, and uncle Shabbir, marinates their beef and chicken for at least 48 hours, so the flavors are evenly distributed and provide the perfect prelude to the chargrilled, smoky tones that linger on your tongue. The kebabs are served taco-style in flaky parathas. Need we say more?
#4 The Cinnamon Snail, New York City and Red Bank, N.J.
When we first opened up voting for this year's food truck list, the Cinnamon Snail, a vegan favorite, was not one of the options. People were outraged. How could this beloved truck, which won the hearts and stomachs of vegans and meat eaters alike — which was at No. 2 on last year’s list — not be a contender? It’s definitely not because of the food. Who wouldn’t love items like fig pancakes with pine nut butter, chamomile blood orange syrup, and roasted almonds or lemongrass five-spice seitan with curried cashews, arugula, Sichuan chile sauce, and wasabi mayo on a grilled baguette? Don’t even get us started on their pastries and doughnuts, which rotate daily. No, the explanation for their absence is that we were under the mistaken impression that the Cinnamon Snail had closed down. Adam Sobel confirmed that while they are more active in Red Bank these days, they still operate in New York (check their Twitter for updates) and frequently cater events. So the truck went back on our list — and look where it landed.
Cousins Maine Lobster / Facebook
#3 Cousins Maine Lobster, Los Angeles and Other Locations
Los Angeles has one or two excellent trucks serving fresh Maine lobster, but Cousins appears to be the most popular, based on the overwhelming amount of votes it got. This could also be because Cousins, though it started in LA, operates in a handful of different cities, but nobody who eats food from this truck can argue that it is anything short of fantastic. Cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac serve 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 — not to mention lobster bisque and New England clam chowder — all while running a mail-order business and pursuing franchise opportunities.
Two for the Road
#2 Two for the Road, San Diego
This truck made quite the leap: it was No. 98 last year, and is almost at the top this year. Specializing in American comfort food, this truck’s menu changes weekly, but count on there always being a burger and interesting variations on the hot dog, as well as regional dishes like New England lobster rolls or not-so-regional foods like spinach and artichoke grilled cheese. 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 San Diego. Lisa’s background in the travel industry has allowed her to roam the world, so you know the regional specials are authentic — not to mention delicious.
Ms. Cheezious Fresh Made Grilled Cheese
#1 Ms. Cheezious Fresh Made Grilled Cheese, Miami
This year’s top honors go to a truck serving an American classic: grilled cheese. The menu at Ms. Cheezious includes 17 standard styles and a build-your-own option, with eight cheeses, about five breads to choose from, and six fixings to throw into the mix; the bread used most often is sourdough. Go for their standards, like the Crabby Cheese Melt (crab salad and sharp Cheddar), Croqueta Monsieur (ham croquettes, tavern ham, Swiss cheese, and béchamel), Frito Pie Melt (house chili, American cheese, jalapeños, onions, and Fritos), and the best dessert grilled cheese we’ve heard of yet: the Sweet Meltdown, with a ricotta and orange marmalade blend on Texas toast, served with chocolate dipping sauce. Ms. Cheezious has been a mainstay on this list since 2012, and we’re thrilled that husband-and-wife duo Brian and Fatima Mullins are finally getting the credit they’re due.