Los Angeles' 15 Best Food Trucks for 2013 Slideshow
#15 Fist of Fusion
Formerly known as Truck Norris, Fist of Fusion provides an exotic hybrid of Hawaiian and Filipino fare, inspired by chef Ronnie Lucido's mother’s recipes. Truck Norris was named Food Truck of the Week by Zagat back in 2011, and Fist of Fusion maintains the same menu and lively customer service. Favorite items include the "Notorious R.I.B," bone-in marinated short ribs. Other menu staples include the beef short rib “Volcano Bowl” and the Kalua Pork Sisig. If the truck's name change is confusing, just look out for the signature Truck Norris punch icon, which will still grace the side of the vehicle.
#14 Komodo Truck
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.
#13 Slap Yo Mama
Sadly, this commendation comes at a sad time for the Slap Yo Mama family. Joseph "Big Joe" Johnson, the much beloved owner of the truck with his wife Valerie, recently passed away. Alligator, greens, mac and cheese, gumbo, po’boys, fried chicken, banana pudding, peach cobbler — these dishes have all been enough to draw crowds wherever the truck idles. But if they’re not, take their signature dish as a personal quest. Something you just have to search out. The "Snoop Dogg" is a crazy Monte Cristo sandwich made with waffles, fried chicken, and mac and cheese that’s deep-fried, and topped with syrup and powdered sugar. And to think, it all started just with some tasty self-confidence in the home kitchen. Noted Johnson in an interview, "My wife was cooking meals at home for the holidays, we were doing deep-fried turkeys, and we were doing so good, we decided, 'Hey, let's try to get a restaurant.'" It’s just that kind of hope and trust that makes up part of what goes into starting a food truck. You’ll be missed, Joe. Bless.
#12 Baby's Badass Burgers
OK, here’s the deal: Baby’s Badass Burgers did make The Daily Meal’s tongue-in-cheek list of Food Truck Names That Should Be Banned. It wasn’t that the name was actually that outlandish, but something about the presentation was just a bit, well, much. It takes a page out of the Fojol Bros. of Merlindia’s book: outlandish getup. 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."
#11 Jogasaki Sushi Burrito Truck
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.
#10 Lobsta Truck
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. 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.
It made sense in 2010 when French chef Ludo Lefebvre launched a mobile kitchen with no permanent location other than the road. After all, this beloved chef with 13 years of training at three-Michelin-starred restaurants has made his reputation in the American market with LudoBites, seasons one and two of Top Chef Masters, Sundance Channel’s Ludo Bites America, and now most recently as one of the four celebrity judges on The Taste.
The LudoTruck serves Lefebvre’s famous fried chicken. It’s so good that Pulitzer Prize winner food critic Jonathan Gold listed it as one of the 99 Things to Eat in LA Before You Die. Buttermilk chicken, honey garlic-glazed wings, crispy breast strips, and the crispy chicken sandwich can be dressed with honey mustard, béarnaise, and spicy mayo, and eaten with slaw, fries, or a honey lavender biscuit. Don’t forget the aguas frescas — basil blood orange and strawberry watermelon.
#8 Sky's Gourmet Tacos
"Some say, 'Southwest meets Louisiana,' other say, 'Mexican food with a splash of Soul.'" That’s the trademarked motto Sky’s Gourmet Tacos heralds, an approach creator (and former corporate executive) Barbara Burrell (call her, "Sky") has been taking since launching her restaurant on West Pico Boulevard near Hauser in 1992. Eighteen years later, Sky’s MCV (Mobile Cuisine Vehicle) fuchsia food truck followed, along with the popularity and following. The menu is tailored from the restaurant’s, one that most purists will note doesn’t adhere to traditional taco fare. Still, shrimp tacos are the signature move, and really, you can’t go wrong with a truck that benefits from more than 20 years of recipe refinement. Provecho!
#7 Seoul Sausage
Want to know what passion, word-of-mouth, and crazy good Korean BBQ create? Seoul Sausage, a venture started by two families — the Kims and the Ohs. The business was launched in 2010, and these guys kicked things off with their Kalbi, marinated short ribs, and their spicy pork sausages. The food was so good it gave birth to a legion of fans eager wait in line at street fairs. Movie studios and Fortune 500 companies have catered events with this outstanding fare, and both wineries and chefs have made requests for private orders. They also basically managed to figure out a way to time the launch of their brick-and-mortar restaurant to them winning Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. Even though the season’s over, seems like the Food Network’s celebrity chefs like Alton Brown and Bobby Flay still keep coming back for more. We’ve got our eye on Da KFC: Korean Fried Chicken with a sweet and spicy glaze, served with pickled daikon radishes and a kimchi Cheddar cornbread.
#6 Border Grill
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.
#5 Vizzi Truck
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."
#4 The Grilled Cheese Truck
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 â€” 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 nine.
#3 Grill 'Em All
"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.
Earlier this 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 seem to be moving 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.
#2 The Buttermilk Truck
When you think about it, it makes lots of sense that this would be one of the country’s best food trucks. Americans love their breakfast after all — pancakes, waffles, eggs, sausage, and bacon — and they don’t like to be told when and where they can eat it. So why not all day and on the side of the road? Founder and FCI Pastry Arts grad Gigi Pascual makes that happen for Angelenos with The Buttermilk Truck, taking its name from the fact that it uses buttermilk as a key ingredient in most menu items, and its philosophy from Pascual, who claims to "eat breakfast morning, noon, and night."
In the morning they serve Hawaiian bread cinnamon French toast sticks, red velvet chocolate chip pancakes, cake donuts, Hawaiian bread breakfast sliders (with sausage, sautéed onions, and scrambled eggs), and breakfast brioche sandwiches with cheese, fried eggs, and either bacon, tocino, or chicken apple sausage (opt in for the rosemary garlic hash browns). The pancake, waffle, and donut batters are made from scratch and cooked to order. Late night, you can still swing the pancakes and sliders, but there are a few other savory options — things helpful for soaking up fun: fried chicken with cinnamon waffles, and a classic must-have called the "Buttermilk Brick." That’s hash browns with two eggs over-easy, a buttermilk biscuit, and house-made chorizo gravy. Besides landing at number 16 on last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list, The Buttermilk Truck was also a finalist at the 2012 Vendy Awards and took third place on the Zagat 2013 Los Angeles Restaurants Survey. Fans seriously can’t enough, which might explain why they sell their own pancake mixes.
#1 Kogi BBQ
"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 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 100,000 Twitter followers, it is clear that this truck as reached celebrity status.