Perhaps trusting people is very retro right now, in this age of shared Wi-Fi, GMO produce, easy online ordering, and of course, the comeback of the beloved food truck. Few people ever think about where food comes from—they just want to know:
Is it tasty?
Is it convenient
Does it have a catchy name?
It seems that today, the most successful food trucks have some sort of gimmick, if not in name and style of cuisine, then in presentation. These 13 food trucks have earned a reputation for being spunky, unique and sometimes hilarious.
It’s not just pizza—it’s MoTown style square pies, so claims Via 313 out of Austin, Texas. Their squares and seasoning are inspired by European culture and taken from Sicilian recipes passed down. Munchers can expect a layer of pepperoni lining the dough, a thick layer of cheese, and topped a bigger than average volume of red sauce. Detroit-style pizzas in Texas? You don’t say?
When it comes to dessert, popsicles are a long-time favorite in summer and so The King of Pops from Atlanta, Georgia had the idea of making a year-long trip. These popsicles are inspired by higher quality paletas from Latin America, that the owners sampled while traveling abroad. With flavors like banana pudding, chocolate raspberry, pear vanilla and even creamy avocado, it’s clear these aren’t your ordinary freezer treats.
Not all food is something ingeniously planned, nor is quality always the key. Sometimes the theatricality of the event is enough to merit a trip to a food truck—or a number of trucks. No one really asks if the food is organic at the Zombie Food Truck Festival. The fact that a zombie is handing it to you is all you need to know. Besides beer, burgers, music and arts and crafts you can also visit a zombie walk, a makeup tent and ogle a bunch of funny-looking rejects from The Walking Dead.
Food trucks, prepackaged or frozen produce served party-style via a tiny kitchen on wheels, are all about spontaneity, which may very well explain our current love affair with pizza mobiles. So comes Maximus Minimus, with their porky delights, and truck shaped like a pig. Obviously, you need some way to spot them in crowded Seattle traffic…look for the giant militarized pig, not the Dodge Ram. They serve traditional pork dishes, like the MAXImus, hot and spicy pork, or the miniMUS, sweet and tangy pork, as well as MAXImus Ginger Lemonade, or miniMUS hibiscus nectar. If you can keep the MAXImus / miniMUS thing straight, you’ll be squealing like a pig.
Food trucks do great business at densely populated locations like carnivals, theme parks, arenas, or even construction sites—places where comfort is priority over price. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from traveling. The Tamale Spaceship travels all over Chicago, selling tamales out of a Lucha Libre-inspired minimalist “Spaceship”. With bizarrely named food items like Space Guacamole, Picturesque (Yucatecan style pork), Complicate (flank steak black mole) and No Ones (barbacoa-style roasted chicken with Michoacan green peanut mole) this spaceship embraces their inner alien.
In fact it’s not rare to see food trucks parked outside businesses, schools, or even auto repair shops, since all those greasy mechanics would surely love a greasy hot entrée at break. This is split-second marketing and it works because if you a sudden craving for some tacos, then Taco Bus driving by is not going to leave much to the imagination. They picked a great location—Tampa where Mexican delights like burritos, tostadas, ensaladas or quesadillas are always welcome. They also have gluten-free and vegan dishes and handle catering requests. Chef Rene’s success has been highlighted on the Food Network, the Travel Channel and the Cooking Channel.
Sometimes it’s all about a name and satisfying a basic craving, such as The Grilled Cheese Truck, stationed in multiple cities across the U.S. They travel all over California and post their locations online, featuring cheese items beyond just grilled cheese, like Cheesy Mac and Rib, Pretzel Melts, Roast Brie Melt on Black Peppercorn Bread, and Goat Cheese Melt. They even have Dessert Melts like S’Mores and Cheesecake for your sweet tooth.
These “meals on wheels” have only positive associations, unlike big brand name restaurants, and especially the ones that attempt to capitalize on cultural movement. The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck specializes in unique flavors while also embracing gay culture. They’re not only focusing on gay markets, but are drastically upping the quality of the ice cream itself, replacing the usual soft-serve with their own proprietary recipes, the likes of which has earned the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck “top 10 world” quality listings according to USA Today and others. They travel to various big US cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. With hilarious gay-riffing names like Salty Pimp, Bea Arthur, Mermaid, and Monday Sundae, how can you resist?
Some creative visionaries have even gone for comedy in their marketing, with Portland’s Kim Jong Grillin’, of course, Korean food named after the Kim Dynasty. Serving Korean delights like an egg-topped barbecue bim box, bulgogi and kimchi over rice, spicy pork lettuce wraps, kimchi-and-mango-salsa-laden hot dogs, it’s the sort of knockout food that even silences Kim Jong-Un inactive for weeks on end.
Grillenium Falcon, for all Star Wars lovers that could use something off the grill, and that naturally has a depiction of a Millennium Falcon-shaped piece of toast. Besides the usual Star Wars iconic imagery you might expect, including Han Solo holding a cheese sandwich, they also have a “build your own grilled cheese” option. Sorry, nothing too creative like “Obi-Wan Oltermanni”, but they do make it a point to serve local produce only, working with Arkansas bakeries and farmer’s markets.
It’s hard to say no to a concept or title as audacious as The Blaxican in Atlanta, a fusion food truck of Mexican and soul food, and presented in a truck with a depiction of a man that looks rather Blaxican and very happy. More importantly, the food truck, having earned fame from CNN interviews and the like, can now afford to partner with local charities in feeding the homeless. Serving dishes like Blackened Fish Tacos, Smoked Sausage Tacos and Philly Steak Nachos, it’s easy to see why this fusion was a no brainer.
Sometimes a food truck is not an entrepreneurial experiment, but a a nationwide campaign by an established company, such as with KIND Healthy Snacks’, which is part of a bigger pay it forward movement. Their healthy bars (including items like Honey Smoked BBQ, and Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew) now number nearly 30 individual recipes. They now offer a food truck that travels nationwide handing out free samples, and in exchange for “the community carrying out a specific act of kindness”, which is usually local charity partnerships.
Finally, where would you be Monday morning without coffee and donuts? At Beavers Coffee + Donuts in Chicago, you get everything sweet and loaded with caffeine, including coffee, milkshakes, donuts, S’mores, and of course, the old donut on the straw trick with your dessert coffee. You can customize the size and ingredients all the while looking at two adorable chipmunks on the truck’s side. Why one chipmunk has coffee and a donut while the other one only has a cup of coffee is open to speculation and conspiracy.
Food trucks are a creative and sexy spin on the old, “What do you want to eat tonight?” question, giving hungry passersby instant quenching of that thirst for fast beverages, and if done properly, that never-ending urge for some drama along with your Coke.
The Food Network Canada knows that food trucks have become part of the zeitgeist, and now airs a program called The Great Food Truck Race, where specialty food trucks compete against each other in big cities. In case you’re wondering, in the first season “Grill Em All” defeated Nom Nom Truck for the win, much to the chagrin of The Ragin’ Cajun who only raised a measly $706 for its brand and was kicked out the first week of competition. Unfortunately, there were no altercations or bad blood reported from the race, because ultimately what everybody wants to see from TGFTR is a dangerous highway-police chase with a dozen vigilante food trucks.
Since food trucks date back to the late 1800s with the “Texas Chuckwagon”, it seems as if food truck popularity is not novel, but rather cyclical, and destined to be popular for a few more years until restaurants take back some of their heat. If anything, the success of these imaginative and sociable food trucks proves that in an era of guaranteed safety, predictable menus, and FDA-approved protocol, everybody wants to take a chance on something different and maybe even a little weird. Luckily for us, if what they’re serving is not for all tastes, stand a few moments among crowded daytime sidewalks and a better offer might drive by.
You practically see them everywhere – from the Greater Los Angeles area to Anchorage, Alaska. Famed chefs’ Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich drill their MasterChef contestants to win and earn big from this challenge. Heck, even Four Seasons Hotel and Resort had launched its second tour. Without a doubt, food truck dining isn’t just a fad. It’s now a way of life, so much that restaurant owners feel threatened by this mobile dining alternative!
The thing about food trucks nowadays is that it has evolved in a way that it now serves diners who are commonly outside of their target market. While conventional food trucks still serve all-time favourites, gourmet food truck is now the name of the game.
Moveable Banquet Worthy of a 5-Star Review
Folks who are used to fine dining needn’t be wary of food trucks. Since its conception, food trucks have become so versatile that this mobile industry now mirrors gastronomical delights that are usually served at fine dining restaurants. Food trucks owned, managed, and run by renowned and classically trained chefs aren’t unheard of. In fact, Roy Choi, one of the pioneers of the reasonably priced yet sophisticated food truck movement, once worked at Beverly Hilton in LA as a chef. Cooks and chefs behind high-end food trucks know, understand, and have first-hand familiarities on how to deliver high-quality food and service to people who aren’t used to eating outside of gorgeous, cozy restaurants.
(Sriracha Bar from Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ)
High-end, cuisine-centered food trucks are booming not just in California (where food truck movement purportedly first started), but all over the country as well. Several food publications and food show specials have listed their picks of the “best food truck nationwide.” Majority of these picks go beyond the normal food truck menu of nachos and cola, subs and coffee, and pretzels and OJs. To attract well-off diners, the moveable banquet of food trucks now offer carte de jour of drool-worthy and sumptuous servings.
(Hot Buttered Lobster Rolls from Red Hook Lobster Pound)
Specialty Food Trucks for Foodies across the Country
Are you a practicing vegan? Don’t worry, vegan-centric food trucks are in abundance. In fact, PETA even listed its top five vegan-friendly food trucks that serve delicious and even fancy vegetarian dishes. The Cinnamon Snail that primarily serves vegan-organic courses tops this list.
Craving for a particular cuisine? Cuisine-centered food trucks are roaming around every major city in the country. Want Thai? Nashville’s award-winning DegThai fits the bill. Want a fusion of Chinese and Indian food? Chinese Mirch roams the streets of New York five times a week. Want to try French cuisine? Enjoy A Moveable Feast, a French mobile bistro and creperie for the Atlanta area.
Want to indulge in a yummy dessert? Dessert-special food trucks like Sprinkles Mobile, Churros Calientes, and Sweet Wheels are just three examples of amazing food trucks that cater to dessert-loving diners. These sweet mobile dining experience rivals one that you can find in a patisserie restaurant.
(Modern Family’s Ariel Winter grabs cupcakes from the Sprinkles Mobile)
Mobile Dining as a New Foodie Experience
As a bon vivant, it’s easy enough to dine and wine in Michelin star restaurants all over the globe. Personal home chefs are also at your beck and call. But there’s something to be said about trying an alternative dining selection than your usual food repertoire. Food trucks—conventional or gourmet—can give you this new, gastronomical satisfaction. You won’t run out of varieties of food being served. More often than not, food trucks specialize in one particular food or one specific type of dish: organic, vegan, dessert, cuisine-oriented—you name it. 90% of the time you’ll find it in your area.
Taste-wise, your refined palate will surely sing its praises. One of the reasons why you always find a queue strung outside a food truck is because the food on the mobile menu always tastes divine. The wonderful aroma alone can tickle your appetite.
Food truck dining is laidback and casual. You don’t have to dress up for it. You can enjoy a lazy Sunday brunch alone or with your friends at Food Truck Sundays near your place. Or rather than ordering your usual Tuesday takeout, you can drop by at a food truck diner. You get to try out something new, get a bit of exercise, and watch people, too.
Food truck dining (gourmet or otherwise) now plays a big role in bringing easy, economical, and delicious gastronomical delights to diners. True to Marco Pierre White’s words, “Gastronomy is the highest form of therapy that an individual could be exposed to.”
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