Keep On Truckin: LA Food Trucks pt deux
As some might know, gourmet/creative food trucks are the biggest trend in Los Angeles right now, bringing creativity to street food, and to LA, that hasn't been seen in some time. It's a hit-and-miss experience of course, as the trend gets exploited, but at it's best, it is not only a great alternative to the typical greasy low-quality street food, but also an incredibly accessible way to enjoy healthy, creative comestibles.
My intermittent journey through the LA food truck universe continued this week, first at an unexpected run-in with Chef Brian Hill's Comfort Truck on the west side, then a dive-in to the truck fest that was the Silver Lake Jubillee. Twitter is the way to keep track of these trucks, so I've included twitter addresses where possible...
Having private chef'd for Mary J Blige, Eddie Murphy and Mariah Carey, Brian Hill has more pedigree than most truck chefs, and judging by his moist, juicy fried-to-order chicken, he understands that ingredient quality matters as much as technique (though he's no slouch there either--he claims to marinate his wings for 24 hours).
I savored every bite of the Golden Fried slider (left), with a nice aioli mayo and jalapeno. But his tasty jerk beef was overcooked (I know it's tricky to time sliders, but if it's all you do...come on now) tho tasty regardless with cheese and grilled pineapple. Still I couldn't help wishing he had a slightly broader menu than basically variations on two proteins--chicken breast (no dark meat, even?) and ground beef--and portions felt slightly skimpy for the price. There's some nice looking corn and bean relish too, but I think Brian could maybe try his hand at a couple more 'tings. Pork? Duck? Goat? Go for it. twitter: @Comforttruck
Silver Lake Jubilee was a smartly-produced alternative to the bloated thing that the annual Sunset Junction festival has become, with indie/local bands on two stages, a bunch of retail and charity booths that seemed actually relevant to the festival-attendees, and even some indie hillbillies playing music for square dancers, that I confess I can't quite endorse. Mostly because the English term "naff" kept ringing in my ears. And mainly, the Jubilee sported something like 3 dozen food trucks.
Calbi truck (@CalbiBBQ) seems like a pretty obvious @KojiBBQ rip-off, with its Korean-inspired tacos and whatnot. That doesn't mean it's a bad rip-off. But I wasn't going to waste calories finding out...
Canter's is one of many bricks-n-mortar LA institutions that's joined in the Truck wave (Border Grill and Mrs. Beasley's are others, and there was a sadly lonesome Fatburger truck at the Jubilee too).
I understand the reasoning behind wanting a piece of this action, but I can't say I see the point; firstly, Canter's has been around forever and as one of LA's few 24-hour restaurants, is nothing if not accessible. Secondly, matzoh ball soup from a truck sounds like a novel idea, but how practical is it? Thirdly, to be honest, I'd be a lot more excited if Langer's or Brent's had a truck. They're a bit harder to get to, and a bit more of a destination... (and while we're on that notion...how about Phillippe's, Porto's, Din Tai Fung...?)
Some of the other trucks included... @Crepenaround (French crepes)
@Tastymeat (Greek wraps) ... @derbsgourmet ... @louks
Nana Queen's Puddin' and Wings (@nanaqueens)
@Frysmith, @Vesuvio, @UncleLaos...
Not all of them are necessarily inspired, in a culinary sense. Several (who shall remain nameless) were just twists on the basic 50's-nostalgia burger-n-fries thing, with cute curb servers to match. I have no problem with cute servers, but it doesn't really seem to be the point.
But only one truck among all had a significant line--I mean, a huge line, more than 2 dozen deep--that dwarfed the others. That was @Coolhaus , the gourmet small batch ice cream truck (which inhabits what seems to be a converted mail truck, not the typical Catering Truck operation).
As usual, I wondered what could be so freakin' good to deserve waiting for more than 20 minutes. But when I mentioned this out loud to a friend (who's actually a restaranteur himself), he said "Have you tried it? It's worth it."). With special flavors like Foie Gras (not to mention chocolate chipotle, blood orange, brown butter with candied bacon), I was undoubtedly intrigued...will have to hunt it down soon.
I was most impressed, though, by World Fare--first, because it occupies what appears to be a converted British double decker bus, rather than typical Roach Coach, and the upper deck has been converted to a dining patio. Brilliant. Secondly, their food includes South African-inspired "bunny chow," which is a slider alternate that's something like a brioche hollowed-out (nice to have an alternative to the typical Hawaiian Sweet Roll buns) and filled with short ribs, BBQ pork, chicken curry or veggie chili. They also have Piedmontese burgers and sides like truffle mac n cheese balls. But there were too many things I wanted to try and couldn't decide...so ultimately I landed with...
@VizziTruck , sporting a more sophisticated than cutesy look, including flatscreen video monitors, lots of polished nickel plating, and a menu featuring butternut squash soup, some great looking salads, hormone-free Jidori chicken, chickpea and balsalmic BBQ wagyu sliders and more. The Jidori chicken sliders were cooked thru dark chicken, disappointingly bland without the chimmichurri hot sauce. But the chickpea sliders, oh the chickpea sliders! Three to a $7 order, they were a bit mushy--kind of sloppy joe consistency--spicy but soothing thanks to the creme fraiche on top, and altogether satisfying. Both slider orders came on a bed of pimento-spiced yakima salt popcorn (the chickpea ones also had chunks of dates, which offered a nice balance), in a smart but recyclable take-out box. Vizzi's chef David Fune clearly hits two of the big 'C's--creative, and caring. They're also highly sustainably-minded. Keep an eye on this one.
If you want to obsess, check out www.findlafoodtrucks.com
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MAY 2010