There are food trucks that call themselves gourmet because they offer different cheeses or toppings on standard street faire like tacos or hot dogs and a few of them succeed in setting themselves apart. And then there are food trucks that offer truly unique, quality, locally sourced restaurant quality cuisine that, as Guy Fieri would say, are the ‘real deal.’ I don’t think Guy has found The Roasted Shallot yet (his loss) but when he does, you can bet somewhere in the visit he’ll talk about the food and say, “This is the real deal!”
I got to spend some time with Nathan Carel and Brooke Francis on a hot Phoenix summer day and, after a mouth-watering, palate satisfying meal, got a little bit of the story. Just two short months after opening the truck in October 2013, the truck caught fire and was totally destroyed. Some people might have been discouraged by losing the chance to start up during the cooler winter months but Nathan and Brooke saw it as a second chance. Nobody gets it 100% right the first time out and they were able to learn from the brief operating period and make changes when the new truck was built. Even the truck spoke to them. You see, the new truck started its life with a Fire Suppression company and the decals had a sprinkler system just about where the old truck caught fire!
It’s not enough to have a good design and a nice looking truck. It’s not even enough to have a good story. The key to success in a food truck is the food. First impressions are that The Roasted Shallot has nothing to worry about. The biggest problem I had with the menu was deciding what to try. The day I was there the menu included Braised Pork Street Tacos and Vegetarian Tacos, 3 sandwiches, 2 salads plus Southwest Popcorn, a Nathan creation.
The salad choices are opposites on the pendulum but both are exceptional. The Get Yo Greens Salad is fresh, cool and light but bursting with flavors and textures; perfect on a hot summer day. You can get a small size that’s complimentary to the sandwiches or a large one might be all you need for a light meal.
The Garden Slaw, on the other hand is cool and spicy hot at the same time thanks to the hatch chiles and tangy Siricha sauce. I’m thinking The Garden Slaw is the perfect companion to the tacos (and maybe even on the tacos if you can find any room to add it!) but it went down just fine with the B.L.A.T.
Speaking of Brookelynn’s B.L.A.T., this is a must-try for any BLT sandwich lover. The toasted sourdough bread brackets a unique blend of avocado, shredded greens, tomato, pickled onions and a roasted shallot aioli all in supporting roles to the apple wood smoked bacon on one side and Nathan’s own bacon jam providing the bacon punch on the opposite side. You gotta try this one!
On my visit, there was a choice of two specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, the Grown-Up Grilled Cheese and the Schreiner’s Ballpark Grilled Cheese. Since I’d been pretty ‘grown-up’ with my other choices, I went for the Schreiner’s Ballpark Grilled Cheese. This was an ooey, gooey hot mess in the most positive meaning of the phrase! Everybody knows how good Schreiner’s all beef hot dogs are but who puts ketchup, mustard and truck made pickles on a grilled cheese? The Roasted Shallot does and the combination is mouthwatering, especially since the toasted sourdough stays crispy.
The menu changes depending on what is available locally so be sure to check the menu before going out if you’re looking to have that item you loved on your last visit. An advocate and supporter of the ‘buy locally’ philosophy, Nathan says The Roasted Shallot always looks for local ingredients first and usually has up to 90% of everything he serves made up with local products and produce. That ‘buy local’ commitment means the menu sometimes has to change depending on what is available.
The Roasted Shallot does a great job of posting the menu weekly. You can find the Menu on their website along with their locations. You can find them on Facebook or Twitter and at many Phoenix Food Truck Coalition events. Just be warned, after eating at The Roasted Shallot you may want to invite them to your place for lunch or dinner. Oh yeah, they cater and you can have them all to yourself!
One of the added benefits from visiting my daughter in Phoenix is that I get to check in on the Food Truck scene and see what’s happening. Food trucks are alive and well in Phoenix, with new trucks opening on a regular basis. And while I still have plenty of new trucks to try, Short Leash Hot Dogs keeps coming up with new reasons to come back again. And I do!
The latest ‘new thing’ from Short Leash is a Saturday morning Brunch at The Truck Stop on Roosevelt Row CDC between 3rd & 5th Street from 10am – 2pm. The inaugural outing was February 8th and through sheer dumb luck (and a little help from my daughter), I was there. It happens to be Saturday morning as I write this and I wish I had a private jet so I could be there again today.
One of the things I love about Short Leash is that they keep the menu short and change it up regularly. If you haven’t figured it out by now, the best way to enjoy a food truck is to go with friends and a short menu means you can try EVERYTHING! We showed a little restraint and only ordered 4 out of 5 items on today’s menu.
The Crispy Dog Breakfast is GENIUS! Crispy and crunchy breaks through to spicy, soft and satisfying sensations. This Southwestern inspired creation is like a Breakfast Chimichanga that tantalizes all of your different taste buds. If you want to start your day with a little spice, the Crispy Dog Breakfast is just what you need.
I have to admit that I’m a recent convert to Grits. In all honesty, they’re hard to do right and I find they are really good or really bad. Whether you already love grits or you need to be a convert, you need to try the Green Chile Cheese Grits. They’re smooth, creamy and cheesy (almost buttery). The Green Chiles are mild and the sausage blends perfectly to give a little texture and savory balance. Short Leash has transformed this Southern favorite into something that is faithful to the tradition while being uniquely southwestern.
The Breakfast Scramble is just what it sounds like with a twist. All of the usual ‘scramble’ ingredients are here but faithful to the concept that truck food is ‘hand food’; this scramble is served in toasted Naan bread and eaten like a sandwich. Let the kids have the chopped hot dog but adults may want to opt for the Chorizo. If you want to spice it up even more, there’s always salsa or hot sauce, but don’t go overboard. The flavors will evolve and dance across your taste buds offering a whole range of satisfaction that you shouldn’t drown out.
Chicken and Waffles are pretty common in the Southwest and they come in a variety of combinations. Short Leash mixes it up by using a Cheddar Waffle and Chicken Sausage that is both true to the ‘dog’ theme and an interesting change from fried chicken. This savory combo is complemented, if you choose and I recommend you do, by Maple Syrup.
I told you we showed just a little restraint and we did not order the Pancake Tacos & Eggs. Fortunately, our tablemates did order them and give it a two-thumbs up!
It was a little chilly, especially by Phoenix standards, but that didn’t keep folks away. Most brought coffee with them but Brad & Kat Moore promise that French Press Coffee from the Royal will soon join the menu.
The folks at Short Leash Hot Dogs, who first brought you Sit & Stay on Friday nights, plan to make Saturday Morning Brunch a regular part of the schedule. If you are looking for a scrumptious way to start your Saturday, look no further than The Truck Stop at Roosevelt CDC, and find out why hot dogs (or sausage dogs) are the perfect breakfast food!
If you want to experience other creative hot dog creations, you can find out where Short Leash Hot Dogs is setting up by following them on Facebook or Twitter.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and recognize the things for which we are thankful. I’m thankful for the same things that many of you are – family and friends, good health, a (good) job and the freedoms allowed by living in the United States. At the risk of sounding superficial, I’m also thankful that food trucks became a part of my life this year. Read on and I think you’ll agree that there are many reasons it’s not superficial at all.
I’m thankful for the new friends I’ve made, both near and far. I never go to a food truck and not come away feeling better than when I arrived. The long, grueling hours required of anyone working on a food truck doesn’t stop them from greeting me with a smile, a friendly greeting and always a ‘Thank You for coming!” These entrepreneurs share a common characteristic with all small business owners – it is a labor of love and the enthusiasm is infectious. And that enthusiasm and friendliness is mirrored by the patrons who reach out to people they’ve never met before to ask questions and share opinions.
I’m thankful for the exposure to new foodsand the chance to enjoy old favorites re-imagined and reinvented by the creative chefs. The options cross cultural lines that circle the globe and creatively re-imagine American classics closer to home. I’ve learned that Vegan/Vegetarian can be so good you don’t miss the meat, that tacos come in as many varieties as there are countries, that gourmet is not restricted to fancy restaurants and that even hot dogs and burgers can go really upscale with creative toppings. And speaking of upscale, who would ever believe you could get sushi, escargot and steamed dumplings or pizza cooked fresh, in creative and classic styles, from a truck. Desserts range from Whoopie Pies to classic cream & fruit pies (sometimes with a surprising hot pepper kick) to fried pies (including an unbelievable Guacamole pie!), shaved ice (even in an adult versions), cupcakes galore and more flavors of Cool Haus ice cream than I can name. But it’s true, I had all this and more! Who wouldn’t be thankful?
I’m thankful for the generosity and community support demonstrated by the food truck community. It reminds me of the importance of giving and helping those less fortunate than ourselves. I’ve seen food trucks become the featured attraction at fundraisers for charities and churches, schools and youth sports leagues. In addition to contributing time and a generous percentage of their sales (not profits), truck owners often donate 100% of their tips (and sometimes 100% of their sales!) to the sponsoring organization. Some local trucks always donate their tips to a cause near and dear to them. And when sales are not as good as anticipated, the excess food is taken to local food banks to share with those less fortunate.
Reaching out beyond local communities, DFW food trucks generously donated tips and/or a percentage of sales to support aid for the victims of Superstorm Sandy. Local governments in the Northeast embraced the offer to help extended by food trucks in the hard hit areas that resulted in thousands of meals being delivered to victims of Sandy. Many of our own food trucks filled the need for meals and bottled drinks following the 2012 tornadoes in the DFW metroplex. And sadly, some trucks who tried to help were prohibited by local government who hid behind archaic regulations and would not make an exception, even in such an exceptional situation. I pray these cities will see the bigger picture should (or given Texas weather, when) catastrophe strikes our community again.
I’m thankful for all of the new trucks that came to Dallas/Fort Worth. At the same time, I’m saddened by the retiring of other trucks. I’m thankful for the trucks I found before they were gone. They’ll be missed but I wish them all success and happiness wherever life takes them.
I’m thankful for the regulations faced by food truck owners, but not all of them. I’m confused by regulations that give preferential protection to brick and mortar restaurants and relegate food trucks to second-class status. I wonder how this can be considering the history of America, and the American Dream, that reveres the entrepreneur who sees a niche and fills it. At the same time, I embrace the regulations that recognize a gourmet food truck is truly a restaurant on wheels. I want food trucks to be inspected for health and safety like any other restaurant. These regulations not only put everyone on a level playing field, it gives credibility to the truck and removes any fear about safety in their product. I’m constantly amazed at how obstacles are met with creative solutions by food truck operators who fight traffic, bias, regulation, breakdown and the weather to bring their food to the people.
I’m thankful for living in a country where people who have a dream can actually make that dream come true. This country was built by the blood, sweat and tears of people willing to take risks to achieve their dreams. These food truck entrepreneurs remind me of how we became a great country and, despite the interference of politics and politicians, how we can once again return to the prosperity we enjoyed when small, local business was the core strength on which this country was built.
Finally, I’m thankful for the chance to give something back to the food truck community. This website is a labor of love for me. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my experience and to spread the word. I’m thankful for each and every person who visits Food Truck Connection and even more thankful when they pass the articles on to their friends and followers. I’m thankful for the opportunity to encourage my readers to try the food truck experience. I’m thankful when I convince someone that’s staring at a menu, a little hesitant to try something new, and my encouragement gives them the courage to give it a go.
I’m thankful that I can be a part of the food truck community. It’s a really nice place to live.
Aji Mobile Foods Bring Latin American Cuisine to the Valley of the Sun
Behind this food truck is Chef Giancarlo Alarcon and his father Joe. Like many Food Truck owners, Chef Giancarlo was tired of working for someone else and his father was there for support. I am so grateful, because now we can enjoy Chef Giancarlo’s own Latin American food on the streets of Phoenix. I love Latin food but it is hard to find anywhere. On this evening, Chef Alarcon’s Father, Joe Alarcon, was running the truck. On tonight’s menu were 6 choices. Don’t sweat the limited menu. Aji changes it up by offering specials each week that feature a different Latin American country.
We chose the Gaucho. This big sandwich is made of steak, red onion, arugula, and a chimichurri aioli. The steak was tender and the chimichurri aioli was delish.
Next up was was the Hornado. Marinated, slow roasted pork with citrus marinated onions and aji serrano. It hard to pick a winner between these two sandwiches. The pork on the Hornado cooks up a little more tender and the aji serrano has just a little more kick that the chimichurri aioli on the Gaucho. Let’s call it a TIE!!
Then the Yucca Fries. Kudos to Joe, they were cooked to perfection – not greasy, crispy on the outside and tender and fluffy on the inside. If you’ve never had cojita cheese you gotta try it! This aged Mexican cheese is the perfect garnish for the fries. Twice as much salt as most cheeses it makes these Yucca fries perfect, just perfect.
Papa Joe and Giancarlo may be Ecuadorian by heritage but they bring a broad Latin food experience in the menu. Their hard work and warm smiles have already won a place in the hearts and support of Phoenecian Food Truck fans. Aji Mobile Foods was named one of the top 15 Metro Phoenix food trucks by AZ Central.
If you’re ready to spice up your life a little, you can find out where Aji Mobile Foods is serving lunch or dinner today by following them on Twitter or checking their Facebook page.
Think of Hey Joe! as a Friend You Haven’t Met Yet!
“You have to go to Hey Joe! Filipino Food Truck, you will really like it” That is what our daughter said after her visit a few months ago. So, of course, “Hey, Joe!” was on the ‘must do’ list for our latest visit to Phoenix.
Hey Joe! was created by Brian & Margita Webb. You see, Brian is a graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and he married the beautiful Margita, who is from Lapu Lapu, a small island close to Cebu in the Philippines. After a visit to Margita’s home and tasting the local food, Brian knew what they had to do; they had to bring the street food of Lapu Lapu to the streets of Phoenix.
First up was the Valley Dish, which included Pork Lumpia’s, Pancit and rice. The Pork Lumpia is what most of us would call an egg roll. But here at Hey Joe!’ it is filled with local ground pork and fresh, crisp organic veggies. The Lumpia is smaller in diameter than an egg roll allowing the flakiness of the wrap to better balance the crispy, fresh veggie filling. It was fried to a light golden brown and was not the least bit greasy.
Masarap! (Which is Filipino for delicious, delicate, savory or YUMMY!).
Next is the Pancit, which consisted of thin rice noodles, carrots, celery, red and green bell peppers, onion and chicken. It is stir fried in their special sauce, which was very light, allowing the noodles and veggies and chicken to shine. And as with most Asian-influenced cuisine, a heaping scoop of seasoned rice accompanied the meal. I could eat this almost every day.
I am a pork lover and could not wait to try the Fried Pork Belly. I was not disappointed. This is killer! Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and served with the most wonderful soy sauce blend. I am in lust over this dish. I am counting the days until our next visit to Phoenix! I always thought that Fried Pork Belly was a Southern U.S. food creation but this street food has been in the Phillipines for generations.
My biggest regret, aside from not being able to take Margita (pronounced Mar-Jeetah) and Brian back to Dallas, is not arriving in Phoenix a week earlier. Hey Joe! was selected to participate in the Dos Equis Most Interesting Food in the World promotion. Their assignment was Crocodile Lumpia (featuring croc meat instead of pork, duh!), Sisig (grilled Burmese Python chopped with citrus and served over rice) and Siopao (think Steam Bun filled with Camel meat). WOW, talk about opportunity lost!!
And just where did the name, Hey Joe! come from, you ask? In the Philippines, American men are often called “Joe” when their real name isn’t known. When Brian would walk down the street, people in the marketplace would call out, “Hey Joe!” to get his attention. Besides, it sounds catchier than Hey Brian!.
I have to admit I love Brian’s not so subtle dig at all the regulations limiting when and where the truck can park. I totally agree – Street Food is Not a Crime! If you want to support Hey Joe!’and his stand for food truck rights, you can find out where they’re setting up next by following them on Facebook or Twitter. And to check out some neat photos of street food vendors in Lapu Lapu and other delectable menu items, check out the website.
Hey Joe! is a proud member of the Phoenix Street Food Coalition where every member pledges to use a minimum of 30% local produce and products in their menu. The Coalition website publishes a Weekly Calendar for regularly scheduled events and locations.
The Dough is the Secret Recipe for their Artisan Pizza
Domino’s Pizza promised your pizza in 30 minutes or it’s free. MaryBeth apologized, more than once, when it took more than 10 minutes to get our pizzas cooked. Forget that we were the first customers of the day and the oven needed to heat up – good things are always worth the wait and the pizza was definitely a good thing.
There were two menus – Build Your Own or Today’s Specials. We went for the specials but look at those options on the Build Your Own. Schreiner’s Sausage is a premier local supplier. Vegan cheese option (Daiya). Even a gluten free crust option! And, in keeping with the commitment of the Phoenix Street Food Coalition, more than 30% of their products are locally grown.
The Testosteroni (what a fun name!) featured that local Schreiner’s Sausage. It came out steaming hot … and the first bite? The crunchy crust bottom, something you can only get by using a pizza stone to cook on, gave way to softer, chewier dough. Then the savory toppings and rich tomato-based pizza sauce completed the complex cycle of textures and flavors. Pretty fancy words for a pizza, I know. But this was a pizza that checked off all of the boxes. The dough and the sauce are their own recipe’s, handmade fresh daily, and prepared with care.
We had to try the Popeye. Our favorite pizza truck does an incredible Popeye pizza. Could this one compare? In the end, it compares like apples and oranges. Or in this case, thin crust or the thicker, crunchy pizza stone crust from Pizza People that features a homemade, personal recipe dough that was developed by Marybeth and Tim. There is nothing exotic about the ingredients but they were fresh and balanced – not too garlic-y, not too bland. Even if you prefer a thin crust, you’ll still enjoy this pie.
The visit to Pizza People was relaxed and enjoyable. Tim and MaryBeth are really nice people who are passionate about what they’re doing. MaryBeth is on the board for the Phoenix Street Food Coalition. And, thankfully, Tim is mended from a bad motorcycle accident a few months ago. In fact, my timing was terrific since we found them out for only the second day since Tim’s return.
While neither MaryBeth nor Tim claim the title ‘Chef’, MaryBeth had worked in the restaurant business for 18 years and Tim, well, he worked for Little Ceasar’s when he was 18!
One of the challenges of serving made-to-order pizza from a truck is the cook time. Recognizing that this can create a problem for folks on a lunch hour, they offer call-in orders that are ready to pick up when you get there! That’s a first for me. If you want to know if they’ll be near your workplace or neighborhood, you can follow them on Twitter or Facebook.
All doubt has been erased – I am officially a food truck fanatic! I’ve been following food trucks in the DFW area for several months, ventured to Austin and considered eating my way up the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco (at food trucks, of course!). But when my job temporarily took me to Cincinnati, Ohio, I decided it was time to see what was happening with food trucks in other cities. We all know the centers of the food truck phenomenon – California, Florida, New York and, of course, Texas – but the movement is extending all across the country.
Accompanied by my photographer and food taster companion, the trip started from Dallas with an early rise so we could make it to Little Rock, AR in time for lunch. Armed with a list of trucks, we started narrowing down the choices as we approached. Competition with private events for Arkansas college football at home and other conflicts made it a challenge. By using Twitter, the Internet and the phone, we finally tracked down The Southern GourmAsian at Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. Chef Justin Patterson was serving breakfast until noon and we could just make it! The food was fabulous and we are off to a good start! (Chef Justin served us the last meal on the truck- he had a sell out!~)
Chef Justin tells me that there are maybe 10-12 gourmet food trucks that provide regular service in Little Rock so far. As I write this (Oct 6, 2012), the annual Main Street Food Truck Festival is happening in Little Rock. We were very tempted to return but these food truck travelers are worn out!
Back on the road, we headed for Memphis, TN. Efforts to locate a truck serving on Saturday night were a little frustrating and we were tired, so when we found out that several food trucks were serving at Rock For Love, a street festival that features local Memphis musicians and acts to give back to The Church Health Center, a non-profit that provides affordable healthcare and services to uninsured working people and their families, we headed out. Score! Unfortunately, The Tamale Trolley was sold out and closing up their doors by the time we arrived but Fuel City Café, Central BBQ and Yolo Frozen Yogurt provided a glimpse of what Memphis food trucks have to offer. All three of these trucks (Well, Yolo is actually a 1965 Airstream trailer) are affiliated with Brick & Mortar locations.
Memphis food trucks have banded together under the Memphis Food Truck Alliance, founded by Taylor Berger, one of the co-owners of Yolo Frozen Yogurt and a leader in the local food service industry with several food related ventures in addition to organizing the food truck alliance. According to Berger, there are about 45 operating food trucks in Memphis (as of April 2012) and there were 30 pending applications! Memphis City Council passed the food truck ordinance in 2011 permitting self-contained mobile food preparation vehicles to operate in the city.
Sunday morning finds us off again to complete our drive to Cincinnati via Nashville, TN. With little or no planning, we found food trucks would be at Elmendorf Park serving lunch with some crafty research on Twitter and Google (ya gotta love internet service on your phone!). Score again with Bistro Truck (artisan Italian Calzones, pizzas and salads) and Deg Thai (Thai food, duh!) with a cup of ice cream from the Mean Green Ice Cream Machine.
I didn’t get much time to get a real feel for the Nashville food truck scene but a couple of things stand out. First, Nashville regulation seems to embrace the presence of food trucks rather than view them as a nuisance or threat. Second, the enthusiasm and excitement to be working a food truck was just as evident in Nashville as I see in the DFW truck owners and workers. Nashville Food Trucks lists around 45 trucks and the trend is poised for continued growth.
Finally, Cincinnati, the first destination on this two destination trip! The Queen City is known as being pretty conservative and City regulations restrict the operation of food trucks within the city. The food truck community, while being about two years old, supports only a baker’s dozen of trucks and that includes a couple of catering trucks and one associated with a local Cincinnati chili chain. You’d think I’d be able to find all of them over a two week period but, alas, the effort necessary to find them was simply too much. That’s not to say we didn’t make some real ‘finds’ in the search.
Queen City Cookies, an up and coming bakery in Cincinnati rolled out a mobile sales presence with their circus inspired theme that features elephant shaped shortbread cookies in a variety of flavors and other delectable goodies. Samie, the truck operator for Queen City, and Janice became good friends as they kept us supplied with snacks and desserts during our stay. Queen City Cookies has gone from start-up to $250,000 in revenues in less than two years and continues to expand aggressively. We invited Samie to bring her truck to Dallas but she didn’t think the owners would go for that … at least, not for now!!
The best truck we never found is Taste of Belgium, another truck associated with a brick & mortar restaurant, but that didn’t keep us from dining with them at least 4 times while we were in Cincinnati plus a few breakfasts at home! They advertise a truck – but try as we did, we never could find the truck.
All-in-all, we finally connected with 8 of the 13 trucks we were able to identify. And if we’re up to six degrees of separation yet, it’s interesting to note that Café de Wheels, Cincinnati’s first food truck was opened by Tony Acito. Tony is a Dallas transplant who moved to Cincy for a job that didn’t pan out and then started a food truck that did! Tony is about to open Base Camp 1, a burger window at Dive Bar on Short Vine in Corryville. Congratulations, Tony!
The ‘lean’ part of the adventure was the drive from Cincy to Phoenix, the second major destination on this odyssey. We did manage a quick stop in Indianapolis where food trucks are exploding by finding Chef Dan’s Southern Comfort Food trailer parked outside the Triton Microbrewery. Good food, good beer and we just missed Chef Dan’s one year anniversary by a few days!
After spending the night with friends in Terre Haute, we planned a short drive to St. Louis. The food truck scene is taking off in St. Louis but fate dealt us a losing hand. We thought we’d located a Cajun food truck at a neighborhood event, just off Highway 44 as we passed through town but when we arrived, they were nowhere to be found! Sometimes, stuff happens and a food truck simply doesn’t make it to where they intended to be. Unlike Waffle Boss in Nashville who was towed to their location, setup and served lunch.
Anxious to get to Phoenix to visit our daughter and son-in-law, we made some feeble but unsuccessful efforts to find trucks as we motored speedily down the interstates through Springfield, MO; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK; Amarillo, TX; Albuquerque, NM and Flagstaff, AZ. I know there are trucks in most, if not all, of these cities but timing with meals and Twitter and Google just weren’t our friends. Combined with not being familiar with the location and street names, we struck out and focused on getting to Phoenix.
Similar to DFW and many other large metropolitan areas, the Phoenix Food Truck scene is expanding quickly. There are more than 45 food trucks currently operating in and around the greater Phoenix area with new trucks continuing to debut. Despite a few trucks approaching two years and many reaching the first anniversary, the first mass food truck gathering was in January 2012 the Street Eats Festival at Salt River where about 35 trucks were besieged by 14,000 people!
We managed to sample at least a dozen of them during the four days we were there. I found the food truck scene in Phoenix to be similar to what I find in Dallas. Trucks are generally prohibited from parking on the street and there are no permanently established food truck parks.
There are a number of recurring food truck gatherings at places like the Phoenix Public Market and Luhrs Market, District Food Truck Lunch and the Central Farmer’s Market as well as special events and festivals. The Phoenix Street Food Coalition (www.phxstreetfood.org) puts out a pretty comprehensive schedule of events and locations with links to other Facebook or websites that post what trucks are scheduled.
Maybe I should have titled the article ‘My First Food Truck Adventure’. What an experience. What fun! What a treat to meet so many neat people who share a passion for the food truck experience. This may have been my first food truck odyssey but it won’t be the last. Still, it’s always good to be home … and to re-connect with old friends. Had my first Easy Slider since getting back the other day …. Yep, I’m home!
Look for my articles and more photos for many of the trucks in the coming days … well, maybe even weeks! But I’ll get to them as soon as I can. Meanwhile, I’ve got to track down the new trucks that started rolling in DFW while I was gone!!
Emerson Fry Bread Fuses Native American and Mexican Favorites
I may be a Gringo and originally from the Midwest on top of that, but I love fry bread. No, let me correct that … I love GOOD fry bread. And so does Loren Emerson, owner and operator of the Emerson Fry Bread food truck. But Loren takes it so much further, fusing Native American and Mexican daily favorites, to create a menu faithful to the past and updated to today.
The beauty of fry bread is that it is so simple, so satisfying and so versatile. We see it served with so many different toppings, both sweet and savory, that we forget it makes a fabulous snack with simpler garnishes or even plain. On my visit at the Phoenix Public Market, there wasn’t anything plain on the menu. Emerson tempted passers-by with a table laid out with a bounty of varied examples.
I fixed my craving with the D$ Green Chili Chicken Indian Taco. This is a messy meal since it comes loaded with Chicken in a Green Chili Sauce, beans, and all the fixings normally found on either a taco or fry bread. But isn’t lots of fabulous food messy to eat?? The Spring Mix takes it up a level from the usual Iceberg lettuce and the fry bread is just lightly browned. So savory, so comforting, so satisfying. Ahhhhh … that’s what I’m talking about!
But Fry Bread also comes sweet! If you are looking for a truly decadent dessert, look no further than fry bread loaded up with your favorite sweet indulgences. Maybe you want something simple like Honey & Powdered Sugar. How about strawberries and cream with a drizzle of chocolate? Or maybe you prefer bananas and chocolate??
OK, so fry bread may not be on the preferred list for the American Heart Association but Emerson uses as much organic food as possible. Produce like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, beans and peppers is purchased from local farms and markets.
The menu also includes burritos, carne asada, green chili, chicken and hot wings not to mention those delectable dessert versions.
This is one of those times where a picture is truly worth a thousand words. I’m just gonna’ let the photos work up your appetite.
If you’re mouth is watering now, I hope you’re not reading this late at night. Emerson is a family man and he’s home with the wife and kids. But if you need to look him up tomorrow for your Fry Bread fix, you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
When you think of barbeque, Phoenix is not the first city that comes to mind. When Phoenicians think about what to have for lunch or dinner, barbeque is not the first thing that comes to mind. Devin Clough is out to change that situation by bringing high quality BBQ to Phoenix … and serve it out of a gourmet food truck. First impressions are important and based on my first impression, he’s well on the way.
Q UP offers Pulled Pork Tacos and a BBQ Sandwich but I went for the full Monty by ordering the 3-Meat Platter, Nachos and Breaded Mac-n- Cheese Bites. Devin uses a Kansas City style of BBQ sauce but makes it his own with layers of flavors, sweets and heat. If your BBQ preference runs to a thick, slightly sweet sauce with the heat coming on at the end, you’ll love this sauce.
The Nachos may be the absolute best nachos I’ve ever had! The “truck-made” chips are crunchy and made from flour tortillas instead of corn. They stay crunchy even after the pulled pork, BBQ sauce and other toppings are added. The serving is HUGE (plan to share) and the chips were still crunchy when the leftovers made for an interesting breakfast the next day! The pulled pork is melt in your mouth tender, seasoned to perfection and moist. The BBQ sauce provides the sweetness complement to the savory pork while the tomato and green onion make it all pretty and colorful.
The 3-meat plate is great for sampling or for the undecided. Tender brisket, pulled pork and spicy sausage are provided in good-sized portions. It’s hard to pick a favorite as each of them are good in their own way. You know how I feel about the pulled pork (see nachos above!) but the brisket was just as tender and moist with that buttery flavor the comes from slowly breaking down the higher fat content in the brisket. The sausage was good, but even before learning it is one of only two items not prepared by Devin, I recognized that it didn’t have the same ‘Devin touch’ of the other meats.
The plate comes with one side. Darn! More choices! The Southwestern Tangy Slaw sounded really interesting but I picked the Mac-n-Cheese. Your kids might like this Mac-n-Cheese but Uncle Devin’s Bacon-y Chees-y Mac is all grown up. The penne pasta is a lighter in texture and larger sized than traditional elbow macaroni and the sauce spiced up and thinned down for a more complex, grown-up taste. I was never a big Mac-n-Cheese fan but some of the offerings I’ve had on the various food trucks I’ve tried is outstanding and this one ranks with the best.
Devin is as good a salesman as he is a chef and before I got away, he convinced me to try the Breaded Deep-Fried Mac-n-Cheese Bites. I know, I know …. You’re thinkin’ deep fried Mac-n-Cheese? But these tasty little morsels were coated with the lightest breading seasoned with a little kick and lots of flavor. The creamy, cheesy Mac-n-Cheese contrasted the breading perfectly for just the little bite you’re looking for to complement some of that melt in your mouth brisket or pork.
Q UP Barbeque gets around but you’ll often find him hanging out with several other trucks at some of the developing hot spots for food truck gatherings in Phoenix and the surrounding ‘burbs. You can find out where QUP is set up today by checking the Facebook page or following them on Twitter.
Service was fast and friendly with prices ranging from $2 – $12. If you want Q UP all to yourself, you can get information about private catering on their Facebook page.
Mamma Toledo’s: Life is Short, Eat Dessert First!!
I knew I liked Tonya Saida, the creative force and face of Mamma Toledo’s Food Truck, the minute I saw her standing next to the truck. Any doubt was erased when she urged me to ‘eat dessert first.” I may have disregarded her advice, somewhat surprising since I live by that motto, too, but there was a good reason! No offense to the other trucks I visited that day but I clearly saved the biggest treat for last!
Some people are destined to cook, or in this case, bake. Tonya is one of those people. I’m looking at the pies on the menu today and I’m thinking, “Thank God these things travel!” I love food truck menus – they’re usually short. Why choose when you can just have one of EACH!!
I took these bad boys home, letting everything else I’d eaten settle a little, and got ready to sample. Every bite was a little bit of heaven. All different, all delicious!! If a picture is worth a thousand words, get ready for some speed reading:
First up, the Chocolate Raspberry. AAAHHHHHH!!!! Rich milk chocolate crème and light, flaky crust make you smile all over while the tart raspberry coulis on top springs a pleasant surprise on your taste buds that keeps the fun happening through the finish.
Staying with the Chocolate theme, we move on to the Double Chocolate Coconut Crème. Rich, dark chocolate filling leads the flavor experience with toasted coconut mixed in the Whipped Cream topping holding back for the finish. A little crunch, a lot of flavor. This one is for chocolate lovers everywhere!!
Next up is the Banana Crème. You may have heard the phrase, second place is first loser, but at Mamma Toledo’s, there are no losers! This pie stands out not for taking a unique approach – just for taking the basic recipe and making it taste GREAT!
Man cannot live by crème pies alone …. Well, OK, I guess you could, but then you’d miss the extraordinary Blueberry Crumble! There are crispy crumbles and soft crumbles. Miss Tonya uses the soft variety on this bold, blueberry filling so the juices can soak into the crumbles, infusing the great fruity taste. What really surprised me was the cinnamon! I can’t recall ever having cinnamon in a Blueberry pie but I liked it — a LOT! The only way you won’t like this pie is if you don’t like blueberries!
At the top of the menu today, but bringing up the rear in the tastings, is the Key Lime Pie. This is the real deal with a pecan ginger bread crust adding texture and a touch of saltiness to the citrusy key lime filling. Never too sweet, always scintillating. This pie takes you away to Key West. Just close your eyes, take a bite, let the flavors dissolve over your tongue and you can almost hear the waves and feel the sand between your toes.
If you want just a li’l bite, Mamma Toledo’s offers an alternative to the whole pie with her Cup O’Pies. Today, the choices were Chocolate Peanut Butter or Vanilla Crème. Duh!!! Of course I ordered the Chocolate Peanut Butter!!! This is not a slice of pie crammed into a cup but a dessert that features rich, creamy chocolate and peanut butter pie filling layered in a cup with a touch of crust.
Tonya, no worries. Mamma would be proud! I’m just wondering if you could maybe add Dallas to your list of expansion locations?? What if I say, “Pretty, please?”
Mamma Toledo’s offers a wide variety of crème and fruit pies in 2”, 5” and 9” sizes. In addition, she offers Cheesecakes, Cupcakes and 9″ layered Cakes plus an assortment of breakfast goodies like flavored cinnamon rolls, éclairs and muffins. And if by some unbelievable chance you can’t find the flavor you want on the menu, Tonya will create your custom pie in any flavor your heart desires!!
If your mouth is watering now, you can find Mamma Toledo’s pies featured at the True Brew Coffee Café or the Chatterbox Café. Those locations are fine once you’re hooked, which will be right after your first taste, but look her up on the truck. You can find her location on Facebook or Twitter. Do it now! Find out where you missed her yesterday or, better yet, where she’s at today.
Then make plans to go get the best excuse to fill your pie hole you’ll ever find!