Because of their quirky names, mobile nature, and perceived trendiness, food trucks often fail to get the culinary recognition that they deserve. We think that’s a shame. On the real, we’re prepared to go toe-to-toe with anyone who wants to get snide about these culinary equalizers. Not only do they make some legit awesome food, they provide people with a gift for cooking a less-expensive way to test ideas and be their own bosses. So, last spring we were fully down to celebrate the best our country has to offer by picking the best food trucks in America, specifically the best one in every state.
In our enthusiasm, we may have overlooked how challenging it would be. The brain hears “Eat at all the food carts!” but fails to acknowledge that you then have to pick the best from among literally endless options. Damn. Like how do you enjoy a delicious arepa or grilled cheese and then turn your back on them? It’s heartbreaking.
Check out our picks for your state and neighboring ones. Tell us if we got it right. Chances are, if you name another hot spot, someone on our staff will send an “I told you so” Slack message, and why would you deny anyone the chance for a little co-worker smugging? Plus, we love finding new places to chow down, so drop in the names and locations of all your fave food trucks. Let’s work together to keep small, independent businesses with killer food flourishing.
Alabama: Shindigs (Birmingham)
Chefs Chad Schofield And Mac Russell launched this “spank your tastebuds” truck in 2011, after bonding during their time together at Culinard and Hot and Hot Fish Club. They quickly learned that people liked what they were doing, as steady streams of customers bought all of their inventory during a series of hectic lunch rushes. And what’s not to like? They pride themselves on serving “local food, fast,” offering a menu designed around farm-fresh, local produce, meats, and dairy. They also celebrate their Southern roots, but take a healthy approach (nothing on their menu is fried in duck fat).
The menu at Shindigs changes, as all menus tied to seasonal ingredients do. If you hit the truck for brunch, you might opt for savory pulled pork, with highlife grits, and Brussels sprouts, or a buttery croissant filled with fried chicken, Concecuh sausage, and pimento cheese could be more your jam. Our choice would be the éclair with white chocolate ganache, roasted pineapple, and pistachio crumble, but we roll decadent.
For lunch, diners enjoy Korean steam buns with crispy pork belly, cilantro, hoisin, a spicy sesame mist and a side of sweet potato tots. Just try resisting a Slovenian sausage with squash mashed potatoes, burnt stone fruit, caramelized onions, mustard jus, and a side of crispy onion rings.
Alaska: Pikiniki Food Truck (Anchorage)
Finding food trucks in Alaska can be very difficult — as only serious badasses are able to keep their food trucks operating during the state’s brutal winters. Picture the fortitude it takes to spend the day in a steel box with exhaust fans constantly sucking all of the warmth out of the space (along with the cooking smoke). Who is pushing their way to the front of the line to open the service window on that baby? And that doesn’t even take into account trying to drive the truck through freezing rain and ice floes.
That’s why a lot of food trucks operate seasonally, like the phenomenal Pikiniki, our pick for best in the state. We love their fresh, umami-heavy approach to decadent sandwiches and fries. And, that doesn’t even get into how down we are for waffle dogs. “Waffle dog?” you say. Yes, all the fun of a dog (or block of cheese) on a stick, but with a fluffy waffle coating. Hot Dog on a Stick has nothing on these guys, especially because Pikiniki offers reindeer dogs. But, it’s really the loaded dinner size fries that have us swooning. As devout lovers of fries covered in stuff, we were enchanted by the carne asada fries: crispy, golden fries smothered by grilled asada beef strips, salsa, cheese, and avocado aioli. But, it’s the Porkiniki fries that really took our love to a new level. These bad boys are topped with crispy pork belly strips, garlic mayo, sweet balsamic, and pork cracklings.
For people not looking to live on a steady diet of fries, there are bomb ass sandwiches, like the Cubano panini, loaded French dip. Classic Reuben panini, and monte cristo.
Arizona: Emerson Fry Bread (Phoenix)
Fusion is a common food truck approach, and while there are Korean-Mexican joints in every state, there seems to only be one Native American-Mexican one in the country, and it is the pride of Phoenix, Arizona. Emerson Fry Bread opened in April of 2011, but it was not the first-time owner and operator Lorenzo Wilson had sold fry bread; his father and grandfather, who needed to finance their band, The Salt River Reservation Band, started doing it in 1967. In order to gather the funds needed to tour the southwest, the family started selling fry bread at the Arizona State Fair, and they kept it up until 2001.
The business’ newest incarnation is more than fry bread. Emerson, who is Quechen, Mojave, and Mexican-American, celebrates both his Native American and his Mexican heritage with the food. But, it is his wife Roxanne’s full-blooded Navajo, of the Water Edge Clan, heritage that best informs the frybread. It’s indigenous food with a gourmet sensibility.
Emerson Fry Bread places a lot of emphasis on fresh and house-made products. They make all of their salsas daily with produce that is local and organic when possible. Every morning, they roast the chilis needed for the day and prepare frybread dough. And, the juices they sell are also prepared by the couple. The Jazzy is an excellent example of their food. This Indian taco starts with a piece of frybread fried to order and heaps it with their signature carne asada, pinto beans, field greens, fresh pico de gallo, and sour cream; it is served with a side of mango and cucumber salsa and a lime wedge. They also serve street tacos and massive burritos.
Customers can expect dishes like hominy, mutton and green chile stew, pozole, and menudo to make appearances as specials.
Arkansas: Katmandu Momo (Little Rock)
For most American citizens, the momo isn’t a familiar street food. But, for people from Kathmandu, Napal — like Saroja Shrestha, Katmandu Momo’s owner — it is literally the most popular street food known. These steamed buns are made from a white flour and water dough that is rolled into a flat circle and drawn tight around a filling before being steamed.
Katmandu Momo boasts the only Nepalese food in Arkansas and a pared down menu. There are three types of filling and there are three sides. That’s it. Customers have their choice of beef, chicken, or veggie momos. The meats are marinated with sesame oil, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, cumin and coriander and blended with diced onion. While the veggie filling (which is vegan) is a blend of carrot, cabbage, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. The proximity of Nepal to India is reflected in the flavor profiles. Before being tucked into a dumpling, the filling is stir fried. When the momos are steamed, the fillings create a dank broth that bursts in your mouth. All are served with a house-made sauce that’s a balanced blend of tomato, garlic, and cilantro.
The sides are all vegan and vegetarian as well. Aloo dum are spicy potatoes served cold, reminiscent of a potato salad. Diners are quick to comment on the heavy punch of garlic and the high level of spice. One diner called it “as hot as a goat’s ass in a pepper patch.” There are also spring rolls, which are petite and tightly rolled. Shrestha uses her mother’s recipe, rather than presenting a more traditional Nepali option. The final side is a crispy, savory fried rice that couples well with the momos.
California: White Rabbit Truck (Los Angeles)
Yes, this food truck is in LA and they serve fusion tacos, but we promise this isn’t one of many Korean-American Kogi knock-offs. High school friends Michael, James Du and Melvin Chua observed the SoCal food scene and realized they didn’t see any Filipino food trucks. Du, a chef who graduated from Cordon Bleu and has worked under Gordon Ramsey, was managing a BBQ truck in 2009, and it pushed him to launch his own. He spent nine months testing recipes before deciding on a menu that blends Filipino cuisine with dishes the owners felt would be more familiar to LA folk: tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and bowls. They wanted to combat the stereotypes that Filipino food is greasy and unhealthy and to make their culture mainstream.
The most popular item on the Whiterabbit menu is the Sigsig burrito. Traditionally, pork sigsig is made from pigs faces and ears that are simmered before being chopped finely and fried in a buttery pan with ginger, soy sauce, garlic, and chili. The White Rabbit crew opts to avoid the potential patron discomfort caused by face and ear eating and instead cooks their sigsig with pork belly. For added flavor, they also use jalapeno. The pork is piled into a soft flour tortilla with their super garlicky fried rice, a fried egg, and swiss cheese. The rich egg yolk blends with the juicy, crispy pork to make something fantastic. They also offer slow-braised chicken adobo, soy and citrus beefsteak, and BBQ pork as meat options. The menu used to be larger, but they have pared it down over the years.
Colorado: Quiero Arepas (Denver)
Igor Panasewicz was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where arepas are a staple. These unleavened patties of maize are cooked until golden on a griddle, split in half, and stuffed with ingredients. Though arepas are also popular in the Canary Islands, Panama, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, it is the Venezuelan style that Panasewicz found himself craving in America. When he couldn’t find what he wanted, he and his wife Beckie opened a food truck, specializing in arepas made with clean, natural ingredients.
Quiero Arepas tries to have staples, but the menu does change daily. Many of the offerings are traditional, like La Original, which stuffs their discs of tender, fluffy masa with seasoned black beans, fresh avocado, and fried sweet plantains. Bonus: it’s also vegan.
The Pabellon is inspired by the second most popular Venezuelan dish, pabellon criollo. Beef is stewed in a savory broth and shredded before being added to the arepa with fried sweet plantains, cheese, and beans. But, there are also more unusual items, like El Caribe with locally smoked salmon, fresh avocado, cheese, and capers. And every arepa comes with their house cilantro and avocado sauce.
Ingredients matter to this mobile kitchen. Local farmers supply their produce, and the cheese comes from area cheesemakers. Their meats are also local and always natural. There are the obvious flavor benefits of using quality ingredients, but they are also committed to supporting the community by working with other small business owners. Their truck is a low-emission vehicle, powered by natural gas, and they try to remain as close to zero waste as possible, so don’t expect lids, plates, or utensils.
Connecticut: Caseus Cheese Truck (New Haven)
Caseus is a New Haven fromagerie and bistro that retails unique artisan cheeses, while the Caseus Cheese Truck takes the distinctive grilled cheese sandwiches and scratch made tomato soup on the road. Their Cheese Truck Classic Grilled Cheese melts rich swiss, provolone, Comte, sharp Vermont cheddar, gouda, and gruyere (and any other remnants from the cheese shop) on slices of locally baked sourdough. The sandwich halves are initially fried open face using loads of Cabot unsalted butter. Then, the grated cheeses are placed between them and melted. Every sandwich is served with whole-grain mustard and cornichons on the side. People who want to get fancy can pay to add balsamic reduction, tomato, grilled red onion, applewood bacon, Berkshire pulled pork, hot cherry peppers, arugula, or guacamole to their sandwiches.
Customers truly committed to the #crispymelty philosophy can challenge themselves to create a sandwich, order 10 of them, and consume them all within one hour without vomiting. Those who succeed get to name their creation, eat it for free, and have their picture placed on a board next to the sandwich. Plus, they get a cheese truck shirt.
Delaware: I Don’t Give a Fork (varies)
In 2011, University of Delaware student Leigh Ann Tona developed the idea of I Don’t Give a Fork for a school project. She later resurrected it for a school sponsored pitch competition and took home first prize, earning $1.500 to develop her idea into a legit business. This was all the encouragement she needed to move ahead with the concept. Her business was initially housed in what she calls a “shed on wheels,” a food cart picked up on Craigslist. Now, it is run out of a full-size food truck, an incredibly popular full-sized food truck. Pretty good for a woman with absolutely zero formal culinary training. The truck is all about sandwiches you can grab-and-go, using a rotating menu and a few popular staples. Customers can always enjoy the Mac & Cheese-steak, a Philly cheese steak with grilled onions and a generous helping of house made mac & cheese. Other options include The Vermonter — a ham sandwich with fresh, tart apple slaw and Vermont sharp cheddar — and The Copycat — lettuce, tomato, and red peppers with fresh mozzarella and basil pesto.
The menu also includes burgers and breakfast sandwiches. But, it doesn’t matter how much you ask, they won’t give you a fork.
Florida: Ms. Cheezious (Miami)
The grilled cheese sandwich is a ubiquitous food truck subgenre. It may not be possible to complete any list of best food trucks by region without including at least one mobile restaurant paying homage to the glory of rich, melted cheese grilled on liberally buttered bread. In this list, the honor goes to the cheekily named Ms. Cheezious. In 2010, founders Brian and Fatima Mullins and M. Christian Dickens started serving up their signature sandwiches. Brian Mullins had opened over 30 restaurants in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Dickens had worked for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and opened 35 new restaurants with Planet Hollywood, in addition to several mega clubs. And, Fatima had spent years in non-profit management, making her a branding expert. Sitting poolside in Vegas, the three realized it was time to launch a joint venture and it wasn’t long before their little truck was snatching “best of” titles left and right.
For a truck that only serves grilled cheese sandwiches (Okay, they serve some soup, too), there is a ton of variety on the menu. Many are vegetarian-friendly, with the Pesto Melt: parmesan-crusted sourdough bread cradling melted provolone, fresh tomato, and house-made pesto; or the barbecue tempeh (fermented soybean cake) option if you want to get real 1970s about your vegetarianism. People with a serious sweet tooth can revel in the Sweet Meltdown: two pieces of Texas toast filled with a tart orange marmalade and rich ricotta cheese blend, served with a chocolate dipping sauce. And people who look at the truck’s Instagram account and have a total foodgasm are probably peeping the Mackin Melt: creamy gouda mac n’ cheese layered with strips of house cured bacon and sandwiched between two buttery, grilled slices of sourdough.
Georgia: The Blaxican (Alpharetta)
Will Turner borrowed the term used to describe biracial people of African-American and Mexican descent when he named his Mexican soul food truck, combining what he believes to be the most popular cuisines in Georgia. When Turner was laid off from a job as a marketing director for a non-profit, he carefully considered what his next step would be. Cooking was a lifelong passion that he reverted to in times of stress. He knew that he belonged in the restaurant industry but lacked the funds to go full brick and mortar. Unable to get a bank loan, he legit applied for every credit card he could find online and used those funds to start a business. The man has a lot of high-interest debt and the best food truck in the state.
The core Blaxican menu items are tacos, blending traditional soul food meat preps with a Mexican vehicle. Blackened fish tacos feature Cajun marinated grilled tilapia, MexSoul sauce, and a fresh wasabi coleslaw. Alternately, the smoked sausage tacos include kielbasa grilled with bell peppers and onion, BBQ sauce, and the same slaw. The man takes his collard greens seriously, cooking them for over an hour with giant smoked turkey legs before adding them to the popular collard green quesadilla. And, customers all agree that the sweet potato fries are solid. Picture hand cut sweet potatoes coated in a BBQ dry rub and fried until they are crispy and golden.
All of the tip money from the truck and donations on the truck’s website go to various organizations in Atlanta dedicated to feeding the less fortunate.
Hawaii: Giovanni’s (O’ahu)
We debated over this for a good, long time because Giovanni’s is an institution, and it feels a little trite to add it to another list of amazing food trucks. But, ultimately, it seemed better to err on the side of “damn, that’s good.” The coastal land north of Kahuka is famous for its aquaculture farms, ergo it was a natural next step to start scooping up those incredibly fresh shrimp and using them to make magic. In 1993, Giovanni’s started selling their now famous shrimp out of a 1953 bread truck. At that time, they were the only ones doing it, but their increasing popularity drew imitators, and now, families are torn asunder debating which North Shore shack or truck best prepares a big old plate of sautéed garlic-and-butter shrimp. In 2001, they retired the original truck for a new one, and in 2006, they purchased the land they are parked on and built a seating area for diners. They aren’t going anywhere.
At Giovanni’s, you have your choice of four items. Of course, there is the shrimp scampi, 12 shrimp marinated in fresh chopped garlic, olive oil, and lemon butter and covered in garlic lemon butter and caramelized pieces of garlic. The “No Refunds” Hot and Spicy Shrimp will net you twelve shrimp cooked in their shell and blanketed with the house hot sauce. It is legitimately hot. Be warned. Timid diners recommend ordering the scampi, but getting a side of hot sauce with it so you can add the heat at your discretion. For those who want the buttery, buttery shrimp but not the garlic, Lemon Butter Shrimp has you covered. It’s a dozen plump shrimp cooked in their shells and covered in creamy lemon butter sauce. And for those who for some reason go to famous shrimp trucks and don’t order shrimp, there is the Jumbo Garlic Dog, a juicy sausage covered in the garlic butter sauce. All of their sauces are sublime and you will end up sucking the shrimp shells just to get any last lingering drops of it. Everything comes with two substantial scoops of steamed, white rice because it’s Hawaii. Plate lunch forever!
Idaho: Rawdeadfish (Coeur d’Alene)
Idaho, food truck, and sushi aren’t concepts that one associates together, which is why Rawdeadfish was the first mobile sushi and seafood truck in the Northwest. Owner and sushi chef Travis Whiteside entered the sushi scene in Coeur d’Alene at 16 and spent two decades perfecting his craft, including an 11-year internship at the now-closed Takara. Before launching his own business, he opened the sushi bar at Bonsai Bistro and the one at the Fisherman’s Market and Grill. He’s totally Mr. Coeur d’Alene Sushi. In 2014, he was finally ready to take charge, so he bought a truck and started retrofitting it with his dad, to start his own mobile kitchen.
He remains inspired by the texture and the multiplicity of flavors. “You’ve got an endless amount of flavors you can put into a roll.” This is reflected in the Rawdeadfish menu, which offers up the classics and some more creative takes on the Japanese street food. As a nod to his neighbors, he sells the North Idaho roll: fresh salmon, cucumber, avocado, and green onion in a nori (seaweed) wrap. There is also the Godzilla Roll, which is filled with escolar, cream cheese, and jalapeno before being deep fried and topped with sriracha, eel sauce, and spicy mayo. If you haven’t had deep fried sushi or sushi with tempura in it, you are missing out. The wackiest item is their humongous Sushi Rito: two kinds of fish, crab, cucumbers, avocado, rice, flying fish roe, sriracha, and tempura vegetables wrapped in soy paper.
The one menu item Whiteside had hoped would be a fave is the octopus. But, sadly, it’s not something people in Coeur d’Alene appreciate, so tako nigiri sushi is the only octopus item left on the menu.
Illinois: 5411 Empanadas (Chicago)
Okay, it feels a little weird to hand the title of best in the state to a business with five Chicago storefronts and outposts in Houston and Miami, but eight years ago, this was just a project Argentinean natives Nicolas Ibarzabal, Mariano Lanfranconi and Andres Arlia were running out of an apartment. The success of 5411 Empanadas is the result of their popular food truck and some bomb ass empanadas. Ibarzabal, Lanfranconi and Arlia missed the popular street food of their homeland and decided they needed to show their Chicago neighbors a good empanada. They started experimenting and perfected five flavors: spinach, corn, chicken, beef, and ham and cheese. The game-changer came when they purchased a food truck — generating lines down the block.
Now, 5411 Empanadas (the name is a reference to the international calling code for Buenos Aires, Argentina) serves a variety of flavors. There are breakfast empanadas, meat empanadas, vegetarian empanadas, and dessert empanadas. Fillings are enveloped in dough and baked until crisp and flaky. Each empanada type is folded differently, which is a really cute way to differentiate them from each other.
People love the Malbec Beef, a mélange of tender, shredded steak, onions, and carrots in a wine reduction. The Bacon, Date, and Goat Cheese marries crispy, salty bacon with toothsome, sweet dates and tangy chevre. Go sweet with the Banana Nutella empanada, tender pastry wrapped around brown sugar bananas and hazelnut cocoa spread. They also serve a house-made chimichurri on the side for dipping. It’s a traditional Argentine sauce made from a blend of herbs, olive oil, and garlic.
Indiana: Beast (Indianapolis)
In June of 2015, chef Dyke Michaels and his friend Casey Alexander changed the Indiana burger scene when they opened their food truck Beast. People took immediate notice of the Game Changer burger: an Amelias’s brioche bun, spicy Asian slaw, a quarter-pound Fisher Farms grass-fed beef patty seasoned with Chinese five spice, and a smear of Speculoos Cookie Butter (pureed Belgian cookies enhanced with a little ginger). The burger won them the People’s Choice Award at Indiana’s 2015 Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge.
The truck specializes in gourmet burgers and hand-cut fries, with an evergreen menu and weekly specials. The produce is fresh and whatever they aren’t making in-house, they are purchasing from local businesses. The Game Changer is still on the menu, along with a classic cheeseburger and the IRV — made with house pickle, their tangy IRV mustard, slow-cooked onion, and smoky beer cheese. But, the specials are where Michaels gets creative, and they are entrancing.
People are still talking about The Dills Have Eyes, which topped a thick beef patty with black eyed pea hummus, beer-battered fried pickles, and creamy cucumber dill sauce. And who could forget the Nacho Man Randy Savage: a sriracha-seared beef patty topped with jalapeno beer cheese, scratch guacamole, house tortilla chips, and pico de gallo?
The pair are really committed to their east side Irvington neighborhood where they are headquartered. This is why they use local business partners like Amelia’s and Lodge Design, who created their logo. Their signature burger, the Beast Burger, uses Smoking Goose bacon, Local Folks habanero barbecue sauce, and the beer cheese they craft with Fountain Square Pale Ale.
Iowa: Gastro Grub (Des Moines)
Sean Gleason and Andrea Cunningham left Des Moines in 2010 and headed to sunny Los Angeles. While there, Gleason attended Le Cordon Bleu, graduating with honors before being taken on board at the gastro pub The Village Idiot. Cunningham, meanwhile, was working at Katsuya, a prestigious sushi restaurant. The whole time, the pair were honing their craft. When they made the decision to return to Iowa in 2014, it was with the intention of putting their vast range of culinary skills to work. But, it wasn’t until Des Moines decided to allow food trucks on the streets that they were able to fully realize their dream, a gourmet food truck serving new American cuisine.
Gleason changes up the offerings on the daily, but the Gastro Grub’s website always features a current menu. The truck predominantly serves sandwiches, like the Italian Meatball Slider with scratch meatballs, smoked provolone, and a roasted tomato sauce. But, it’s the Grab n’ Grub portion of the menu that is really fun.
For some reason, foodies with food trucks love putting savory comestibles in a waffle cone, and that includes Sean Gleason, who serves one packed with fried chicken and mashed potatoes. When toying with the waffle cone recipe, he found reducing the sugar difficult, so he compensated by adding black pepper and cayenne for a spicy cone. It is filled with mashed potatoes made from Yukon gold potatoes, cream, butter, salt, and garlic that has been roasted for hours. Customers have their choice of either barbecue sauce to top the taters or a rich white gravy. And the final element is the all white meat chicken that has been marinated in buttermilk for 12-24 hours, dredged in seasoned flour, and fried until crispy and golden.
Sometimes, the menu includes savory fried doughnuts smothered in meaty chili, sharp cheddar cheese, diced red onion, and sour cream. You probably didn’t even know how badly you need that until just now.
Kansas: The Flying Stove (Witchita)
Born and raised in West Wichita, Jeff and Rob Schauf each felt the pull of Los Angeles in their youth. Jeff, who takes care of the business aspects of the truck, worked in the film industry after establishing and running a SoCal gardening business. Rob, who is the bright culinary mind behind The Flying Stove, spent time in the California fine dining scene after he completed culinary school in Austin, Texas. When the brothers decided to open a food truck together, they proposed to do it in Australia, but the 2008 economy quickly foiled that plan. After re-evaluating, they decided to come home to Kansas, where they stood apart from the other mobile kitchens. They were the first truck that used a rotating menu and served what they call “gourmet street cuisine.”
The menu changes each month. However, they always offer truffle fries tossed with parmesan and fresh thyme. Sometimes the fries are the foundation of other menu items. The Beef Stroganuffle Fries load the customer favorites with braised beef, a deep mushroom gravy, and caramelized onions before adding lemon sour cream. Right now, they offer Mexican Flag Fries, a generous bed of truffle fries with pesto, cheese sauce, and chile sauce on top. You can see the California influence in dishes like Beets by R.O.B.: house marinated beets, organic quinoa, a fresh kale mix, crispy brown rice, charred green beans, hazelnuts, feta cheese, and a creamy miso dressing. Vegetarians are seduced by the truck’s Veggie Tacos — which use fresh corn tortillas as a vehicle for charred cauliflower, squash, red potatoes, tomato, basil, garlic, and cotija cheese.
Kentucky: Gastro Gnomes (Lexington)
In 2013, chef Andrew Suthers and chef Kyle Klatka set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money they needed to join the mobile kitchen scene. They felt the scene was lacking their creativity and dedication to fresh local ingredients. The pair considers their approach chef-driven and “ad hoc,” meaning the menu changes daily depending on what’s available.
Burgers are served pretty consistently, and many agree that they make the best burger in the region. Every hamburger features a hefty patty, made with meat from Gravesland Meats in neighboring Georgetown, as well as house made condiments and local produce. Sometimes, the burgers are topped with double cream brie, baby spinach, and a rosemary roasted tomato compote. Other times, they are served up with candied bacon, pimento cheese, and pickled red onion. Last March, they sold one with a garlic and horseradish Dijon dressing, smoked Gouda, muenster, caramelized onions, and a fried egg.
The food is quality, but it’s also some of the most imaginative around. The Gastro Gnomes 4/20 menu was revelatory. Inspired by the “holiday,” they served funnel cake battered chicken wings with maple butter and a Fruit Loop cereal milk panna cotta, as well as the High as a Giraffe Ass Burger, a quarter pound patty topped with spiced nacho cheese, bacon sour cream, and Doritos. It’s no wonder their loyal customer base stalks them through the city.
Louisiana: Food Drunk (New Orleans)
At the pinnacle of the 2014 Carnival season, Chef PJ Haines introduced the Mardi Gras stunt burger to beat all other Mardi Gras stunt burgers (yes, there have been others). The Food Drunk mobile restaurant birthed the King Cake Burger: a thick, juicy Angus brisket patty topped with mounds of melted, aged cheddar cheese and served on a sprinkle-topped brioche bun baked by New Orleans’ Ye Old Bake Shoppe. New Orleans went wild and purchased 10,000 burgers. It’s no surprise that the sweet, savory, and fatty beast was beloved by the drunk masses. That’s actually the aim of the truck, whose motto is “chef-inspired, alcohol-influenced cuisine.” It’s nosh for the inebriated.
Haines, who has worked as a successful caterer for two decades, varies the menu as his moods change. However, a burger and fries are always offered. The type of burgers vary, but the side is always going to be the Duck Fat Fries: thick planks of smoked potato fried in duck fat and seasoned with rosemary and Sicilian sea salt. Customers can dip them in spicy ketchup, Cajun ranch, or creole mustard.
Feeling like some pork? Grub on the Drunken Pig, which combines pig that has been smoked for 18 hours using applewood and hickory and braised in a PBR and Makers Mark barbecue sauce with a habanero-serrano slaw and slaps it on a Kaiser roll (sometimes, the truck shoves it in a waffle cone for funsies). And, the NOLA region gets a nod in the form of Crab & Crawfish Mac n’ Cheese: big chunks of local crab and crawfish meat melded with a six-cheese blend and topped with a dusting of herbed panko crumbs.
Maine: Bite Into Maine (Cape Elizabeth)
For the last six years, people have flocked to Fort Williams Park between May and October to enjoy some quality local lobster while sitting oceanside, with a view of the iconic Portland Headlight lighthouse. And, it’s not just the locals who keep Bite into Maine hopping. This food truck’s offerings have been lauded by outlets like Gourmet, Paste, Food & Wine, and Food Network. They kill it on the classic lobster roll, serving both a Maine-style — fresh chives and light mayo dressed lobster piled on a buttered split-top bun that has been toasted on a grill — and a Connecticut-style — large chunks of warm lobster meat smothered in melted Cabot butter.
Bite into Maine features some creative options as well. Diners can get into the picnic-style roll, which rocks a foundation of homemade coleslaw that’s topped with lobster meat, sprinkled with a liberal dash of celery salt, and bathed in rich butter. Rounding out their menu are the inventive curry, wasabi, and chipotle options. The seasonings are blended into creamy mayonnaise and used to dress the lobster.
Maryland: Gypsy Queen Cafe (Baltimore)
The Gypsy Queen Café skews foodie, and that should come as no surprise given that it is run by the team behind the now closed Canton restaurant Helen’s Garden, which featured ambitious dishes and an excellent wine selection. The owners and chef bring those same sensibilities to their food truck, offering a rotating menu that includes ingredients like truffles and fresh Maryland crab. They seem to get a lot of enjoyment out of serving savory items in waffle cones. At one point, the cones were a vehicle for macaroni and cheese studded with bacon, and lately, they have been filled with Old Bay fries and topped with a crab cake and a creamy, spicy aioli.
In the morning, you can cure your hangover with a breakfast cone that includes fried egg and bacon. But, that’s not all. They also sell BBQ Pig Out Cones, Falafel Cones with curry aioli, and Crab-gasm Cones (French fries covered in crab dip). They have a sense of humor and roll hella creative. If they are going to serve a burger, it is going to deviate from the norm, like their Thai peanut burger with Sriracha and fresh cucumber. Tacos are as likely to be made San Diego style with fish as they are Korean bulgogi style with kimchi.
If the rave reviews from customers and the super long lines weren’t enough of an indicator that this food is on point, there’s this: They’ve been voted Baltimore’s best food truck for seven years running.
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Massachusetts: Bon Me (Boston)
In 2010, the city of Boston held a food truck contest seeking concepts that were healthy and exciting. Business partners Patrick Lynch and Ali Fong entered on an impulse, never anticipating their ultimate win. It’s been six years and not only do they own eight food trucks, they have two food carts and six brick and mortar restaurants. Their must order item and the inspiration for the food cart’s name is the banh mi sandwich. They start with a light, crisp baguette and top it with spicy mayo, rich pate, pickled daikon and carrots, red onion, cilantro, and cucumber. Then, customers add the protein of their choice from a list that includes miso-braised pulled pork and spice rubbed chicken. The goal isn’t to replicate a traditional banh mi; rather they are serving Asian cuisine with a twist. You see this best in menu items like the deviled tea eggs, which are prepared using hardboiled eggs soaked for two days in a soy and smoky Chinese black tea blend. Bon Me tries to make as many of their menu items as they can in-house, including their pork broth, spicy mayo, and pork pate. The Improper Bostonian, Boston Magazine, and The Boston Globe have all deemed Bon Me’s food among the best in the city.
Plus, they make a mean Vietnamese coffee.
Michigan: Hero or Villain (Detroit)
The brainchild of Richard Zemola, a former events management consultant, Hero or Villain launched in summer of 2014, after raising the last bits of capital needed through Kickstarter.
This superhero-themed “mobile gourmet deli sandwich vehicle” specializes in classic sandwiches that are well-known and beloved, as well as those using bold and sinister flavors intended for the most wicked of palates. And, it’s not some sort of gimmicky cash grab; the people running this truck freaking love comic books and adjacent pop culture. In 2016, they released a cosplay calendar showcasing local Detroiters in character.
On the hero side of the menu are items like the Captain Planet (the Earth’s greatest champion), a veggie delight featuring sautéed portabellas, creamy mozzarella, tender caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and a house-made pesto aioli all served on a hoagie roll. Their most popular hero is the Wolverine, a play on Michigan chicken cherry salad. They begin with cherry walnut bread and add slices of rotisserie chicken, crisp romaine lettuce, fresh tomato, and gorgonzola cheese before topping it with from-scratch spicy cherry sauce. Yes, that sandwich could survive being steamrolled by the Punisher (thanks, Garth Ennis).
The villains are where things get a little wild. The sweet and savory Frieza (you know, the Dragon Ball Z antagonist) starts with fresh sourdough and piles it high with a tart blueberry mascarpone, fresh spinach, creamy mozzarella, and crispy bacon strips. The Dark Phoenix (which is arguably one of the best X-men stories) riffs on the Rueben. Rye bread is grilled until golden and crisp, then a sandwich expert layers on house-made sesame ginger kale slaw (it’s a side they call Riddler). Honey maple turkey and mozzarella are grilled separately before being placed atop the slaw, and the whole thing is drizzled with mayo and sprinkled with oregano.
Minnesota: Tot Boss (Saint Paul)
We are striving to find the best food trucks in the state, but we would really have been willing to bend the rules for a food truck that served lutefisk, the Scandinavian dish made from dried cod reconstituted in a bath of water and food-grade lye. Sadly, despite its popularity in the state, no one is rocking some trendy version of it for hip food truck customers. Instead, let’s focus on another Midwestern fave: tater tots. It’s illegal to live in Minnesota and not feel emotionally attached to tater tot hotdish (casserole for you east and west coasters). This is probably why the viewers of WCCO, a CBS affiliate in Minnesota, voted Tot Boss the best food truck in the state.
Dan Docken, a North St. Paul native, spent the bulk of his career as a cabinet maker, but when he got into cooking, family and friends invited him to cater their events. He wanted to transition that experience into restaurant ownership and decided to go the food truck route. Sticking closely to the advice of a mentor, who urged him to pick one thing and do it well, he created a menu entirely centered on the noble tater tot.
Customers can enjoy Chili Tots: golden, crisp tots smothered with a thick Coney Island-style chili, a house-made cheddar cheese sauce, and rich sour cream. Or, they can celebrate their neighbors to the north and grab some Poutine Tots, which use a savory beef gravy and white cheddar cheese curds from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery in Ellsworth, Wisconsin. And, yes, Dan’s mother’s classic tater tot hotdish is an option too. Her recipe includes green beans, corn, ground beef, and both cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups.
Also, Docken is completely fluent in sign language, which is pretty frickin’ cool for his deaf customers.
Mississippi: Lurny D’s Grille (Jackson)
When Lurny D’s owners, Lauren and Betsey Davis, were planning the concept for their food truck, they asked a designer to give them a little Mystery Machine and a little Soul Train, and that’s exactly what they got. The brightly colored vehicle is a real stand-out. The menu, however, is less psychedelic 70s explosion and more street food with a Southern flair. The truck’s goal is to make burgers unlike those you would find anywhere else. The Davis couple call what they serve “Burgers and Southern Street Food to the N’th Degree.”
The menu includes a classic cheeseburger with a slice of American cheese, grilled onion, lettuce, and tomato, but most people are attracted to the more unusual items. The Goober starts with seven ounces of grilled ground beef patty; tops it with two strips of crispy, fried bacon; and slathers it with creamy, salty peanut butter (people who are really into peanut butter can get more by ordering their burger “extra gooey”). The French Onion Dip Burger tops the patty with pickles, Lay’s potato chips, and French onion dip. But, it’s the Southern Burger that really pays homage to Mississippi with a fried green tomato and homemade comeback dressing, a close relative of rémoulade that originated in Jackson. They also make their own pimento cheese for topping burgers and their celebrated hand-cut French fries.
In 2014, the truck offered up Jackson’s first ramen burger, inspired by Keizo Shimamoto of Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. Lauren Davis cooked up 2-packs of beef ramen with a little egg and shaped the noodles into a bun shape. then refrigerated the buns over night. After grilling them up the following day, he topped the ramen buns with an Asian aioli (mayo, ponzu, sriracha, and soy sauce), a patty, and deep-fried kimchi. The results live on in street truck lore.
Missouri: Guerrilla Street Food (St. Louis) UPDATED!
In 2011, Brain Hardesty and Joel Crespo took a conversation they had been having for years and turned it into reality. It was a bit of a risk, but the pair hit the streets in an old laundry van serving Filipino food, which no one else was doing at that time. When the pair met, Hardesty was a fine dining chef at the restaurant Terrene and Crespo was an adventurous culinarian from a Filipino background. So, it is natural that the latter brings the roots and heritage of the cuisine to the table and the former uses his years in the industry to create the best tasting versions of the dishes. It’s a perfect partnership that has benefited tummies across the St. Louis region. And, with scratch sauces and local ingredients, menu items truly shine.
Although the menu rotates regularly on the Guerrilla Street Food truck, you can count on things to be hella tasty. The cornsilogwich, a recent special is a great example. It’s a brioche bun topped with a hefty portion of fish sauce pastrami, a garlic fried rice cake, atchara (a pickle made from unripe papaya), a sous vide egg, and 7,000 island sauce. Messy, satisfying, complex, pure yum. They also go classic with old-school Filipino dishes like bicol, pork braised in coconut milk, ginger, garlic, chilis, and bagoong (a condiment made of fermented fish). It’s creamy, full of umami, and served over a bed of jasmine rice with a sprinkle of sliced jalapeno and green onion. And, they make a lot of classic dishes vegetarian for diners who eschew dead stuff. With fare like this, it is no wonder the restaurant has been recognized locally and nationally for their first-rate nosh.
Montana: Big Dipper Ice Cream’s Coneboy (Missoula)
Big Dipper’s founder, Charlie Beaton, started making ice cream in the back of a brewery before opening his walk-up ice cream parlor a few blocks south of the Clark Fork River. He drafted a business plan a few years out of college and set to work making fresh ice cream each morning and delivering it to vendors. He never intended to expand beyond wholesale production, but the success of the company indicated it was time to go retail. Now, the ice cream is a regional staple and makes national lists of the best ice creams in the nation. Big Dipper serves 25,000 gallons annually. In 2009, inspired by a story about Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream (a New York gourmet ice cream business) purchasing an ice cream truck, Beaton teamed up with long-time retail manager Bryan Hickey to start a mobile venture, and they call it Coneboy.
Big Dipper ice cream is made by-hand in Missoula, using local ingredients. The Meadow Gold Dairy, the region’s largest and oldest full-service dairy company, supplies them with their base dairy mixture with 15 percent butterfat, so it is creamy and rich. To put that in perspective, Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s clock in at 12-14 percent. On the truck, cones and pints are sold in dozens of flavors. Vanilla, chocolate, huckleberry, coconut, white mint Oreo, mocha chip, strawberry, cardamom, El Salvador coffee, bubblegum, green tea, maple walnut, black licorice, Mexican chocolate, vanilla-Reese’s, salted caramel, and espresso Heath are always available. And, seriously, the cardamom ice cream may be the best ice cream ever crafted. You need to be eating it.
There are also specials. The Big Dipper has handed out cones of animal cookie, mighty berry, horchata, banana cinnamon chocolate, maple toffee, chocolate cherry brownie, pineapple upside down cake, chocolate cookie, tin roof, chocolate whiskey brownie, cayenne caramel, and coconut lemon curry. This list could continue, but typing it is really making us twitch with unresolved ice cream desire.
Nebraska: Big Green Q (Omaha)
Nebraska is another state that came to the food truck party late. In the summer of 2015, there were about half a dozen trucks total in all of Omaha. Now, there are ten times as many. Among them is contemporary barbecue truck Big Green Q. Kevin and Gail Wyatt are taking the BBQ basics updating them with environmentally friendly products and practices. The truck is run on natural gas, unlike most trucks that fuel all of their kitchen equipment with liquid propane. Compressed natural gas is a clean-burning fuel, and everything from the truck’s fuel to its generator uses it. This is why they are backed by The Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund. Further, ninety percent of their servingware and to-go containers are compostable.
All this attention on eco-friendly practices extends to the food, as well. The cooking is done on Big Green Eggs, high-quality ceramic kamado-style grills that are stoked with locally sourced woods. The proteins are first-class local ones, free of antibiotics and hormones, and the produce is locally sourced. If anything, these choices improve the quality of the food.
They make everything in house at Big Green Q. Every one of their delicious sauces — from the basic red BBQ to the yellow Carolina with its sweet, tart mustard base — is made from scratch. The same goes for sides like the decadent white cheddar mac, creamy coleslaw, and golden tater tots. That’s right, scratch tots. And how is the brisket? It’s rich in flavor and the meat is melt in your mouth. It’s remarkably tender without being mushy. Omaha is a beef town and this truck is doing it proud.
Nevada: Fukuburger (Las Vegas)
When former Tao servers, Robert “Mags” Magsalin and Colin Fukunaga launched Fukuburger, everyone told them it was a terrible idea. It was summer of 2010, and though food trucks were mad popular in California, that wasn’t the case in Vegas. However, burgers had been growing in popularity on the strip as culinary superstars like Huber Keller opened restaurants. Rather than discouraging them, the naysayers strengthened their vision of all-American burgers with a Japanese twist. It wasn’t an immediate hit; they had to depend on local foodies and hospitality staff as custmers for a long time, but they developed a cult following and established themselves as a Vegas essential.
The menu is straightforward and burger heavy. The house Fuku patty uses beef brought in fresh daily from their butcher; it’s marinated in a blend of soy sauce, lemon-pepper seasoning, and sesame oil before being hand formed into patties. The Fuku Burger, the classic, is uncomplicated, topping the patty with American cheese, pickled red onion, lettuce, and tomato before drizzling on some Fuku sauce.
All of their sauces are house-made, and many of them are top secret. But, the more creative Tamago Burger is not to be missed. The Fuku patty gets a furikake (a Japanese seasoning with seaweed, sugar, and salt) and teriyaki treatment before joining crispy onion strings and a fried egg on a buttered, toasted bun. The rich, decadent soft yolk is sublime, but the salty kick from the seasoning and the crunch from the onion are what puts it over the top. And, no meal is complete without Jazz fries: crispy garlic fries smothered with a ton of brown gravy and “crack sauce.”
New Hampshire: B’s Tacos (Londonderry)
It’s a little surprising that a white man with no formal restaurant experience is killing it with a Mexican food truck in New Hampshire, but there can be no question that B’s Tacos is the business. Owner Kenny Spillman grew up eating Mexican food, which he attributes to his father’s upbringing in El Paso, Texas. Therefore, when he decided to open a food truck, this was the cuisine that resonated.
Londonderry residents are fully stoked about that. Honestly, who wouldn’t be seduced by a 12-inch burrito or 6-inch fried tacos prepared with scratch made tortillas? Plus, diners have their choice of add-ons, which often include produce that Spillman grows organically in a local greenhouse. Customers love having their food cooked to order and rave over the homemade pico de gallo. This year, B’s Tacos was among the winners of local channel WMUR’s viewer’s choice for best tacos. Specials like the triple porker, which includes chorizo, pork loin, and applewood smoked bacon, and the chipotle garlic steak tip burrito guarantee this food truck will continue being a crowd favorite for years to come.
New Jersey: Oink and Moo BBQ (Varies)
As a Jersey truck, Oink and Moo BBQ operated as a well-kept secret among customers in Asbury park and Hoboken. But, once they branched out and hit the streets of Philly in 2014, they were received a Vendy award for Rookie of the Year. It was the first of many awards to come. Founder and chef Josh Sacks was determined to develop tasty BBQ that resonated with customers. After years of travel, during which he found the best flavors and techniques, he settled on a core menu. The foundation is succulent, slow cooked meat smoked in the truck using a distinctive combination of apple, hickory, and cherry woods. His flavor profiles borrow from the traditions of Memphis, Texas, North Carolina, and Hawaii.
Customers can choose brisket or pulled pork sliders, award-winning chili featuring brisket and pulled pork, pulled pork tacos, dry rubbed and sauce mopped baby back ribs, and chipotle chicken tacos topped with pickled poblanos and cilantro-lime sour cream. They also throw vegetarians a bone with a black bean quesadilla made with Monterey jack and goat cheese.
New Mexico: Bang Bite Filling Station (Santa Fe)
Chef Enrique Guerrero has a culinary pedigree that includes working at famed restaurants like The French Laundry in California and Le Cirque in New York. He is best known in the Santa Fe area for the period he spent as the chef at La Macha inside the Galisteo Inn. During his tenor there, Bon Appetit called the restaurant one of the ten best dining experiences in a vacation destination.
Eventually, Guerrero grew bored with fine dining, and when his wife encouraged him to do something else, he opened Bang Bite Filling Station. Guerrerro acknowledges everything he cooks is “either immoral, illegal, or will make you fat.” One look at the menu backs up this assertion. This is decadent dining. The bright orange food truck sits in a lot off of Old Santa Fe Trail selling transcendent burgers, sammies, “things with cheese,” and sides. All of the burgers, sandwiches, and things with cheese come with a generous serving of hand cut, seasoned fries.
If you make a burger in Santa Fe, everyone expects green chiles. Bang Bite deviates from that expectation by offering the signature Bite Burger, which uses 100 percent certified Black Angus chuck, brisket, and short ribs to form the patties; the secret to its deliciousness is a mix of jalapeno, poblano, serrano, chipotle, and green chile blended right into the meat. Grilled to medium, the patty is placed on a toasted bun and topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, crispy bacon, melted pepper jack, and avocado. When it comes to condiments, you won’t find any ketchup or mustard on these burgers. Instead, Guerrero makes a variety of aioli, including morita (smoked jalapeno), jalapeno, and garlic. Bang Bite also makes a bacon maple jam that you can thankfully order as a side because you will need to put it on everything.
There are also specials. Recently, the truck offered a burger made with house pork chorizo, avocado, salsa fresca, and asadero cheese (rich Mexican melting cheese). And, on a #fishfriday, customers enjoyed a sammie with crispy fried soft shell crab, lettuce, tomato, scratch pickles, and a spicy bayou aioli.
New York: El Olomega (New York City)
People who go to the Red Hook Ball Fields in Brooklyn have access to the best Central American food in the entire city. It’s fresh, authentic, and affordable. The standout truck? Janet and Marcos Lainez’s El Olomega, a purveyor of pupusas, the stuffed masa cakes from El Salvador. These round cakes are filled while they are formed from corn flour and cooked on a flat top grill keep the centers moist and to develop a crust on the outside. Customers can choose traditional fillings — like chicken, pork, chorizo, beef, and cheese — or they can opt for the more adventurous vegetables on the menu — like loroco flower, zucchini, sweet plantain, beans, jalepenos, and spinach.
The pupusas are cooked to order and served with a side of curtido, a bright pink cabbage slaw that is pickled and spiced for depth of flavor. Though they are famous for their pupusas, El Olomega also sells fried plantains (served with cheese and dipping sauce), beef steak (served with beans, rice, plantains, yucca root, and marinated onion salad), and tamales with either pork or chicken filling. Locals form epic lines to get their hands on the best pupusas in the state.
North Carolina: KoKyu (Durham)
Residents of Durham know to keep on the lookout for the graffiti-emblazoned food truck run by Chef David “Flip” Filippini. Though it’s the modern Asian cuisine that keeps them coming back, no one is upset about the mounted screen on the side of the truck that allows customers to play some old-school Nintendo games while they wait.
The menu changes depending on the mood of the chef, but there are a few signature dishes that are consistently available. It is not possible to talk about this joint without dealing with the Duckfat Tots — a heaping serving of golden tater tots fried until crispy in duck fat and liberally seasoned with rosemary and black pepper. Korean short ribs frequently make an appearance too — the vinegary, juicy Carolina pork nestled in a taco topped with avocado and cilantro or in a quesadilla with gooey, melted Gorgonzola cheese, sweet caramelized onions, and house-made chili sauce. The Wasabi Slider fills a bun with those sumptuous ribs, romaine, sprouts, wasabi mayo, and a vinaigrette.
KoKyu is also vegetarian-friendly. Despite the fact that the tots are off limits, there are options like the Kimchi Quesadilla, which includes kimchi (duh), cheddar, diced scallion, KoKyu chili sauce, cabbage and radish. Also, we defy you to find a non-meat-eater who wouldn’t punch their mother to eat The Grand Paneer, a sandwich with grilled paneer cheese, a mint/coriander chutney, cabbage, and pickled red onion.
North Dakota: Taco Bros. Food Truck (Fargo)
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*straight fire though* Seriously, how cool are these photos @jalanpaul did for our feature story on the mighty Octavio and Taco Bros. food truck downtown? And how bad do you want some Mexicorn right now? 🌮👉🏼 Link in bio to read the aTACOlypse story! • • #ILoveFargo #mexicanfood #tacobros #taco #foodtruck #streetfood #crocs #cheflife #tacotruck #tacotuesday #foodphotography #outdoorphoto
North Dakota has not traditionally been food truck friendly. In fact, in Williston — in the state’s oil patch — there’s even an active ban on them. However, the trend has begun to take hold in the Fargo-Moorhead area in recent years. Launched in 2012, Taco Bros. Food Truck is a consistent presence behind the Empire Tavern in downtown Fargo. A bit of a regional favorite at this point, the truck offers up fresh, authentic Mexican street food to hungry diners between mid-spring and mid-fall. But, the truck didn’t make the smoothest entrance to the mobile food scene.
At the outset, the truck was owned and operated by brothers Octavio and Raul Gomez, and it sat on the property of the High Plains Reader, of which Raul was the publisher. Two weeks after the truck opened, the business’ Facebook page directed fans to a dramatic blog post detailing the demise of the truck. Written by the sister of the taco brothers, the post itemized a series of sibling conflicts that culminated in an argument that closed the truck. What was the fight about? The best way to prepare chorizo. After a week, Taco Bros. was reborn, minus Raul.
The pair did not communicate again for a full five years. Chorizo giveth and chorizo taketh away.
Octavio draws from his culture in making the recipes served on his truck. His aunts, for instance, taught him to make salsa and his step-mother covered beans and rice. And because his grandfather was vegan, the truck serves a few items completely free of animal products, too. The menu is straightforward, offering items like corn and flour tacos with either beef or chicken. Customers can also grab a traditional taco al pastor. The Big Mike Taco is beloved by locals, who can’t wait to dig in to a butter-fried flour tortilla loaded with their choice of seasoned chicken or beef, lettuce, sauce, authentic queso, and chipotle mayo. But, the best option is probably the Trust You Bro Platter, which is literally whatever they feel like serving you.
Ohio: Challah (Columbus)
Co-owners and partners Catie Randazzo and Shoshanna Gross Randazzo started wowing Columbus eaters with their Jewish-inspired comfort food in 2013. Randazzo had known for years that she wanted to launch her own mobile kitchen, but she had to wait for the scene in Columbus to catch up. When it did, she had to pick a concept. Inspired by a Jewish cookbook her sister had given her and fully aware that there were no other Jewish food trucks in the area, she opted for Jewish deli food with a farm-to-table sensibility. The pair believes traditional Jewish deli is all about wholesome, soulful food and hope that it gives customers the same sense of home that it gives to them.
They prepare a lot of sandwiches served on challah or rye and brunch items (which are also frequently sandwiches), and use a lot of the pickling, smoking, and slow cooking that goes into Jewish cuisine. Brunch includes items like the Seventh Sun (named for the brewery where they park the truck): juicy braised brisket, fried green tomatoes, house mustard, pickled onions, and a runny fried egg. One of the most popular items at Challah is the Smoked Whitefish Sandwich; Randazzo takes a whole whitefish and puts it in a smoker for eight hours (until it’s all buttery and smoky), then the skin is removed and the fish is taken off the bone. Next, she adds house-made mayo to the whitefish, along with fresh dill and fresh horseradish. The fish mixture joins a freshly fried latke and pickled beets on a buttery challah roll. Also, they serve fried Brussels sprouts made with brown sugar and prosecco.
Last year, Randazzo competed on the Food Network program Cutthroat Kitchen — inspiring the menu item “Cutthroat Kitchen Redemption,” a smoked lox sandwich with avocado, a runny egg, and a potato latke.*Drool*
Oklahoma: The Saucee Sicilian (Oklahoma City)
Gannon Mendez had grown tired of working in the medical field when his mother, Nonna, suggested they open a food truck that served the classic Italian dishes they had been preparing for their family of 20 on a regular basis. Descendants of Lena Costanzo, who was born in Sicily in 1903 and later immigrated to the US, the pair had the authentic recipes they needed to prepare the best pizza in the region. To begin with, they thought selling 20 pizzas a day was the best that they could expect. The first day, they sold 50. Now, they dish up 1,500 to 1,700 each week. And, why wouldn’t they? The Saucee Sicilian is one of only two wood-fired oven pizzerias in the entire OKC area that cook using 100 percent wood (they favor hickory and pecan). They only use the freshest ingredients. And, they make everything from scratch. Their goal is to serve you the meal you would get in Nonna’s grandmother’s house.
The dough they work with is made with imported Italian flour, and the sauce uses Lena Costanzo’s recipe, which requires 48 hours to complete. Nonna mixes and hand rolls every one of the meatballs and she makes the Italian sausage they serve. Their other meats — capicola, soprassata, pepperoni, and prosciutto — arrive weekly from a cousin’s deli in New York, and every morning, they hand slice the pepperoni so customers get fresh meat. Though lines are often long and hungry, they move quickly because the pizzas only spend 90-120 seconds in the blistering oven; it’s Neapolitan style pizza.
The most popular pizza is the Tusa, made with mozzarella, Nonna’s house-made Italian sausage, hot soppressatta (Italian dry salami), hot capicola (spiced and smoked pork shoulder cured in natural casing), and fresh mushrooms. They infuse their sauce with Thai oil for added heat, so this is one spicy pie. The second biggest seller is the Palermo Pizza, featuring mozzarella, caramelized onions, and house-made pesto. But, their most popular item overall is their Sauce and Balls appetizer, a cup filled with 3 meatballs and scratch meat sauce; Nonna cooks the meat balls in the sauce for a full 24 hours before they are sold, making them melt in your mouth treats.
Oregon: Nong’s Khao Man Gai (Portland)
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Nong Poonsukwattana is a bit of a hero in Portland, so much so that she spoke about chasing perfection and what she learned at TEDxPortland. The child of a cook and an unemployed alcoholic, Poonsukwattana moved from Bangkok, Thailand to the United States in 2003 — a 23-years-old with 70 dollars and two suitcases to her name. After working seven days a week, days and nights, she earned enough to open her own food cart. She bought a cart for $1,300 on CraigsList, and it came filled with bag upon bag of old kettle corn. It wasn’t the most auspicious of starts, but it was a start just the same.
Now, Poonsukwattana has larger carts and brick-and-mortar locations. Plus, she’s a James Beard nominee for Best Chef NW.
As a chef, Poonsukwattana chose to specialize in the humble favorite: chicken and rice. Literally, the food cart has two menu items: chicken and rice and chicken and rice “big size.” Khao man gai (Thai chicken and rice) is a natural choice for a cook who wants to make one dish exceedingly well, and she worked for years perfecting it. Now, customers can enjoy the kind of food the chef would serve to friends and family. Mary’s chickens are poached and served with jasmine rice and a chicken stock simmered with Thai herbs and garnished with cucumbers and cilantro. A sauce of fermented soybeans, gingers, garlic, Thai chiles, vinegar, housemade syrup, and soy sauce finishes things off. The meat is tender and juicy. The rice is flavorful and fluffy. The cucumbers add a bit of texture and freshness. All of the ingredients are simple on their own, but in conjunction, they make magic.
More great news: The food truck pays all of its employees a living wage and offers health/dental insurance, so you know that you are supporting a local business that cares for the people helping it to succeed.
Pennsylvania: Foolish Waffles (Philadelphia)
Yes, in many ways waffles are so 2015. But, here is the hard waffle truth: they are not undermined by a period of faddish popularity because their deliciousness is everlasting. Plus, there was a whole waffle pop thing at Coachella last year, so the trend might still be in motion.
Robin Admana and Flo Gardner are the owners of Foolish Waffles and they riff on the waffle, using them as the foundation for a variety of sweet and savory offerings. They made a local splash with their award-winning Pork Belly Banh Mi Waffle, which layers decadent black pepper-coriander glazed seared pork belly, pickled cabbage slaw, fresh jalapeno, cilantro, and cucumber on a waffle and tops it with sriracha and togarashi sauces. They also make one with tofu for vegetarians. The sweet end of the menu includes items like the Fall Harvest: a Brussels waffle topped with scratch-made salted caramel, apple butter, pumpkin crunchies, and whipped cream. The Brussels waffle is a light, crisp option with a hint of vanilla and maple.
A recent special, the Dangerous Liege-sian featured a waffle topped with red bean paste, sweetened condensed milk, and matcha whipped cream. Because Foolish Waffle makes everything from scratch (they even house-cure lox for their Everythang Wagel), their menu does change with the seasons and is affected by ingredient availability.
Rhode Island: Gastros (Providence)
When it comes to the Rhode Island food truck scene, there is only one USDA certified cart specializing in artisan, scratch made charcuterie and condiments. Co-owners Owen Doyle and Travis Gervasio met one another at Johnson and Wales University, where they were studying hospitality. One day, the two had a conversation about buying a hot dog cart and making all the dogs using the best possible ingredients, and the next, they were buying equipment. Now, Gastros are delighting the taste buds of Rhode Islanders with their Country Dog: a house-made hot dog (Heritage pork and all natural casings), bacon gravy, crumbled cornbread, and a drizzle of peppercorn maple syrup.
Customers also swoon over the Not Foolin’ Around: their standard hot dog stuffed with bacon and cheddar served in a brioche bun toasted in garlic butter and topped with onions braised in beer from the brewery where the cart is stationed. They marinate the olives, carrots, green beans, and onions they serve as well. The only thing they outsource is their buns, and those are baked by a private baker.
South Carolina: Roti Rolls (Charleston)
Roti Rolls founder Cory Burke took a circuitous path to food truck ownership in the South. Born in New Hampshire, he remained a New Englander through and through, earning a marketing degree from Bentley University in Massachusetts before spontaneously moving to Charleston to help open the Red Drum Gastro Pub in Mount Pleasant. Is this when he launched the truck? Nope. He moved to Vermont for five years and worked under James Beard Award Nominee Eric Warnstedt, as well as at the New England Culinary Institute. His culinary chops good and established, Burke opened Roti Rolls in 2010.
For those of you not in the know, a roti paratha is a type of flatbread popular in Southeast Asia. In east Africa they go by “chapati.” This food truck calls them “pillowy pockets of love.” Burke treats them like flaky, doughy taco shells and stuffs them with fillings. He is all about locally sourced (his is Charleston’s only farm to truck to plate), so the menu is blanketed with terms like farm-raised, local, homemade, and heirloom. The super-popular menu offering the Thurman Merman uses braised local short ribs or farm-raised pork, creole mac & cheese (with creole mustard, sambal, and spices), and house-made kimchi. And that pork probably comes from Carolina Heritage Farms, located in the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina, with whom they work often.
This is another truck that has kindly given some thought to people who don’t eat meat. Maybe this helps explain why they were voted best food truck at Bonnaroo, where there’s a larger non-meat crowd. Heck, there’s even a vegan dish — the Hot Chick — which includes a chickpea patty, pickled seasonal veggies, lemon gastrique, and green goddess sauce.
South Dakota: Swamp Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen (Sioux Falls)
In the 2000s, Del’Inkka Beaudion and her mother-in-law Gwendolyn Beaudion arrived in Sioux Falls for a visit with family and they never left. These former Louisiana residents declare their food is full of soul, and their aim is to bring faithful southern cooking to the streets of Sioux Falls. The triumph of their business suggests they are succeeding.
Gwendolyn started serving her Cajun cooking to Sioux Falls residents when she was running her Louisiana Gumbo-to-Go business out of a kitchen in a local church. When the church was sold and she lost her space, she partnered with Del’Inkka to launch the Swamp Daddy. They keep their menus simple and focused on the classics. That means diners can get down with items like fried chicken po’boys, crawfish hush puppies, shrimp tacos, jambalaya, four cheese baked crawfish mac n’ cheese, and fried pickles. Customers love their thick, strongly spiced gumbo, with its andouille sausage.
Customers from Louisiana with a lifetime of Cajun eating experience rave over this food truck, declaring its dishes authentic representations of the cuisine. However, the Beaudoins know that South Dakotans aren’t renowned for their love of spicy food, so they do tame the heat. Louisiana hot sauce is offered as a side for customers who need their Cajun ragin’.
Tennessee: Smoke Et. Al. (Nashville)
The fact that this list has four entries before a barbecue truck is mentioned was an exercise in restraint. But, the time has come, friends. The time has come. Smoke Et. Al. is a barbecue spot, but Chefs Shane Autrey and Steve Ford aren’t serving up tradition; they take a modern approach that highlights perfectly seasoned meats and comfort foods with a twist. It’s beyond barbecue.
“But,” you ask “do they smoke?” Hell yeah. The truck hauls around a full-on smoker wherever it goes, and there is nary a menu item that doesn’t utilize it. Enjoy the Fiddler’s Biscuit: sour cream sage baked biscuits loaded with shredded smoked chicken and topped with wildflower honey and diced green onion. Or, try the Back 40 Veggie Taco: smoked and roasted seasonal vegetables nestled in locally made tortillas and topped with cilantro lime crema, field greens, scallions, and BBQ peanuts. Dry rubbed, smoked ribs are also fried naked to order. There are even smoked Cheetos on their three cheese Yazoo Mac n’ Cheese, which is made with Gerst Amber Ale from the Yazoo Brewery.
In case you were worried, they also serve the caviar of the south — fried pickled okra with a rich Alabama white sauce. Plus, they are all about recycling generator oil, fry oil, transmission fluid, and the obvious glass, cans, and plastic. And their servingware is biodegradable, compostable, renewable and petroleum- and BPA-free.
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First time at the @12southfrmsmkt and it won't be my last! Nashville is killin it with all this yummy food! I can't wait to explore more of this beautiful city I now live in!💙 @juicenashville @smoke_et_al #12south #foodtrucks #yummyfood #smokeEtAl #chickenhoneybiscuit #friedokra #juicenashville #sweetthang 🍏🍉🍍
Texas: Micklethwait Craft Meats (Austin)
Texas is a foodie destination, but it’s the city of Austin specifically that is most associated with the food truck revolution; there are more than 1,400 mobile food vendors registered to do business in Travis County. The city is also known for its mind-blowing smoked meats. Micklethwait Craft Meats combines the pair and throws out some of the best dishes in the state. Tom Micklethwait (an authentic Austinite) launched his business in December 2012, after quitting his job as a pastry chef at Vespaio, an Italian eatery on South Congress Avenue. Now, customers are lined up at the 1960 Comet trailer on E 11th Street for Texas barbeque and the finest gourmet sides in the game.
Micklethwait Craft Meat is famous for its sausages. Micklethwait makes all of them from scratch, but he never uses any recipes; he simply combines whatever sounds good. Duck with cherry and lamb with tangerine zest have made the menu, as has pork belly andouille. The kielbasa is a favorite of the craft meat guru, who uses a 50/50 blend of beef (hearts and all) and pork and seasons it with black pepper, fresh sage, cardamom, mace, coriander, mustard, allspice, and a lot of garlic. He makes the mustard from scratch; it’s used in the killer potato salad, along with chili sauce, dill, honey, vinegar, parsley, capers, and cooked egg yolks.
Expect brisket with Micklethwait’s signature rub cooked in the pit for 10-14 hours and given a long, slow rest. It’s tender and juicy, with perfect smoke rings marking the outside. Sop up juices and sauce using thick slices of house-baked white bread with an airy crumb. The coleslaw eschews mayo in favor of a zingy vinaigrette with lemon juice and zest, honey, mustard powder, vegetable oil, and poppy seeds. And, the desserts are exceptional.
Who doesn’t want a slice of buttermilk pie featuring a tangy, creamy custard against a backdrop of exceptionally buttery crust?
Utah: Black’s Sliders (Salt Lake City)
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A slider a day, keeps the doctor away…no that not right, it's TWO Sliders a day! Make that happen today 6/16 with Little Black at Gateway at the Fountain (6 N. Rio Grande, SLC) for LUNCH from 11-2p and Petersen Family Farm (11800 S. 4000 W. Riverton) from 5-9p! #blackssliders #blackssliderslittleblack #foodtruckleague #gatewaymall #petersenfamilyfarm
Heather and Aaron Black arrived in Salt Lake City in July of 2012, having transplanted from Southern California a mere two days after tying the knot. Though they originally planned to return to SoCal after Heather finished her residency at the Veteran’s Administration, the area came to feel like home. Aaron committed himself to the local culinary scene, and the pair were settled and happy when, in 2014, Aaron was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. During treatment and recovery, he began re-evaluating his lifestyle, including the health of his diet. Those thoughts evolved into a business plan that would marry his passion for food with his commitment to community conscious consumerism. Soon, he was working to turn a stripped-down delivery truck he hauled back from Indiana into Black’s Sliders.
The food truck presents an uncomplicated menu that takes full advantage of seasonal ingredients and local products, including antibiotic- and hormone-free proteins. Heather and Aaron use Wasatch Meats, Stoneground Bakery, and farmer’s markets in the area. The most popular menu item is the Southern Fried Chicken Slider, which features a piece of dark meat chicken brined for 24 hours and seasoned with a secret family recipe before being fried to order and topped with romaine and house ranch. They also make a Soaker Slider with juicy, slow-roasted pulled pork soaked in a light vinegar-y BBQ sauce, slices of crisp Granny Smith apples, and a refreshing scratch coleslaw. The beef sliders come in classic and deluxe. Both feature sweet caramelized onions and sharp cheddar cheese, but the deluxe adds roma tomatoes and romaine lettuce to the party. The patties are flavorful, fresh, and juicy with a faultless sear. Customers can get fries with sea salt, Cajun fries, or fries with parmesan & herbs (truffle oil can be added on request). They are perfectly crispy and closer to shoestring size.
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In honor of @scooter5000 the inspiration behind the scooters southern fried chicken slider and today's birthday boy!!!!like him, FRESH and DELICIOUS! Come be part of the action today (Sat) at SoHo Food Park from 11a-830pish at 4747 S. Holladay Blvd. #scooter5000 #blackssliders #sohofoodpark #scooterssouthernfriedchickenslider
Vermont: Beansie’s Bus (Burlington)
This retrofitted school bus is an institution, having served locals and visitors alike since 1944. From April to October, people can wander over to the northwest corner of Battery Park and grub on some American classics: hamburgers, hotdogs, and fries. Fans of Beansie’s Bus swear by their French fries, which are hand-cut as needed, blanched in animal fat, and then finished in a second hotter fryer when customers order. Vegetarians are out of luck, but fans of savory, crisp fries will drool. The other must-have menu item is the Michigan. This style of hotdog is regional variety, remaining popular in northern New York state and in Quebec. The first ones in the Burlington area were sold out of a small store during World War II and called Charlie’s Red Hots. At Beansie’s, they are advertised as steamed hot dogs with a hamburger meat sauce (described by diners as an intense blend of seasoned hamburger, Tabasco, ketchup, and Worcestershire). The natural casing beef and pork hot dogs come from local supplier Mackenzie Meats, and are made by the same people who make the dogs for Fenway. From 10:30 am to dusk, seven days a week, loyal clientele enjoy classic, quality eats at low prices.
Virginia: Boka Tako Truck (Richmond)
Chef Patrick Harris is a self-taught culinary all-star who came up through the ranks of some high-end restaurants in the DC area, before settling in as a chef for the Richmond Restaurant Group. In 2010, as food trucks were growing in popularity and culinary legitimacy, he founded The Boka Company, opening the original RVA gourmet food truck. Harris and Boka Tako truck have defined the local food truck community, coordinating the city’s first food truck courts and founding the Food Truck Association.
Virtually every local publication has lauded the truck and its tacos. The origin was a fusion of Asian inspiration and a Mexican platform, but the tacos have evolved. The Boka Tako Truck still serves the basics, offering signature tacos made with chicken, pork, beef, or tofu. Customers choose one of three styles: Asian (sesame herbs, kimchi), Mexican (lime, cheese, chipotle crema), or American (sherry slaw, cheese, BBQ). If you order The Gauntlet, you get a beef Asian, a pork American, and a chicken Mexican taco. But, it is the specials and premium options that best illustrate why this truck serves the best the state has to offer. Try not to be impressed by the Cubano, a premium taco that layers Surry Heritage ham, swiss cheese, pulled pork, agave mustard, crispy shallots and house pickles.
There’s a reason the truck’s motto is “Takos with K, because these aren’t your ordinary tacos.”
Washington: Where Ya At Matt? (Seattle)
Matthew Lewis (no, not the Matthew Lewis who played Neville Longbottom) came to Seattle by way of New Orleans, where he learned to make classic Creole dishes from his mother and grandmother. After a period working in Alabama at places like Hot and Hot Fish Club, he went to New York to attend the Culinary Institute of America and followed that up with a move to Seattle. He toiled in top restaurants Canlis and Toulouse Petit before joining the corps of curbside cuisine with Where Ya At Matt?, the truck that made Seattleites lust for New Orleans cuisine. When he hit the scene, he estimates there were seven other trucks serving food other than tacos. It’s a completely different story now.
Though he has a predominantly fine dining background, Lewis wanted his menu to reflect his roots, which are good comfort food. He serves the things you would get if you came to his house.
People who are jonesing for a bit bite of the Big Easy insist the Peacemaker is not to be missed. This oyster po’boy takes the basics of the South and adds a few Pacific Northwest touches. Diners get the classic ingredients: plump, crispy fried oysters, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo. But, the bacon is house-cured, the mayo is from scratch, the New Orleans-style bread is baked fresh daily for the truck, and the spicy bread and butter pickles come from Mama Lil’s, a Portland purveyor of pickled peppers. This beast of a sandwich is sour, sweet, and salty, with some crunch. There are other po’boy options, including creole pork and smoked portabella. Customers can also enjoy gumbo with chicken and andouille; jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, and andouille; shrimp and grits, red beans and rice, muffelata, and cornbread.
No visit should exclude their beignets. Lewis calls these French-style doughnuts “little pillows of heaven.” They have a light crust with a bit of a crunch and a hot, soft center. A dusting of powdered sugar makes them sweet, but not cloying.
West Virginia: Heirloom Mobile Kitchen (Huntington)
Frequently, food trucks define themselves with a specific food item, like the cupcake or the grilled cheese sandwich. In other instances, they stick to a type of cuisine or fusion of cuisines. Heirloom Mobile Kitchen hasn’t chosen either of these approaches. Instead, they’re characterized by their commitment to locally sourced food. Believing a farm to plate approach to be the correct ethical and economic decision for the community, the team behind this food truck aims to showcase the best that each Appalachian season has to offer diners.
Their menu rotates, depending on the produce and proteins they can source from West Virginia farmers. One week, some Gardner Farms’ turkey and local ursa kale joined fresh chilies, oyster mushrooms, and fennel in a nourishing winter herb broth to make Hunter’s Stew. On another, Terra Alta wheat flatbread became an accompaniment to local chicken wings coated with a sweet, sticky Moroccan harissa glaze and served with a side of preserved lemon mint yogurt and sprinkled with fresh pomegranate. Japanese, Korean, Mexican, and Vietnamese-inspired dishes have all made appearances.
Customers have also taken to referring to the truck’s local brown butter chocolate chip cookies studded with toasted pecans and finished with a sprinkle of JQ Dickinson salt as “their crack.” For those not from the region, JQ Dickinson are a 7th generation salt-making family that harvests the seasoning by hand in the Kanawha Velley of West Virginia. The cookie is mad local (but not low-cal).
Wisconsin: Stuffed (Milwaukee)
Milwaukee is home to Polish Fest, the largest Polish festival in the nation, but there were years when a hungry Wisconsinite could only score fresh pierogi on a regular basis from a single restaurant, Polonez. That changed when married couple Gosia and Stephen Glazer opened Stuffed, metropolitan Milwaukee’s first pierogi truck.
Born and raised in Lublin, Poland, Gosia Glazer wasn’t able to find the comfort food she craved, so she had to start making it for herself. Her grandmother taught her the art of making the filled dumplings, and every Christmas season, the women in her family would come together to make heaping batches of them. She has literally never used a written recipe for them. When she carried on the holiday tradition, the people she shared them with began placing orders for more. A food truck was a natural next step.
The pierogis at Stuffed have a thin, soft dough made of salt, flour, and water. Once jam-packed, they are boiled, cooled, and fried in butter. The fillings rotate. Often, they are traditional savory flavors like sauerkraut and mushroom, lentils and bacon, mushroom and leek, or potato with onion and farmers’ cheese. But, there are also modern flavors like cabernet braised beef short rib with horseradish cream, duck and pear, Black Butte Porter braised short rib and Brussels sprouts, chorizo and corn with cilantro cream, or chicken, charred tomatillo, and jalapeno. And, don’t forget about the sweet options: blueberry and cream cheese with sweet cream or Biscoff cookie spread.
Constant experimentation means the menu is always getting new items. And, adding a Polish sausage to your order is always encouraged.
Wyoming: On the Hook (Laramie)
Hunter Anderson and Ocean Andrew are relatively new to the food truck game, having opened their mobile kitchen On the Hook in summer of 2016. They are also comparatively young; both were seniors in college when they launched the business. It’s, therefore, pretty awesome that they are producing such high-quality grub. Andrew’s father is a commercial fisherman in Alaska, and the idea of a fish and chips business was something that people in his family had talked about for years. When he became interested in television shows like Food Truck Revolution, he began giving serious thought to a chippy van. He and Anderson, a friend from church, started discussing the idea instead of paying attention in their Reservoir Mechanics class, and it wasn’t long before they were in Denver purchasing an old Fed Ex van turned food truck.
When they were in the planning stages, they wanted to make tons of menu items, but the reality of the business set in, and they narrowed their focus to beer-battered fish and chips and chowder. The fish is succulent, firm and flaky with crispy, evenly golden batter that is never greasy. The chips are crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside with perfect seasoning. Specials include items like fried calamari, fried shrimp, bacon cod chowder. The pair knows their flavors; they won the 2016 Laramie Iron Chef with their coconut-rum shrimp.
They have an advantage other fish and chips sellers in land-locked Wyoming don’t. Andrew’s dad catches wild Alaskan cod by hook and line, brings the live fish aboard, immediately guts them, and flash freezes them. The fish travels straight to Seattle to be filleted, and then, it goes straight to On the Hook.