Austin's Best Food Carts
6 Must-Try Food Carts in the Texas Capital
Kimberly Vardeman, flickr
Few American cities rival Austin when it comes to sheer volume and quality of food carts. Approximately 2,000 food carts call the city home, and their innovative menus seem to know few bounds.
Many of Austin's food carts' locations change daily with their whereabouts being blasted via Twitter. However, Austin also features a large number of stationary carts, always parked in the same locale. From Asian and "soul food" tacos, to Korean-Tex/Mex cuisine and monstrous donuts topped with all kinds of goodies (think Canadian bacon and cream cheese), Austin's top food carts will satisfy almost any palate.
Rolling through Austin's streets since 2010, the Peached Tortilla food truck is the brainchild of Eric Silverstein, a former lawyer whose love of Asian and Southern "soul food" serves as inspiration for the truck's inventive menu. The Peached Tortilla's must-try menu items include the BBQ brisket taco -- a mountain of dry-rubbed brisket, apple cole slaw and smoky-flavored roasted peach BBQ sauce-- as well as the banh mi taco-- a heaping concoction of Vietnamese-braised pork belly, pickled daikon and carrot salad, sriracha mayo and cilantro. Burritos, such as the pad Thai burrito (yes, vermicelli noodles are involved), and a series of sliders, like the crab cake slider served with cole slaw and spicy mayo, are also worth a taste. For updates on the truck's latest location, follow thepeacedtortilla on Twitter.
East Side King
Fans of television's Top Chef Season 9 became familiar with the genius of chef Paul Qui, the season’s winner and executive chef at Austin's Uchiko restaurant. Qui, along with three other Austin chefs, opened the popular East Side King food truck as a delicious side project. Although the original ESK truck remains parked permanently on a patio behind the Liberty Bar on Austin's raucous 6th Street where you have to walk through the bar to get to it, additional trucks have opened in other locations around town.
Among the East Side King truck's mainstay items are the beet home fries, a combination of roasted then deep-fried beets served with Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, a traditional 7-pepper Japanese spice mix and green onion; Thai chicken karaage, fried chicken tossed with onions, jalapenos and a spicy sweet and sour sauce, topped with Thai basil; as well as the fried brussels sprouts salad, where sprouts are mixed with a heady blend of shredded cabbage, onion, jalapeno, alfalfa sprouts and sweet and spicy sauce.
The "Big. Fat. Donuts." whipped up by Gourdough's food cart are decadent enough to make a grown-up weep. The truck remains parked on South Lamar street and dishes out more than 20 varieties of homemade, obscenely caloric concoctions like the Mother Clucker, a donut topped with fried chicken strips and honey butter; Porkey's, which is topped with chopped Canadian bacon, cream cheese and jalapeno jelly; and The Carney, featuring apple pie filling, cream cheese icing, caramel and dry roasted peanuts. Donuts are fried to order, so expect yours to arrive piping hot after a few minutes' wait. In the mood for something light? Frankly, you won't find it here -- but after indulging, you'll be more than satisfied.
With multiple store locations across Austin, Torchy's Tacos also boasts a popular food cart located in the South Austin Trailer Park on South First Street. The tacos at Torchy's are among Austin's most unusual, and favorites include The Democrat, fried chicken on a flour tortilla with lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese and poblano pepper sauce; the Green Chile Pork, a blend of pork carnitas cooked with green chilies and topped with queso fresco cilantro, onions and fresh lime slices; and Mr. Pink, a combination of ahi tuna, cabbage, cilantro, queso fresco, lime and chipotle sauce. Regulars of the taco truck needn't worry they'll tire of the tasty menu -- Torchy's features an ever-changing Taco of the Month, so visitors should stay on the lookout for the monthly additions.
Korean fusion meals have been the inspiration for food trucks across the US, and Austin's Chi'Lantro food cart is no exception -- though its inspired selection of Korean-Tex/Mex dishes is, in fact, exceptional. Among the delightful finds you'll encounter are the kimchi fries, a pile of fries loaded with caramelized kimchi (pickled vegetables), Korean BBQ meat, chopped onions, cheeses, sriracha, sesame seeds and secret sauce; the Korean burger, packed with bulgogi (barbecued Korean meat), grilled onion, soy vinaigrette salad, tomatoes and the option to add a fried egg; and the Seoul burrito, stuffed with caramelized bulgogi, soy vinaigrette salad, fried egg, cheese, onion, salsa, lime-buttered rice and sesame seeds. Chi'Lantro's trucks are on the move; check Chi'Lantro's schedule or Twitter for location updates.
The Mighty Cone
You might be tempted to think a food cart named The Mighty Cone served up ice cream, but, in this case you would be wrong. Instead, the much-loved Mighty Cone on South Congress Avenue dishes out paper cone holders encasing flour tortillas filled with "hot & crunchy" breaded chicken, shrimp, avocado or hot dogs. The hot-and-crunchy topping is the truck's signature flavor and consists of sesame seeds, almonds, chili flakes, sea salt, sugar and corn flakes. Not in the mood for a cone? The truck also features beef and veggie sliders.