Forget mystery meat patties served from questionable street carts. Hundreds of food trucks across the nation have become the stomping grounds of entrepreneurial chefs. And they’re on a food-and-drink mission: to feature creative cuisine such as gourmet tacos, bison burgers and savory pies. No “dirty water dogs” or stale soft pretzels here. Street-cart chefs devise unusual dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. Stay tuned to Twitter and Facebook for your favorite food carts' ever-changing locations. Then hit the streets to indulge in a culinary adventure on wheels.
This 18-foot long food truck known as Kooper’s Chowhound Burger Wagon offers burger connoisseurs plenty of meaty options, such as “Elvis Got the Blues” (an Angus burger served with Maytag blue cheese and apple-smoked bacon), and the Baja Burger (an Angus burger wrapped in a tortilla along with jack and cheddar cheese, coleslaw and a jalapeno ranch dressing). The Chowhound also lets you build-your-own burger. But with choices such as bison and turkey meats, plus more than a dozen toppings and sauces, this could be a tougher decision than you imagined!
The lobster roll, aka lobster salad sandwich, is a classic New England treat. Thanks to Nauti, a food truck started by Maine native Luke Holden, New Yorkers and Washington, DC, residents alike can enjoy the roll made with Maine lobster. The appeal of a Luke's lobster roll lies in its simplicity: a buttered and toasted split-top roll with a touch of mayonnaise, packed with chilled lobster (claw meat only), a splash of lemon butter and secret spices. No need to make the 315-mile trek north to Maine; tuck into New England's freshest lobster meat on the streets of the Big Apple and DC.
When it comes to pies, simple dessert and shepherd's pie varieties may come to mind. But chef Greg Abbott of Whiffie's Fried Pie Truck offers a creative take on pie shapes and flavors. His business, Portland’s Whiffie's, prepares half-moon shaped, empanada-like pies of flaky dough stuffed with savory or sweet fillings, then deep-fried to tasty crispness. Pie options include barbecued brisket with mozzarella; macaroni and Irish cheddar with bacon and peas; salmon with chipotle mayo and peanut butter cream with chocolate chips. Whiffie's location remains stable; the cart serves up pies nearly every day of the week, from late morning to well past midnight, in southeast Portland.
Taco Guys offers tasty, original street food in the San Francisco Bay area. Chefs Jason Hoffman and Justin Close use local organic produce to make original street food creations such as panuchos de cochinita pibil (a mix of achiote pork, pickled red onion, baby lettuces and spicy chipotle sauce), the lamb taco (braised leg of lamb, pickled cucumbers with sesame seeds, Thai basil, Burmese spices, grilled jalapenos and yogurt sauce), and the taco de cabeza (pickled peppers, sweet onions, salsa verde and cinnamon-braised beef cheeks). Complement the fare with the Taco Guys' homemade drink options, such as saffron-vanilla lemonade and a watermelon-basil cooler.
If you like your street food mixed with a bit of whimsy, seek out the fojol bros. of Merlindia food truck in Washington, DC. The "brothers" (only 2 of Fojol’s 4 founders are related) created a food truck concept based on a magical world they devised named Merlindia. The truck operators dress the part, with fake curly mustaches and brightly colored turbans. Electronica music plays from their truck, which serves up Indian-inspired foods such as chicken masala, chicken curry and cauliflower and potatoes, served over basmati rice. Menu options also include Ethiopian cuisine such as lentils with beef, along with injera, a soft flatbread.
Check out websites such as VendrTV to discover the food truck scene across America. Restaurants -- those old-fashioned, stationary establishments -- may soon feel a little dull compared to the culinary adventures-on-wheels you discover.
Valerie Conners is a freelance writer and editor and has worked for media outlets such as the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer and Frommer's Travel Guides. She's happiest when eating spicy massaman curries on the beach in Koh Mook, Thailand, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets.