12.29.2009

2009: The Year of the Food Truck.



Everyone’s got one. So it seems only appropriate that my best of 2009 list be my top 5 favorite food trucks that hit the streets this year. I sampled 25 different trucks within the last quarter of the year, including those making their debut as the quarter progressed. To be fair I must say that I only ate at each one once. Whether I found the fare to be amazing or amazingly icky, I do feel that a second visit should always be in order. Plans for seconds are on my 2010 list. After a tiny, little diet. And mayhap a dollop of exercise.

This was a more daunting task than I anticipated. I didn’t realize that so many of the trucks would be so wonderful. The biggest challenge was that they are almost all terrific for very different reasons. So, I have set up certain rules for this evaluation keeping these parameters in mind: quality of food, quantity of food, price point, creativity, service, timeliness of food ordering and delivery, the messy factor, and how unobtrusive they were on Twitter. 

Let’s start with number five and climb our way to number one, shall we? 

I love Indian food and I eat a lot of it. And I must say that the food here was very, very good. I appreciate that this is ambitious fare to serve from a truck; the menu was reverent, simple and well thought out. It crossed a perfect line with street food and table food, was served cleanly and easy to eat on the go. I dug that the owner was on site, friendly, helpful and served up the food lightning fast and piping hot. And come on, the truck name alone gets big ups. 

I admire the fact that this truck is paying homage to the original taco truck concept in their actual cuisine and manage to give it a bit of a creative and fancified twist. Also, I loooved that they were at the Melrose Trading Post. The menu is concise, the prices are right, and the food is filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients. And, for the most part, it was a fairly tidy affair. And we all know these ladies can cook.

First of all, I love southern food, and Mattie’s gets props for thinking to serve it from a truck. Not only do I think they’ve got it right, but I have been hard pressed to find authentic southern food in too many real restaurants in town. Conjuring memories of mountains of napkins and greasy fingers, you’d think that this would be one of the more difficult types of food to eat on the street. Not the case. The food was portioned generously; enough that I finished my portion for dinner later on that night. Additionally, the food came out at a clip and Chris, the owner, was on site and was quite the southern gentleman. 

This was difficult. It was almost a tie. The Gastrobus is fantastic 8 ways to Sunday. They not only support farmers markets but station themselves at the Los Feliz market every week and purchase all of their produce from the growers. As a result their menu and specials change weekly. If I were to have my own truck, this is the food I would make. They are wildly creative yet impeccably simple. The food is ideal to eat on the go with steamy, scrumptious soups, big, beautiful sandwiches and all at very good prices. The people are sweethearts and their bus is extremely cute.  

What can I say. This truck blew my mind. I would never have thought anything this elaborate and of this caliber would be served to me from the window of a truck. Admittedly, they are the newest on the list and have had time to learn from other’s mistakes, but holy wowsers. They achieved the fusion concept the most successfully, maintained an exceptional degree of creativity, and served up the most beautiful and most delicious food I have yet dined on – from a truck. The prices were surprisingly low, the food is perfectly retrofitted to eat on the go, the chef was on site and the staff was as pleasant as could be.  

I would like to reiterate that I had a heck of a time with this decision and that Lomo Arigato, The Dosa Truck and The Grilled Cheese Truck should not go without – at the very least – an honorable mention. They are all three fabulous and deserve return visits and much success. 

In the past couple of months I have gotten all dolled up and dropped hundreds (upon hundreds) of dollars dining in the newest, fanciest restaurants in Los Angeles. I have eaten the most ornate, decadent foods served up by world-renowned celebrity chefs. But I will tell you this, dear readers, more often than not I would rather stand on the sidewalk, leaning against a wall (or sitting in the grass), in my jeans and sneaks with a posse of strangers eating the likes of anything from tacos to wild mushroom soup with basil oil and even pork belly. I relish discovering these treasures on wheels that could literally pop up anywhere, at anytime. Few things bring people together like food. It's truly exhilarating to feel and revel in the sense of community the food trucks provide in this big, beautiful city of ours. So you can bet I will continue to encourage, support and embrace all of the new trucks continuing to hit the streets in 2010 and beyond. I also hope this movement, this culture, continues to grow and morph and expand to cities all across the globe.

Happy New Year! 

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