Nashville residents are flocking to The Grilled Cheeserie for comfort food with a gourmet twist. Top-notch grilled cheese sandwiches and succulent tomato soup, every item on their menu is well worth the short wait. From the exquisite Croque Madame to the heavenly Bacon and Brie, patrons will walk away satisfied and already planning their next return.
Food carts have long been popular with the downtown lunch crowd in Portland, Oregon. However, during recent years, mobile kitchens have been setting new benchmarks.
Tight credit and low start-up costs make food carts an attractive venture, especially for new immigrants. Portland now has more than 600 carts registered throughout the city. While most are downtown, lots have been converted to international food-courts in neighborhoods from N. Mississippi to Lents.
Portland has even pioneered the "food cart pod," lots specifically designed and equipped to accommodate transportable food stands. One of the larger food lots can be found in the heart of Portland's business district at the corner of SW Stark and SW 5th Ave. 26 food carts are found within a city block; hungry patrons can sample food from all over the world.
Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese, Korean, American, Arabic, Greek, Hawaiian, Chinese, Cuban, Cajon, Czech, Indian, Italian and Japanese cuisine are all available at prices far below those found in area restaurants. So complex and vital is the scene that an interactive map has been developed to track the cart locations. For many Portlanders, food carts have become part of their way of life.
Food from around the world at 5th and Stark in downtown Portland — Photo courtesy of Jason E. Kaplan
The mobile food phenomenon has begun to bloom bigger and brighter than ever in Seattle. Want an example of the unique and interesting curbside grub here? How about a bacon-jam slathered burger?
While fewer meal-mobiles ply the soggy streets of Seattle in cold weather, Skillet, Pai’s and a handful of other diehard purveyors are out and about through winter. Most stay in hibernation until spring, so it’s always best to check a truck’s web site for locations, days and hours. A short checklist: Skillet / Modern American; Where Ya At, Matt / Creole; Pai’s Food Truck / Thai-Hawaiian; Maximus Minimus / pulled pork; Curry Now / Indian; Marination Mobile / Korean-Hawaiian.
The Rolling Hunger Food Trucks — Photo courtesy of The Rolling Hunger
Keeping it simple seems to be the ongoing mission of Rolling Hunger food trucks in Houston. The menu is a multi-cultural haven, offering folks Vietnamese, Mexican and Korean. Um…Asian and Mexican? Well, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it; so far it’s working splendidly.
Fusion seems to be their middle name with a menu featuring short ribs, Korean tacos, ethnic recipes for sandwiches, and quesadillas. Not to mention, sometime later this year Rolling Hunger trucks will debut Truffle Fries!
Combining fresh ingredients such as pico de gallo with truffle oil, cilantro, and seasoned tender pork is the secret to one of their specialty tacos. Called The Rollin’ Taco, which is one of the best mobile treats in town. This foodie truck has won numerous awards from the Houston media and high-fives and plenty of praises from the locals. Keep an eye peeled for a big orange truck parked near you.
GastroPod Airstream in downtown Miami — Photo courtesy of Philip Pessar
The food truck phenomenon also exploded recently in Miami. What began with a handful of vendors has evolved into over 50 trucks circling the Miami area and setting up camp anywhere with a vacant lot. In addition to the independent vendors, including the Mac'n Food Truck, which features a fully vegan lineup, and Mangia Mia, offering homemade Italian food and some of the tastiest meatballs in town, several well-known Miami restaurants have gone mobile as well – La Camaronera launched the Fish Box; the Pincho Factory has a truck by the same name as the flagship restaurant; and Sakaya Kitchen has Dim Ssäm à GoGo.
With so many trucks scattered across the city, tracking them down can be a difficult feat. Each truck has a Twitter and Facebook page, which provide daily updates regarding location and future events. But if you're a newcomer looking to sample or browse the food truck buffet, there are several consistent round up spots throughout the month where the trucks can all be found together.
- Street Food Fridays located outside the Adrienne Arscht Center, 1300 N. Biscayne Blvd., occurs on sporadic Fridays from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM all year long.
- Downtown, Miami's oldest bar, Tobacco Road, opens its parking lot on the first Saturday of every month, hosting dozens of food trucks parked in front of a stage with live music. This event extends from typical happy hour times on through 5 AM.
- The second Saturday of every month, aptly dubbed "Second Saturdays," is known by Miami locals as Wynwood Art Walk – the day when all of the Wynwood Arts District galleries open their doors in the early evening to feature music, exhibits and open bars. The food trucks have adopted this tradition and now meet from 6 PM to 11 PM for the Wynwood Food Truckers Meetup, typically between NW 22nd Lane and NW 22nd Street.
Because these events can be canceled, rain checked, or relocated, it's best to keep up with them on Twitter, Facebook, or download the Food Truck Tracker App by Burger Beast for a more comprehensive list.
Toronto has embraced the whole food truck movement wholeheartedly and there are a number of key places to buy terrific truck food. Head over to Queen Street and Jarvis to enjoy American classic comfort food at The Food Cabbie. This unassuming yellow-and-black food truck serves up a killer breakfast-burrito loaded with roasted potatoes, eggs and refried beans. For lunch there is a Chicago-style hot dog smothered with toppings or Philly cheese steak with meat smothered in cheese. The burgers are also pretty tasty since owner Spiros Drossos hand forms each patty. Small wonder he has people lined up around the block at lunchtime.
Ken Ho's Snack Service can be found parked at 40 St George Street by the University of Toronto’s Bahen Computer Science Building. This bright red truck serves up classic Chinese food in $4 combos with pork chicken, beef, and/or vegetables on rice or chow mien. You’ll have to get past all the computer nerds lined up in front of the truck first.
Steve's Fries ready to serve — Photo courtesy of Benson Kua French fry heaven awaits at the corner of Queen Street adjacent to Nathan Phillips Square in the shadows of City Hall. Look for the blue colored Mr. Tasty Fries for classic hand-cut French fries done to perfection and served with a retro wooden spoon. Parked a few steps away is the blue and white Steve's Catering truck where you can get crispy fries along with hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage on a bun. The classiest of the three fry trucks (and the most expensive) is The Original Bavarian Bratwurst Wagon Company selling Bavarian Bratwurst with its fries. The debate as to who has the best fries is ongoing, so you'll just have to try them all to decide.