Food Truck Frenzy
Fine dining has taken on new meaning with these meals on wheels. Here we dish on some leaders of the pack and how you can get in on the gourmet grub.
Written byLinda Grasso
FARE Dogs of all kinds
SPECIALTY All beef dog with “the works”: chili, cheddar cheese, onions and spicy brown mustard
Whether it’s lunch or dinner time, it’s easy to key in on the food truck frenzy. There are several tip-offs. Tell-tale diners can be seen fanning off in beelines from the congregation sites. There’s also almost always a brisk walk, as if to say, “I’m in a big hurry!”
And the power walkers tend to hold foil-wrapped plates and Styrofoam containers somewhat unnaturally close to their bodies. You can read their minds: God, please don’t let me drop anything. Yep, there’s a food truck stop close by!
With names like Angry Shrimp and Muscle Monster Meals, these traveling eateries are a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. “We’ve followed this truck for years. We find out where it is and wait in line for hours if we have to,” explains Rich Fandre, cueing up to the Kogi truck. On this 100º day, it’s parked near the Universal City metro stop.
Fandre has brought his daughter to feast on $6 short rib burritos and $8 “Blackjack” quesadillas, with a vivid green chimichurri sauce drizzled on top. “It’s just really tasty,” Rich says, in between bites of warm food.
Shawn Harrison and Darius McCrary are two actors who credit food trucks with fostering their friendship. “I live here, and he lives in Orange County. But he comes up here to audition,” Shawn explains. “So, we typically meet at a food truck stop in the Valley. We have lunch and then go off to auditions.” They, too, favor Kogi and arrive early to avoid lines.
FUSION Korean Mexican
SPECIALTY Blackjack Quesadilla with chimichurri sauce
Kogi, most agree, kicked off the truck craze. They started out by offering their Mexican-Korean fusion menu at an LA restaurant bar. Customers couldn’t get enough of their signature Korean barbeque-style tacos: grilled short ribs marinated in Korean spices, topped with Asian slaw and wrapped in tortillas.
The first Kogi truck hit streets in ’08. Now, four years later, Kogi has spawned four trucks, three restaurants (A-Frame, Chego and Sunny Spot) and more than 30,000 Twitter followers. Chef and founder, Roy Choi, even won “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine in 2010, the first for a food truck.
And there could soon be another Kogi first. “We’d love to have a taco stand in the Valley,” shares marketing director, Alice Shin. “To me, the best Asian food in LA is located at strip malls. So it wouldn’t bother me a bit to have us open something super-casual somewhere along the Boulevard.”
FUSION Hawaiian Japanese
SPECIALTY Power Pokey wrap with salmon, tuna salad and snow crab
The Pokey Truck, a newer “kid on the block,” is also popular. Christie Gho and husband, Joe Gun, man the kitchen. Their menu is based around Hawaiian-style tuna marinated in citrus, or “pokey.”
Christie makes no bones about the fact that she’d like to follow in Kogi’s footsteps someday. “We’d love to open a restaurant too. In fact, we think of our truck as basically a test market.”
The Wien truck chalks its popularity up to nostalgia. It’s run by two former employees of the old Wiener Factory in Sherman Oaks, which closed down after 40 years in 2007.
The Wien uses the same beef hot dogs (Sabretts) and also gives entrees fun names. Order The Gunslinger, and you’ll get your dog bacon-wrapped and topped with onion rings, cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce. Get The Stray Dog, and your wiener comes with grilled onions, poblano chiles, Cotija cheese, jalapenos and Crema Mexicana.
“This is a piece of history here,” notes lawyer Eric Kaufman. “I’d eaten at Wiener Factory since I was 4. Coming here is like reliving my childhood.”
“It is almost a perfect replica!” Randy Combs exclaims. The talent agent, who frequents the stop near Warner Brothers, adds, “I ate at the Wiener Factory every Friday after school when I was a kid. My father loved it so much he’d salute the restaurant as we’d drive by.”
Streets of Thailand
FARE Classic Thai
SPECIALTY Shrimp Pad Thai with a side of Golden Egg Rolls
Truck decor or “curb appeal” ranges. Some are no-frills, like Kogi. But there are also trucks with elaborate, hand-painted designs like Streets of Thailand, which has a street scene across the entire length. On most days, their signature Pad Thai, a delicious stir-fry of rice noodles with chives, bean sprouts, eggs and a choice of meat, sells out.
Patrons also love their iced teas. “I come here once a week and get a tea. It’s easy, quick and a nice break in the day,” quips patron Tiimo Schulze.