Think a meal from a food truck is limited to either a slice of pizza or a greasy taco? Think again. There’s a whole new generation of creative chefs in locations across the country who have taken food truck cuisine to a new level, offering a variety of quality items on their menus that put many brick-and-mortar restaurants to shame. Whether you’re a street-level foodie or a newbie to the culture, the following list of unique food truck cuisines might surprise you or at least make your mouth water.
1.Haute cuisine on a stick – “We create classical haute cuisine and we put it on a stick,” says Chef Ruth Lipsky who runs the Houston-based food truck Stick It with her chef boyfriend, Alberto Palmer. Not only is their menu of filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables unique to food truck cuisine, so is its presentation. Lipsky credits the stick food at the Renaissance festivals she attended as a child for inspiring this venture. Chipotle honey-glazed chicken with charro beans and rice and beer-battered fish with hand-cut fries are just two other menu items the culinary duo cooks and skewers on 10-inch bamboo sticks.
2. Bratwurst – Well, yes, bratwurst isn’t exactly unique to food trucks, especially for those who grew up going to state fairs in the Midwest. But Austin, Texas, food truck Wurst Texoffers several variations on the perennial Germanic sausage that will surprise even the most seasoned regular at Oktoberfest. Their menu includes veggie brats, buffalo brats, elk brats, and, since this is Texas and you don’t want to mess with it, rattlesnake brats. Many early settlers in Texas came from Eastern Europe, so is it really surprising that the brat is so popular in the Lone Star State?
3. Products from local farms – Odd Duck Farm to Trailer, in Austin, Texas, creates a daily menu out of locally produced food. Half quail with potato salad, butternut squash with greens, and roasted beets with grilled carrots are just a few of the delectable and inexpensive items truck owner and chef Bryce Gilmore serves to a clientele loyal to his cuisine and their local farms. Gilmore also runs the brick-and-mortar restaurant Barley Swine, serving pork, lots of beer, and dishes made with ingredients sourced from local farms.
4. Big fat doughnuts – Austin food trailer Gourdoughs concocts and serves a mind-blowing array of doughnut creations for the most discerning yet gluttonous of sugar addicts. “More is more” must be the mantra chanted by Gourdoughs culinary team, as each doughnut is filled almost to a fault with a wild combination of exotic ingredients. Plain ol’ whipped cream is utilized as well. Street-smart troubadour Tom Waits once sang of a diner on a particularly mean street, “All the donuts have names like prostitutes.” Gourdoughs menu is no exception, with items that include Heavenly Hash, Dirty Berry, and Blue Balls. Mmm. Eat up!
5. Reindeer sausage filled with Coca-Cola-soaked grilled onions – Wurst Tex’s menu is bland compared to that of Biker Jim, who serves sausages from a steel cart on the busy downtown streets of Denver, Colo. The former repo man takes delight in creating hot dogs from wild game, including boar, antelope, and pheasant, and serving them to hungry “cops and crooks, politicians and babysitters, office workers and tourists.”
6. Vegan gluten-free chili served over brown rice – After gorging yourself on rattlesnake, Blue Balls, and Coca-Cola-soaked onions, hop a plane to Portland, Ore., for a much healthier meal at Mira’s Ladle which boasts several homemade vegan dishes, many inspired by Polish cuisine. The food is made fresh daily, and includes organic vegetables and, for the non-vegan dishes, humanely raised animals. Mira’s Ladle hosts a Water Bar where you can buy ionized alkaline water by the gallon. Visit Mira’s truck to eat and drink healthy and support an independently owned business. Pretty cool!
7. Tempeh ribs (i.e. Vegan barbecue) – Portland, Ore., boasts a lively, and health-conscious food truck scene that includes the Homegrown Smoker food truck specializing in vegan barbecue. Soy curls, tempeh ribs, barbecue beans, plus traditional comfort foods that include cole slaw and mac and NO cheese, can be washed down with sweet mint iced tea or lemonade. Even the most rabid of meat eaters will find their mouths watering, although they’re probably going to ask for seconds.
8. Mexican Grits – Owned by sisters of Spanish, Italian, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and American descent, the Crazy Sisters food truck serves both “street” and “gringo” food, including Mexican grits, to citizens of Fort Worth, Texas. The sweet and spicy dish, with roots in Native American as well as Mexican cuisine, includes bacon, onions, peppers, and mushrooms with a handful of slow-cooked brisket. It’s a unique spin on a familiar dish. Interestingly, three-quarters of grits sold in the U.S. are sold in the South, including Texas which is part of what’s known as the “grits belt.”
9. Ratatouille – Writer Ernest Hemingway famously opined, “Paris is a moveable feast!” But San Francisco is where you have to go for white table cloth French cuisine served out of a converted taco truck. Spencer on the Go offers ratatouille, grilled sweetbread with sherry, truffle boeuf bourguignon, and other quintessential French dishes at prices that range from just $12 to $16. For dessert, treat yourself to an escargot puff lollipop.
10. Barbecue pulled pork waffle – Leave it to those crazy Belgians to come up with a food truck that serves both Brussels and Liege-style waffles as intense as the New Yorkers who eat them. The Wafels & Dinges food truck serves instant sugar comas in the form of hot waffles dripping with whatever dinges (Flemish for things or stuff) you can imagine, including what Today’s Al Roker calls, “The best pulled pork barbecue on the East Coast.”