Until recently, I used to follow one, simple rule: Never, under any circumstances, eat anything served to you on wheels. That mantra became utterly obsolete when a new wave of gourmet food trucks took to the streets of Los Angeles in droves last year. At that time, the economy was too fickle for entrepreneurs and restaurateurs to set up shop traditionally and, thanks to the rising popularity of social networking sites, they didn’t have to. Nouveau food trucks owe their success to Twitter, which allows mobile restaurants to report their whereabouts at any moment, reveal daily specials and give loyal Twitter followers “secret” passwords for discounted menu items.
These days, the selection of top-quality, mobile eats is ridiculously good. Food trucks are slinging everything from black truffle-topped, aged beef sliders and sweet potato fries (@BabysBBs) to grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with roasted butternut squash and sauteed leeks (@GrlldCheeseTruk), baby back ribs and 12-hour smoked brisket (@BarbiesQ) and Hawaiian-style shave ice (@GetShaved). The craze is spreading exponentially, and those who can’t afford a food truck are going as far as selling vegan popsicles from their bicycles (@LoCali) and salmon cakes from a push cart (sorry, I couldn’t get their Twitter address because they were getting hassled by the cops on their inaugural run). As you can imagine, it’s an arduous task to select just five favorites, but what follows are my top picks in no particular order.
Associate Editor Skye Mayring
enjoys a kimchi quesadilla
Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine sounds so wrong, but I assure you a kimchi quesadilla is exactly what you want to munch on after a night of bar hopping. Kogi is the granddaddy of nouveau food trucks and, if you don’t know what to start with, the short rib sliders and fully dressed tofu tacos are solid selections. (I recommend asking for a side of Sriracha sauce to give your pick that extra kick.) Most meals cost around $5, and come garnished with orange wedges, limes and radishes.
Insiders tip: Try the chef’s weekly special, if it hasn’t already sold out.
Hands down, CoolHaus gets the award for the raddest food truck design, but what do you expect from a build-your-own ice cream sandwich business spearheaded by hipster architects? Expect to choose from a rotating menu of inventive ice cream flavors (earl grey, Guinness, chai, lemon sorbet, sea salt caramel, to name a few) and freshly baked cookies from oatmeal raisin to ginger snap.
Insiders tip: The wrappers are edible. Go ahead, take a bite.
I know it seems sketchy to get raw fish from a food truck, but Fishlips Sushi means business. Not only does this squeaky-clean truck have a flat-screen television displaying the menu, it also accepts credit cards. Japanese sushi chefs shape the sushi temari style, in a ball form, for all to see. Rolls, such as the tropical salmon or red crunchy dragon, feature organic vegetables and warm rice.
Insiders tip: In place of seaweed wraps, soy sheets are available upon request.
Craving a south Indian cuisine with a hippie flair? Look no further than DosaTruck, purveyor of veggie samosas and its signature rice-lentil crepes filled with curry. The dosas are messy and are not served on a plate, which makes them sort of fun to eat. Menu favorites include homemade chai and the Slumdog, a dosa brushed with an herb rub and filled with paneer, spinach and masala potatoes.
Insiders tip: If you can’t decide, ask for a half-and-half — two fillings of your choice in a single dosa wrapping.
Nom Nom Truck
See the Nom Nom Truck, and see a line of hungry folks looking to get their hands on Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches and lemongrass tacos filled with tofu, pork or chicken. It’s worth the wait, and the combo prices can’t be beat (a six-inch sandwich, two tacos and a drink will run you $7). Check out this newbie — which was launched in August by UCLA grads — and see what the buzz is all about.
Insiders tip: Jalapenos come on all sandwiches unless you request otherwise.