Hungry? Want to eat something out of the ordinary that will confuse your brain and challenge your taste buds? If the answer is yes, then go find yourself a food truck and sample its tasty offerings or, better yet, go to a food truck festival and indulge in new gastronomical experiences! A long weekend of celebration for my family often means consuming massive quantities of food. My recent trip to Southern California was no exception. At my son’s suggestion we attended a food truck festival at the Santa Anita Race Track. Yes, a race track!
After paying a $5.00 entrance fee, we walked through a long tunnel that carried us under the track. As we emerged from the tunnel and caught our first glimpses of the Festival, we felt like we had entered another world. Picture a racetrack. Now picture an infield, the grassy center of a track, filled with colorful umbrellas, picnic tables, a DJ playing loud music, a bounce house, pony rides, and carnival games! Ringing the infield are over 70 colorful food trucks offering almost every type of food imaginable. This is dining at it’s most unique and is not an experience for the unadventurous or for those with digestion issues!
Immediately ahead of us was easily a two-hour wait for the line of people wanting to place an order at the Grilled Cheese Truck. Although this truck serves grilled cheese sandwiches, most of them are not the type your mom or Denny’s served to you as a child. For example, if you order Mom’s Apple Pie Melt from this truck you’ll get sweet brioche bread grilled with sharp cheddar cheese, caramelized apples, and candied walnuts. Or if you prefer a sandwich with a little kick, you’ll ask for the Pepperbelly Melt which is served on cheddar jalapeno bread grilled with habanero jack cheese, homemade chili, Fritos, fire-roasted salsa, and cilantro lime sour cream tucked inside! This all coming from a chef who got his start with his famous Cheesy Mac & Rib Melt.
While walking the track and taking it all in, I was impressed, not only by the bright-colored and cleverly-named trucks (Let’s Be Frank, Great Balls on Tires, Crepen Around, Shrimp Pimp, etc.), but also by the creative fusion of food styles. Jogasaki Burrito successfully offers a fusion of Japanese and Mexican food. We, unsurprisingly, devoured delicious Sushi Burritos and Spicy Tuna Nachos. At the Calbi BBQ truck, soft corn tortillas carefully cradled Korean barbecued meat and shredded cheese. Not all the food at the Festival was fusion, though. Food trucks serving epicurean delights from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Japan, Thailand, Greece, Vietnam, France, India were also doing brisk business.
The chefs driving these trucks (literally and figuratively) are not slouches. An article on About.com mentions the interesting pedigrees of some of the food truck chefs in the Los Angeles area – a former chef of Michael Jackson, a former Wolfgang Puck chef, and a chef from Top Chef Masters!
If you’re adventurous and live in or are visiting a major city and you want to get something good, but different to eat, track down a food truck by using your smart phone. There are several apps available which track the locations of food trucks – you can either check the location of a particular food truck or find out which food truck is nearest to you at the moment. Trux Map is an example of a popular one. A word of warning if you seek out a food truck: GO ON AN EMPTY STOMACH!