For the Love of Food Trucks

I'll admit that the whole food truck phenomenon is not something I have been steadily following. Unlike my roommate, Brigid, who wrote a killer piece about the rise of the food tuck scene in Los Angeles over a year ago, my problem with them was a matter of logistics. I wasn't in the mood to track these trucks on twitter and drive all the way out to whatever random street they happened to be parked on. It seemed silly. It was too much work.

Last weekend, however, 20-30 different food trucks graced the city of Long Beach with their presence, and I will gladly say that it was worth the mile walk from my apartment to Rainbow Lagoon. The Long Beach Street Food Fest was held last Saturday afternoon and was sponsored by the Long Beach Junior Chamber Charitable Foundation. Admission to the festival was $7, and all the proceeds benefited the Adopt a Teacher Program, the AIDS Food Store of Long Beach, and student scholarships to Long Beach City College.

Once inside, the cost of whatever you wanted to eat from the food trucks was entirely separate, and I'll admit I did quite a bit of splurging that day -- in terms of spending and calories! It was hard not to. Eating at a food truck festival is like embarking on a culinary adventure. Most all the food is gourmet, and involves fusions of multiple cuisines. Think: Asian sauces meet Mexican concepts; thus, the Korean taco was born on a food truck that also serves quesadillas and nachos with an Asian twist.

                                      A "Chimale," as in Chinese Mexican tamale by Don Chow Tacos food truck

One of my favorite dishes of the day was from the meatball truck called Great Balls on Tires. It stands to reason that everything this truck creates is amazing, as they happen to have a celebrity chef that developed the menu. The dish I tried and loved was also a fusion concept that took the Italian meatball and infused it with a bit of Middle Eastern flair. They call it the Ballywood and it comes with two, chicken Masala meatballs served with coconut curry, cilantro chutney, and Basmati rice. It was heaven, and it only cost $5.50.
Where to find it: On Monday nights, they're parked at 1348 14th Street, Santa Monica, CA. Otherwise, check their website or twitter stream.

My second favorite truck was Auntie's Fry Bread, which features Native American cuisine. It was rated Food Truck of the Week by Zagat, and was started by a family from Montana who had been making fry bread for over twenty years. Fry bread is sort of a cross between funnel cake and pizza dough, but isn't as dense. It's airy and fluffy, with a slight sweetness to the batter. The full-sized fry breads looked huge and intimidating, so I opted for the 3-inch slider version, which was topped with their signature chili, lettuce, tomato, and cheese -- the perfect mixture of sweet, savory, and spicy. It came with two sliders and also cost $5.50. My advice: track this truck down and try it! You won't find anything else like it.
Where to find it: All over the place! Check their website or twitter stream

Moving on to dessert, my top pick of the day was an ice cream sandwich truck called Chunk-n-Chip. In the world of food trucks, it is practically a senior citizen as it has been operating since 2007. Most other L.A.-based trucks started within the last year or two. Chunk-n-Chip makes their own cookies with all natural ingredients and serves them with various flavors of ice cream stuffed between them. They also boast of using biodegradable spoons and paper products, and only buy ice cream tubs made of reusable plastic. I ate the Mumbo Jumbo which features chocolate brownie cookies and peanut butter cup ice cream. The cookies had a hint of cinnamon mixed in with the chocolate, which really stood out. If I were to do it over again, I would probably get the same peanut butter cup ice cream, but with regular chocolate chip cookies instead.
The cost of this delectable treat? $4
Where to find it: This week, they will be in Orange County at the OC Fair on Thursday, and parked in front of Best Buy in Fullerton on Friday. Otherwise, check their website or twitter stream.

If you're interested in potentially starting your own food truck, or just want to learn about how it works, check out the Frysmith food truck's website for their 3-part blog series on start-up costs, licensure, city regulations, marketing techniques, etc.

Lastly, if you live in the area and are bummed that you missed out, fear not! Long Beach will be hosting yet another Street Food Fest on Sunday, October 9th, from 10:30am - 5:00pm.
I know I'll be there. With bells on.

My roommate, Brigid, and me