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Fun Fare with Food Trucks


 

Nola’s Creole 2 Geaux is one blinged-out food truck specializing in Andouille, okra, crab and catfish. Photos courtesy of Paul Galvani.

From traveling taquerias to gourmet hot dogs, the mobile food craze has hit

By Melanie Saxton

With 1,400 food trucks in Houston, the comforting tastes of “home” come alive in personal ways. “If there’s an ethnicity, there’s a huge probability that it’s represented by a food truck,” says Paul Galvani, who should know: He’s the author of the new book, Houston’s Top 100 Food Trucks, which debuted in July.  The offerings run the gamut from Greek to Guatemalan. “Food trucks often reflect ethnicities and demographics, appealing to those who seek food from their original homelands,” Galvani adds. “Korean, Honduran, Venezuelan — you name it.”

Austin also has 1,400 food trucks, meaning that on a per-person average, Houston has a ways to go. “Houston’s rules and regulations are not quite as food truck friendly,” says Galvani. However, the popularity is growing, which indicates that we’ll see more food truck fare in the months and years ahead.”

These little tastes of home, including good old American, come in many forms. Burgers, hot dogs,
barbecue, Indian, crawfish, pizza, shawarmas — and desserts — can be found any day of the week, and the question is, “Where?” The answer lies in the wonders of social media.

For instance, houstonfoodtrucks.com lists 23 to 25 “trucks & tweets” which indicate where and when each truck will sell its wares. There are also various smart phone apps to help locate tasty street fare. One example is roaminghunger.com/iphone, an app that customers download to their iphones, then simply click to find their favorite food truck. The technology is one reason why “Twitter  trucks” are so popular with the tech-savvy crowd.

Finding mobile meals can be an adventure. Most trucks roam to different locations, although the taquerias have more standard bases. “You get a feel for the routes,” says Galvani, who points fans to the Museum of Fine Arts and their curated food truck. Food truck fans can check out the MFA website for dates and times. The Menil Collection also has favorite food trucks that appear for hungry crowds, including the Good Dog Food Truck, co-owned by Amalia Pferd and Daniel Caballero, whose American fare recently drew the attention of none other than Food Network star Paula Deen. “Paula was looking for southern food trucks and found us,” says Cabellero of his gourmet, all-natural delights served on a butter-topped artisan bun.

Pi Pizza has its own following of diehard pizza aficionados who love gourmet without the attitude. “It’s pizza! it’s supposed to be fun!” exclaims Anthony, the self-described owner, operator, raconteur, and pizza ninja. Pi Pizza is “haute cuisine” and employs a sous chef, Andy.

Chef Joel St. John and his full-service gourmet food truck, St. John’s Fire, specializes in egg rolls, serves a mean chili, and is known for its sweet potato fries. He loves bringing a mobile food experience to the people of Houston and takes advantage of seasonal ingredients (which means his menu will fluctuate occasionally).

Chef Brianne Saco and her Nolas Creole 2 Geaux serves up favorites like Chicken Gumbo, Red Beans, Sausage and Rice, Catfish Po Boys, and Shrimp & Grits. As one of the more colorful food trucks in Houston and the Fourth Ward, it fills a spot in the stomachs of Cajun cuisine lovers who yearn for a taste of something authentic.

Barebowls Kitchen believes in serving real food, farm fresh. “Discover what Texas farms have to offer,” says Chef James. His truck can be found at the UH University Center weekdays and caters to the health-conscious who stand in line for a shot at the garden cuisine.

The Waffle Bus offers breakfast, brunch, burgers, and sandwiches on — you guessed it — waffles! Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffle, Nutella & Banana Sandwich with Sweet Cream, and Salmon Waffle have fans coming back for more. It’s safe to say that owner Phi Nguyen appeals to a diverse crowd.

This spring saw back-to-back celebratory months for the craze, with two major events drawing food truck fans: The Haute Trucks event and the Family Friendly Food Truck Feastival were visited by hundreds. Cabellero was in attendance at Feastival in Rice Village, along with Melange Creperie, the Waffle Bus, Pi Pizza, Stick It and Frosted Betty — a notable Houston cupcake food truck favorite. Interestingly, Lifestyles & Homes featured Nicole Mora of Frosted Betty last year after her appearance on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

During the last week of May, Houston’s street food reputation drew the attention of the Cooking Channel. The show Eat St. with James Cunningham came to town to air food trucks in all their glory. The Modular at Grand Prize Bar, Phamily Bites at Liberty Station, The Waffle Bus and St. John’s Fire at Bo Concept, The Rice Box at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Sculpture Garden and Stick It at Inversion Coffee House were filmed in action, demonstrating a food truck phenomenon that is growing stronger.

Food trucks are an eclectic mix and can be anything from a refitted ice cream truck to a converted wagon to a high-end custom mobile catering truck. Katy’s own Houston Food Truck Masters/Custom Food Truck Design & Manufacturing has designed food trucks that have been featured in magazines, newspapers, local news channels, national and international media, The Cooking Channel and The Food Network.

Speaking of The Food Network, food truck action has been made even more popular by the show, The Great Food Truck Race. Last season, America’s Favorite Food Truck winner came from College Station. Chef Tai’s Mobile Gourmet Food Truck won last September out of 600 nominees. Four million fan votes later, Chef Tai found himself the recipient of the grand prize of $10,000 and the chance to appear on season three of The Great Food Truck Race.

No matter your taste or budget, it’s a sure bet that you can find a tasty morsel or two on the streets Locating and buying is an adventure that pays off in delightful culinary street fare made possible courtesy of Houston’s food truck vendors. If you haven’t already, let your tastebuds give them a try!

Bernie’s Burger Bus

Delicious: Truffle-crusted french fries with parmesan and green onions from Bernie’s Burger Bus (pictured above at U of H).

A “good dog” from the Good Dog truck isn’t your average hot dog. 

Good Dog fare runs the spectrum. Even salad and avocado make an appearance on these gourmet dogs.

 

The Waffle Bus makes regular appearances at the University Center at U of H. The waffle sandwich (right) is a popular menu item.

The Waffle Bus makes regular appearances at the University Center at U of H. The waffle sandwich (right) is a popular menu item.

Bare Bowls Kitchen (left) offers a fresh menu of Jamaican jerked chicken, braised pasture lamb, and fish of the day.

Chef Joel of St. John’s Fire (above) serves a mean cajun eggroll and scrumptious sweet potato fries behind Bo Concept on Westheimer and Memorial Hermann Southwest.

 

The Pi Pizza Truck serves gourmet Drunken Peach Pizza.

Owners Nancy Luong and Jerry Jan offer comfort food with an Asian twist at Kurbside Eatz.

Houston’s Top 100 Food Trucks by Paul Galvani explores the food truck craze.

Feeling Hungry? Follow Along!

These online resources will help you navigate the often complex routes of Houston’s “Twitter Trucks.”

 

Definitely Worth Mentioning

Fusion Taco ­– described as gourmet on fire

Firehouse Tacos ­– Run by a retired Houston fire fighter

Eatsie Boys ­– Think pork “snuggies” and Frank the Pretzel

Happy Endings ­– Asian-infused simple pleasures in a hot dog

Off the Hook Fish ­– Catfish, shrimp and delicious seasonings

 


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