Last week, Commercial Appeal sponsored a Friday Food Truck Rodeo in their Union Street parking lot that included Central Barbecue, Fuel, Mark’s Grill, Rock 'n Dough Pizza, and Kona Ice. Tips collected went to aid United Way of the Mid-South.
What is a food truck rodeo? It is group of food vendors like ones seen at State Fairs without all those pesky rides and cheesy stuffed-animal prizes. These gatherings of rolling kitchens are not the “roach coach” of old, but fancy, clean vans that have chefs behind the wheel.
Food trucks are popping up in the least likely of places and drawing crowds. Pete and I have walked a sand dune trail in Oregon, a volcano rim trail in Hawaii, and rain forest trail in Costa Rica only to be greeted by a food truck at the exit. It is the perfect spot where perception of exertion and the need to refuel collide.
We are not talking traveling corndog vendors, sidewalk pretzel pushcarts, or rolling lemonade stands, but full-lunch menu offering wagons. These offerings are usually on the healthy side, too. One of our stops along the coast on Puako Beach Drive sold fresh-cut chilled pineapple as dessert.
History has yet to be written on the current popularity of food trucks, but Heather Shouse, author of Food Trucks: Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels, found during her travels that most drivers cite Kogi as inspiration. Kogi started late 2008 providing a Korean twist on the popular taco to Los Angeles locals. Lines formed around the block.
Shouse breaks her book into regional locations for favorite food trucks. She concentrates on the West Coast and Pacific, Pacific Northwest, Midwest, South and East Coast. In the South she visits New Orleans, Durham, Miami, Austin and Marfa, Texas.
Shouse enjoyed her time in Austin and features six different culinary cart offerings: East Side King, Lulu B’s, Gourdough’s, Odd Duck, Flip Happy Crêpes, and The Best Wurst. Her format includes a brief history of each food truck and its chef. She then writes about the specialty dishes of each truck with one chef approved recipe to share with readers.
Be sure to read the sidebars where she tells you a little funny about the truck or culture where it parks. Shouse titles these off topics, “Side Dish.” I hope you get a chance to attend a food truck rodeo, but do checkout the book while you wait.