No offense to fancy James Beard winners, but when it comes to food groupies, you can’t beat the fervour of a food truck posse. Whether it’s 2 a.m. and you’re stumbling down the avenue, or it’s 1p.m. and you’re looking for a flavour-packed lunch, food trucks are where it’s at. Here are the top five food trucks in America:
- Nong’s Khao Man Gai®
Photo Credit: Nong’s Khao Man Gai
You’re almost forgiven if you think that the Debbie Harry-meets-Portland hipster at the window just works there. That’s Chef Nong, the owner of Nong’s Khao Man Gai® food trucks. She also recently opened a new sit-down restaurant, runs a popular sauce brand, and is a newly dubbed “Chopped” champion. In 2003, Nong came to the U.S. with $70 in her pocket and has since tirelessly built a Pacific Northwest foodie empire. As the food trucks advertise, they only do one dish, but they do it right: Thai chicken and rice. Each flavour was carefully crafted and tasted before it ever got a slot on the menu. Aside from flavour, Nong’s Khao Man Gai® sticks out from the pack with its packaging. Each chicken, rice, sauce, and cucumber dish is served wrapped in parchment paper like a delightful Christmas present. The waxy texture of the wrap, the sweet spice of the food, and the quirky enthusiasm of the chef herself make Nong’s Khao Man Gai® a Portland institution. Chicken and rice: It’s always nice.
Los Angeles, California
In a town that churns and burns popularity on the regular, there are few things that remain true in Los Angeles—Hugh Hefner, the Dodgers, and the Kogi™ food truck. Since it opened in 2008, the dynamic Korean BBQ joint has seen a loyal base of fans flocking to its sweet flavours. One of the first items on the menu is still one of the most popular dishes in LA: the short rib taco. The richly flavoured meat rests between grilled corn tortillas, with doubled-caramelized Korean barbecue sauce, salsa roja, cilantro, onion, and lime relish for a dash of sour sure to pucker your lips. Other popular dishes include the Kogi Dog, Sweet Chili Chicken Quesadilla, and a dessert packed with Sriracha heat. Even if you’re not rolling around town with half-naked models like the Hef, you can still feel like an O.G. at Kogi™.
Natedogs® knows that existence is nothing without a quality wiener in your life—in fact, “Quality Wieners” is its motto. Nathan Beck founded the funky food truck, which offers nothing but top-notch bratwursts and skin-on wieners. Additionally, the meat for the dogs is all natural and locally sourced. The mobile shop was inspired by his boyhood trips to the Minnesota State Fair and the summertime dogs he ate there. As an adult, he taught himself the art of cooking the hot dog, and now sells them to the masses. When you order your own piping hot wiener, avoid the ketchup. At Natedogs®, it’s all about the homemade mustard. Natedogs Honey-Spiced Mustard® is a special blend, with an extra kick of flavour to linger in your mouth.
- Torchy’s Tacos
You’re not fooling us with that devil on the truck, Torchy’s Tacos—this Austin food truck staple has one of the biggest hearts in the business. Michael Rypka’s Torchy’s Tacos packs a lot of heat to the (truly) damn good tacos, but there’s another side of the business: They use regional or responsibly-sourced food products when possible.
And it’s not just the food. Torchy’s coffee beans are roasted in Austin and the sodas come from a Fair Trade certified vendor. Now, don’t think of them as softies; it’s the kind of joint that punches the roof of your mouth with flavour. Bold spice, thick meats, and just a sprinkle of lettuce to give your tongue a break is why Torchy’s always has a ravenous line, a dozen customers deep.
- Bacon Bacon
San Francisco, California
“You had me at bacon” isn’t just the slogan, it’s the honest truth. The black truck lingers in San Francisco like an illicit stop between cholesterol pills. Give in to your basest bacon desires. Try their potato skins brimming with bacon; the Everest-tall bacon cheeseburger; the Triple B Taco with pork butt, pork belly, and bacon; and, of course, chocolate-covered bacon. If you’re a no-fuss sort, that’s fine too. Order the straight-up bacon bouquet, which features nothing but strips of bacon served in a parchment pack. One little piggy went to the market and definitely did not return home.
Whether you’re a food truck fanatic or just need a snack after a night on the town, these food trucks are sure to fill you up with sticky, salty goodness.
What’s your favourite food truck?