Fast food isn’t always bad food - in fact the speedy meals served up by these gourmet trucks and carts are fresh and fantastic. With the explosion of Twitter and Facebook, top chefs have realized they can take their trade mobile and update fans on their location in real time. Here are our choices for America’s top 15 street food vendors who are reinventing the old “roach coach” image and making street food modern, hip and most importantly mouth-wateringly good.
Where: Boulder, CO Sure a big pink truck is hard to miss, but the smell of Comida’s fresh Mexican tacos, gorditas and tostadas is flat out impossible to ignore. Founder Rayme Rossello and her partner in crime, Jovee, started rolling around Boulder in their trendy vending truck in early 2010 and in that short time have developed a loyal following. Rayme keeps the menu small so she can make all of her fresh Mexican comida (Spanish for food) right on the tiny truck. And Comida sources locally - their dishes are made with Colorado’s freshest local produce.
Where: Portland, OR When Nong Poonsukwattana opened her 8x8 food cart, Nong's Khao Man Gai, she decided to serve only one dish and to serve it well. That lucky recipe was Thai favorite khao man gai, a chicken and rice dish topped with pungeon sauce, crunchy cucumbers and fresh cilantro. Not only is the meal absolutely delicious, but also contains Nong’s hand selected ingredients to ensure authentic Thai flavor. There is even authenticity in the presentation. She mimics the food salesmen she grew up with in Thailand by wrapping each meal in traditional butcher paper.
Where: Austin, TX The Mighty Cone is pure Austin Texas all-around. The food truck is a branch off of local restaurant Hudson’s on the Bend, and was developed to showcase Hudson’s famous Hot n’ Crunchy breading at the Austin City Limit Music Festival. Since 2002, the truck has served breaded chicken, avocado, and shrimp topped with mango-jalapeno sauce and then wrapped in soft tortillas. And everything is served in paper cone for easy munching. People at the music festival loved Mighty Cone so much that a year-round truck got rolling in March 2009.
Where: Washington, DC The traveling culinary carnival of Fojol Bros. of Merlindia, takes unique to a whole new level by serving the people of DC with cuisine from the far off countries of Merlindia and Benethiopia. And if that alone isn’t enough to pique your interest, the vendors don fake mustaches, colorful turbans and bear names such as Dingo, Kipoto and Gewpee. But even their crazy get-ups are outshined by the spectacularly spicy food they serve. The Merlindian food is made up of Indian -based curries and masalas while the Benethiopian food is Ethiopian based. The bros. even have their own cooling popsicles called lassipops (based on the popular mango-yogurt Indian lassi drink) to compliment their funky dishes.
Where: Marfa, TX Big cities aren’t the only ones with food trucks to die for. In tiny Marfa Texas, Food Shark serves up gourmet falafel dishes and Middle Eastern cuisine with a Texan twist. The truck is a converted 1974 delivery truck and is accompanied by an old school bus dining cart. Their best seller is a signature dish called Marfalafel that is filled with falafel, fresh romaine lettuce, crunchy veggies, tahini, yogurt and harissa sauces with hummus.
Where: Los Angeles, CA Founded in 2008 by foodies Natasha Case and Freya Estreller, Coolhaus sells all-natural, handmade and often organic ice cream sandwiches. Inspired by famous architect Rem Koolhaas and the 1920’s modernist Bauhaus design movement, these sandwiches are truly constructed pieces of art. Even better, they are served in edible, all natural and calorie-free wrappers. And with gourmet ice cream flavors eclectic as wasabi and a fleet of delish cookies that are locally baked, it’s no wonder this truck is taking the city by storm.
Where: Seattle, WA Pigs might not be able to fly, but in Seattle they do drive, and they even serve up some stellar braised pork. We’re specifically talking about Maximus/Minimus’s architectural achievement of a vending truck and their hog-tastic pulled pork sandwiches. Founder Kurt Dammeier has split his menu down the middle dividing the sandwiches served into those that play on spicy (maxi) and sweet (mini) flavors. So whether you want a hot MAXImus with a mixture of peppers, onions and fruit juices or a tangy miniMUS with tamrind, honey and molasses, this giant metal pig will hook you up.
Where: Minneapolis, MI The Chef Shack is serious about its name. Ran by two seasoned fine-dining chefs, Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson this boxy truck is committed to serving street food that tastes like it should be served on fine china. From their signature Indian-spiced organic mini-donuts (a favorite of foodie TV host Andrew Zimmerman) to their tempura soft shell crab sandwich, these ladies do it all. They are also committed to serving organic ingredients when possible and to serving seasonal dishes such as their juicy heirloom tomato and watermelon gazpacho in the summer.
Where: Denver, CO Some may say “home is where the heart is” but we prefer “home is where the hunger is.” After all, what says home better than a mother-made meal or a trip to your favorite local meat and three? Steuben’s Food Service strives to keep a sense of nostalgia and place alive with a menu that regularly features items from across the states. The truck sells juicy burgers and homey tomato soup as well as whipping up regional dishes such as their Maine lobster roll & fries, Philly cheesestake and Chicago dog.
Where: Milwaukee, WI There is pick up and delivery and then there is Streetza pizza. This flame-emblazoned black truck has been passing out slices since 2008 when it was founded by Steve Mai and Scott Baitinger. Streetza uses locally grown produce on their pies and makes good use of Wisconsin’s famous mozzarella cheese. The pizza is baked onsite in a specially-designed 650-degree oven and Streetza prides itself on its custom crust. Order the special slice of the day for something truly original, and you could end up with anything from a fresh crab legs pizza to a Wisconsin state fair corn dog pie.
Where: New York City, NY In only one year, Kelvin Natural Slush Co. has picked up a prestigious Vendy award for New York’s best dessert vendor, made top street food lists and become NYC’s latest obsession. Why? Because founder Alex Rein, wanted his customers the kings of choice. There is no set menu at Kelvin’s as customers are able to choose from an array of all natural ingredients to make their perfect mix. First you choose a base slush of spicy ginger, tangy citrus, or green and black tea. Then you choose a fruit or herbal mix-in varying from white peach purees to freshly chopped basil. The result is one refreshingly chilled slush!
Where: Los Angeles, CA Who says you’ve got to be a kid to adore melty, cheesy, buttery and all around gooey grilled cheese sandwiches? Well, certainly not the comfort food lovers who line up for LA’s famed Grilled Cheese Truck. With offerings like the Cheesy Mac and Rib, a macaroni and cheese sandwich with barbeque pork and caramelized onions, and the dressed-up double cream Brie Melt with homemade fig paste and smokehouse almonds, this truck proves that grilled cheeses can be for grown ups. But to keep the kid in you, side your sandwich with a cup of their traditional tomato soup and finish off the meal with a chocolaty s’more melt.
Where: Seattle, WA Voted America’s best food truck by Good Morning America, Marination combines Hawaiian and Korean flavors for an unforgettable menu that sends foodies into absolute frenzies. People adore Marination’s SPAM sliders (that’s right - Spam in a can gets a gourmet, and dare we say it, delish treatment) and devour their spicy pork tacos topped with Marination's saucy signature slaw. In fact, founders Kamala and Roz (two ladies who introduce themselves by first name only) are so confident in their tacos, they claim to have the best in America. And judging by the long lines of fans that show up at this truck, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
Where: Phoenix, AZ Parisians would be proud of the crepe peddling Truckin’ Good Food. As Phoenix’s first full-service upscale lunch truck (affectionately called Mr. T), founder Jeff Kraus is committed to using high quality local ingredients in all of his crepes, fries and deliciously sweet choux pastries. Savory crepes are served in buckwheat wrappings and stuffed with creative combos such sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, parsley and walnut pesto. The sweet crepes are equally as mouth watering with some featuring French favorite Nutella, and others showcasing freshly whipped caramel custard.
Where: Miami, FL GastroPod’s 1962 airstream looks more like a modern space pod than an old trailer. Founded by gourmet Chef Jeremiah, gastroPod has a constantly evolving menu that draws heavily on Caribbean and Latin American traditions. The food is made using a low temperature cooking method (called sous-vide) so everything can be divvied up right in the pod! And the menu looks like one that could be found in a four star restaurant. It is filled with hard to find cuisine such as oxtail and fancy combos such as the El Chinito Cubano made with Benton’s Ham, Pork Belly Terrine and Hoisin Mustard.
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