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17Jan/112

10 Most Reliably Delicious Food-Truck Menu Items

Sometimes I'm not in the mood to try a new truck; sometimes I want to eat food I already know I love. Other times, I hit the street in pursuit of a specific taste memory I want to relive. In these situations, I have a growing list of favorite menu items that I'm sure will be great every time. Here, in no particular order, are my 10 most reliably delicious food-truck dishes.

1. Bamwich, TastyMeat! ($8 for footlong, $6 for eight-inch version). Beef/lamb (hence "bam") shawarma wrapped in a pita, with romaine lettuce, roma tomato, red onion, tzatziki, red feta sauce and tahini. Shaved thin, the meat tastes like it's marinated in garlic, yogurt and vinegar, making it tangy and piquant. If you're a slow eater like me, get the eight-inch instead of the footlong - it's less likely to fall apart and unleash its innards into your lap.

2. Beef gyro, Louks To Go ($5). Beef, tzatziki, tomato, onion, and french fries all rolled up inside the best pita I've ever eaten. It's soft and tender, and you can taste the olive oil in it. Of all the meat options on the Louks truck, I've found the beef to be the most dependably delicious. This dish made me a raw-onion convert - I love their crunch and peppery bite in the sandwich, and I even love the crazy onion breath they give me, although I'm sure my friends and family aren't quite as enthused about that part.

Louks beef gyro

3. Lemongrass chicken or pork banh mi, Phamish ($6). Considering how often I visit the truck, it's ridiculous that I haven't yet reviewed Phamish. This Vietnamese sandwich comes with pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro and jalapeno peppers on a baguette. I opt to leave off the garlic mayo. The lemongrass chicken and pork are intensely flavorful; while many friends of mine love Phamish's lemongrass tofu banh mi, I find the tofu soaks up a bit too much marinade for me - but it's still one of the tastiest veggie sandwich options in town. I tend to think the chicken and pork stand up better to the marinade's flavor onslaught, maintaining their own personalities. The bread is flat-out awesome - the outside's crunchy without being mouth-splintering, and the inside is pillowy soft. Of all the items on this list, this sandwich travels the best - it's the perfect to-go meal.

4. Crack chips, Chef Brian's Comfort Truck ($2). Oh, delicious deep-fried flour tortilla chips! Why are there only 6 of them in a serving? I've tried making these at home, but they never come out so gloriously golden. This is the only food-truck menu item I've brought home, eaten in five minutes flat, then considered driving all the way back to the truck immediately, just to get more.

Crack chips from Chef Brian's Comfort Truch

5. Balsamic fig and mascarpone ice cream, Coolhaus ($5). Hunks of fig dot this dense, subtly flavored ice cream. Coolhaus' thing is that you get the ice cream between two cookies, but I barely notice them when I'm eating ice cream this good. That said, oatmeal raisin cookies work really well with the flavors of fig and sweet cheese.

6. Mini meat pie ($3 for two), Kabob n' Roll. I like my meat pies doughy, not flaky, and as deep-fried as humanly possible. These small empanada-like meat pockets fit the bill. The ground beef inside is rich with gravy. The pastry melts in your mouth.

7. Butter chicken, India Jones ($7). These tender chunks of chicken breast come in a thick, creamy sauce with a side of basmati rice. It's an appropriately sized portion rather than a gargantuan mound of food - which means you'll have room in your stomach to order several other items from the India Jones menu - and it's been consistently good every time I've had it.

8. Holding the joint number 8 spot are: the carne asada taco from KO Tacos ($2.50), and the carne asada taco from Don Chow Tacos ($2).The KO taco's filled with super-juicy beef and tangy, crumbly cotija cheese. Don Chow hasn't been around my neck of the woods lately, and I've missed regularly nomming on their perfectly seasoned carne asada taco.

(Bottom) Carne asada taco from KO Taco Truck

9. A hot dog from The Greasy Wiener. When you have a hot-dog craving, the Greasy Wiener satisfies every time. You can go for the basics if you're in a no-frills mood: the Greasy Wiener's namesake dog has mustard, grilled onions, a dill pickle spear and one topping (we get sauerkraut). If you'd like a bit more 'zazz, go for a Berkowitz, a bacon-wrapped dog with chili and cheese. Your craving for a dog may lead to a burger jones - ours often do. If so, the Wiener has Iggys: two Angus beef sliders topped with American cheese on King's Hawaiian rolls. They're a no-fail burger solution.

10. Barbecued meat, Barbie's Q ($8 for a sampler plate). Whether it's pulled pork, barbecued beef, or smoked chicken, the meat on this truck is absolutely top-notch. A friend once skipped the sides (excellent collard greens, cheesy grits, and mac and cheese)  and ordered nothin' but a big old plate of meat from Barbie's - and that was his entire dinner. That's pretty much a ringing endorsement right there. Oh, and by the way? He ate that plate - and then he ordered another one, to go.

I considered adding some other menu items to this list, but I can't yet call them reliable: either I've only had them once, or I sampled them a second time, only to be ever so slightly disappointed. That said, I hope to be adding more dishes to the list very soon. One item I would love to include: the cheeseburger dumplings from Dim Sum Truck. I was so disappointed on the first Melrose Night when the truck sold out of them before I got a chance to order any. You will not thwart me twice, oh elusive dumplings! I may have only eaten you once, but, by God, I shall have you again!

What are your most reliably delicious food-truck picks? Post them in the comments, and we'll compile a reader-suggested list of favorites.

23May/102

Chef Brian's Comfort Truck

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Too bad you can't copyright sliders. The mini-burger trend that's been sweeping the nation must annoy the White Castle people no end, since they're the ones that popularized the greasy little things to begin with, and they're not seeing any extra bank from the recent proliferation of petite meat patties. Tiny burgers have become a staple on gourmet food truck menus: they're quick to make, convenient to eat, and not half as messy as a regular-size burger. It's also easy to put all kinds of gourmet spins on them. Chef Brian's Comfort Truck does just that, offering seven varieties of slider - six chicken and one beef.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

I got the jerk beef sliders (two for $4). They came on sweet, doughy buns reminiscent of the ones from King's Hawaiian, and each was topped with a slice of pineapple. The meat had an authentic jerk flavor, and it was spicy, without being so hot that it blew my head off. The beef was medium-well done - just how I like it. That's one of the reasons I've become a slider convert: it's hard to undercook a miniature patty, whereas people often tend to undercook regular-size burgers, because they like rare meat. I'm a fan of more well-done meat (do I hear snickers from the peanut gallery?).

Photo by Oliver Seldman

My husband got the BBQ chicken sliders (also two for $4). They weren't quite what either of us expected - the menu's description of the sliders didn't mention that they were battered. Looking back, the words "deep-fried" on the menu should have tipped us off: most deep-fried chicken has a layer of breading on it, helping keep the meat inside juicy. Our initial confusion didn't change the fact that the sliders were very tasty; the barbecue sauce had a good balance of acid and smoke flavors.

Next: Chef Brian's Golden Fried "Crack" Tortilla Chips ($2). Holy crap, these were good. I found myself hoping my 2-year-old son wouldn't eat too many of them, so I could have more. (No such luck - he loved them as much as I did.) They're flour tortilla chips that taste like they came from heaven. They're buttery and flaky and there are far too few of them in each serving.

Crack Chips from the Comfort Truck

A week or so later, I hit up the Comfort Truck for the second time. They were on Melrose and Spaulding, and they'd tweeted that they were giving out free jerk beef sliders and Comfy Jerk Beef Wraps (usually $3) to their first 30 customers. I came by and grabbed my freebies, plus an extra order of crack chips and a soda. The sliders were just as good as I remembered them, and Brian and Nikki were lots of fun to chat with.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Several brick-and-mortar burger joints have deployed mobile divisions: I even saw a Fatburger truck at Silverlake Jubilee today. Maybe White Castle will start its own food truck. With the huge amount of competition out there now, the original kings of the slider might want to show these upstart burger-slingers where it all began. Still, there's plenty of room in this world (and in my stomach) for both a classic White Castle burger and a jerk-spiced, pineapple-topped beef patty. Vive la différence.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photos by Oliver Seldman

29Mar/101

New Truck Watch: 3/27

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Just Rolled Out

Nana Queen's Puddin' and Wings, out and about for only the 12th time today, does a mean butterscotch banana pudding. I know; I ate it on Friday.

Canter's Deli hit the streets with its new food truck on March 19.

Chef Brian's Comfort Truck (whose wares I am sampling as I write this post!) marks its eighth day on the road today.

Cart for a Cause is a food truck helmed by a different celebrity chef each Tuesday. Each meal combo costs $10, and proceeds benefit St. Vincent Meals On Wheels. It took its maiden voyage on March 23 with Nobu Matsuhisa at the burners. It hasn't yet been announced who's on the truck tomorrow: check CFAC's Twitter and Facebook pages for news as it breaks.

I mistakenly thought The Greasy Wiener was the new Canter's truck, but it turns out the Wiener stands alone. It launched on March 13.

On The Way

There's a second Dim Sum Truck on the way in one to two months, this one featuring exotic dumpling fillings.

Papa's Tapas truck doesn't have a rollout date just yet, but keep an eye on its Twitter feed for more info. I'm hoping there's some bacalao on the menu.

Derb's Gourmet's last tweet was on Jan 1, and it still shows no signs of rolling out. I shot them a tweet to see what's up. I'll let you know what I find out.

Louks was going to have a second truck by now, but its original one crapped out, so now its new second truck has become its first and only truck. It's currently having another one custom-built, and will soon be a two-truck operation.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman