Find LA Food Trucks Blog Blogging LA's twittering food truck scene

12Aug/102

Grill 'Em All: Food Truck Racers

The Grill 'Em All Truck

Want to see seven trucks from around the US - well, 6 trucks from Cali and one from Texas - battle it out to see who can cook the best noms under pressure? You're in luck. "The Great Food Truck Race," a new reality show which is like "The Amazing Race" but with food and trucks (go figure), premiers on August 15 on the Food Network. Tyler Florence hosts the show, which features seven truck-riding teams: Austin Daily Press, based in - you guessed it - Austin; Crepes Bonaparte, from Fullerton, Orange County, California; Ragin' Cajun, another OC truck, from Hermosa Beach; Spencer on the Go, out of San Francisco; and three LA-area trucks - Nana Queen's, Nom Nom Truck, and my personal favorite, Grill 'Em All. The trucks and their crews race across the US, stopping in cities and scrambling to prepare the most delicious food they can, as fast as they can. The show's tagline is "There will be breakdowns." Of the truck variety - and of the emotional variety.

We caught up with Matt and Ryan from Grill 'Em All as they recovered from their "Great Food Truck Race" experience. Joel Brown is the third man on their truck (each "Race" team has three contestants). We tried to get them to give away juicy show spoilers, but to no avail.

Find LA Food Trucks: You’ve said you often work 16-18-hour days. Can you describe an average day in the life of the Grill 'Em All truck and its resident dudes?

Ryan: Wake up, get to the truck, see what prep we have to do, roll out, do service, prep more, maybe another service, prep more, then prep more. We are a really prep heavy truck, everything on the beast is made from scratch, no frozen or pre-made stuff.

Matt: A day in the life? More like "Welcome to our Nightmare." Let's see...wake up, prep, drive, serve, drive, prep, drive, serve, go home...drink away the stress.

FLAFT: The Dee Snider is an insane creation, with peanut butter, jelly, bacon and sriracha. Who came up with it, and was it a gamble for you to put it on the menu?

Ryan: I come up with all the burgs on the truck. Its simple, I love peanut butter and jelly. I love it so much that it's tattooed on my right arm, with a jug of milk on my left! It wasn’t much of a gamble, the flavors work, and they make for a really intense, amazing burger! Don’t be scared, try one...

Matt: Our resident burger genius is Ryan W. Harkins. He came up with the Dee and, no, it was not a gamble, because gambling does not always pay off, but eating burgers always does.

Matt, Ryan and Jeff outside their truck, "The Beast"

FLAFT: "The Great Food Truck Race," the Food Network show you’re taking part in, sounds a lot like "The Amazing Race." Did you guys (the three of you on the truck) fight because of the pressure of the competition, or did it bring you closer?

Ryan: Not really. The three of us have all been in touring bands before, so we know the stress of the road and we know each other so well we know what buttons not to push. We had an amazing time and made some really incredible friends out of this show!

Matt: I've always been a loner, a nomad, a stranger in the night. That said, I have never felt closer to two weird-looking men before. Blame it on the road or Bon Jovi songs, but, in the end, I feel like we've all been bonded by buns.

FLAFT: Did you get to mingle with the other food-truck teams on the road, and if so, who did you get along best with?

Ryan: We got along with everyone really well, we love all those guys. but especially the Austin Daily Press gang, those dudes were long-lost brothers and sisters! We even got ADP tattoos and they got Grill ‘Em All tats! Pretty rad!

Matt: Ready for a cliche? Well, here she is: after the dust settled, everyone was just so great. The kids from Austin Daily Press and the lovely gentlemen from Spencer on the Go will remain some of our best food truck buddies for years to come. Drinking beers on treadmills in random hotels across America? Ohhh, the priceless memories.

FLAFT: Give us a little sneak peek at one Truck Stop Challenge that was particularly memorable for you.

Ryan: I wish I could. They were tough, but it would give away the show!

Matt: The truck stop challenges were nothing short of nerve-wracking and annoying, but they could, truly, make or break a team. That said, I don't remember any of them.

FLAFT: There are basketball groupies, hockey groupies, police groupies – have you ever, uh, “encountered” any food truck groupies?

Matt: Groupies? Um, we sell really big burgers, dude. The taste is the best groupie because it sticks around.

Ryan: We get a lot of people who love our truck, and how could you not? I mean, it rules! We have loyal fans we dubbed "ghouls" (in honor of the late/great Ghoulardi [a Cleveland legend]) and we love our ghouls!

FLAFT: Do you have a Number One Fan? If so, describe him or her.

Ryan: Every customer is our #1 fan. We love everyone who comes to our truck and hopefully that love is reciprocated!

Matt: My mom, Barb, is my biggest fan. She came all the way to Los Angeles from Cleveland to eat our food AND she did our taxes.

Catch "The Great Food Truck Race" beginning Sunday, August 15 at 10pm/9c on the Food Network.

For those about to cook... we salute you

5Feb/101

Review: Grill 'Em All

When I heard that a metal-themed burger truck was rolling out in mid-December of last year, I was inordinately excited. I love hard rock in all its guises, from butt-rock to prog to black, and I especially love Metallica. (In case you don't already know, Grill 'Em All is a burger-themed pun on Metallica's 1983 debut album, Kill 'Em All.) Metal and burgers are a perfect match, putting me in mind of pre-rock-show tailgate parties in sports-arena parking lots. Metal and gourmet burgers, though? Not such a common pairing - until now.

grillemall_truck

The truck parked at Melrose and Fuller this past Thursday afternoon, in front of the Groundlings building. My husband and I showed up at 4 PM, and there was no line. I stepped up to the counter, and was greeted by co-owner Matt and co-owner/chef Ryan. When I mentioned I wrote for findlafoodtrucks.com, Ryan said he was really excited when Grill 'Em All first made it onto our Twitter feed aggregator. Then Matt told me he'd read the blog and liked my Don Chow Tacos review. Flattery will get you everywhere, gentlemen. So will being cute metal dudes.

grillemall_matt

It turned out there was no need to butter up this critic, though: the food was seriously awesome. Ryan recommended we get the double-dipped pommes frites ($3), and gave them a complimentary dousing of truffle oil (usually a buck more). The oil lent the fries an extra depth of salty, pungent flavor. The fries themselves were perfectly crispy on the outside, with molten insides. We also got the H-100s ($4), named for a firework and a hardcore band from Matt and Ryan's home town of Cleveland, Ohio. They were big, panko-encrusted, cheese-infused tater tots, and they were about a billion times better than the Ore-Ida variety. My only complaint? Not enough cheese. We got the chipotle ketchup and the garlic aoli for dipping: both were good enough to eat with a spoon.

grillemall_menu

Onto the burgers. I had the Waste 'Em All ($6.50), with marinated green chilies, pepper jack cheese and beer-soaked onions. Some people like their burger bun to soak up condiments and meat juice till it almost falls apart: I am not one of those people, and, lucky for me, this was not one of those buns. Much more solid than your average fluffy, spongy burger vehicle, it was chewy, dense, delicious, and may also have been sourdough; I am ashamed to say I ate so quickly that I'm not sure about that last part. The burger itself was a big fat restaurant-style patty, cooked medium rare. There was just a touch too much green chili, which added a slight sourness to the overall flavor. The onions were amazing, though - tender and mellow, with a tiny bit of crunch to them. Beer really does make everything better.

grillemall_ryan

My husband had the Hannah Montana ($5.50). (Typing that sentence makes me laugh.) I, of course, had a bite or three. My first words, mouth stuffed full, were, "Mmm. That's a good burger." That's really all that needed to be said about it. It had American cheese, pickle, lettuce, tomato and ketchup, and it was damn near perfect.

grillemall_food

The whole Grill 'Em All experience was cool as hell. The truck itself is a sight to behold, emblazoned with Viking-helmeted burgers, zombie hands wielding ketchup bottles, lightning bolts and crossed spatulas. The food blends no-nonsense American standards with gourmet sensibilities. A metal-themed food truck could so easily have gone too far and ended up in cheesy Dr. Rockzo territory: Matt and Ryan embrace their gimmick without being too earnest or theatrical about it. I'll echo that restraint by concluding this review without making a single Metallica-themed joke. I had devised a tortured pun involving the two horsemen of the food-truck-alypse, but I'll spare you.

Vegetarian-friendly? Yes: there's the humorously named Carcass ($7.50), which features a veggie burger with guacamole, pico de gallo and frizzled onions. You can also have a veggie patty for $2 extra on any one of the burgers.

Vegan-friendly? Get a veggie patty and leave off the bun. The pommes frites are vegan, but the H-100s have cheese inside.