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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


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.


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, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Review: Kimchi 21

It was Saturday evening, and my husband and I were in search of a food truck. We'd checked the trusty Twitter feed aggregator, but no trucks were in the vicinity. Hoping that someone had forgotten to tweet their location, we set out in the car regardless. We'd heard great things about a mysterious taco truck that parked on Olympic and La Brea Blvds Thursday through Saturday nights, so that was our first stop, but sadly, the truck wasn't there. As we drove back along Melrose, my husband spotted Kimchi 21 parked outside the clothing store Foreign Exchange, between Curson and Sierra Bonita Aves.


I'd seen Kimchi 21 on Melrose many times before, but I knew they weren't on That, I found out, was because they don't have a Twitter feed. The server told me that they might start tweeting in May. He didn't explain why it had to wait till then. Their URL is on the side of the truck, but when I visited the site, it was a Network Solutions placeholder page. Maybe they don't care about the whole social media aspect of food-trucking: that's strange, since I'm sure they're a part of the Kogi-inspired Korean-BBQ-taco truck wave, and Twitter seems to be an essential ingredient of that business model.

The line was very short at 6:30 PM, but perhaps we just missed the rush: several people stepped up behind us as we ordered. We got a beef burrito ($5) and two tofu tacos ($2 each), with kimchi on the side. The beef was paper-thin and surprisingly lean. I'd psyched myself up for a few mouthfuls of gristle, but didn't end up having to endure even one. It was slightly dry, however. The burrito also contained the best Spanish rice I've had in a while - the tomato gave it a nice tangy bite without being overpowering. A goodly sum of chopped raw onions topped the whole thing off. I could still taste them half an hour later. That sounds gross, but it wasn't indigestion-related: my mouth was just suffused with oniony goodness. As for the tacos, the tortillas were just chewy enough, and supported all the wet stuff well. The tofu could have done with a bit more marinating, I think; it was creamy and firm, but slightly bland. I couldn't eat more than a mouthful of the kimchi. It had an odd, perfumey foretaste, and by that, I mean it literally tasted like when you spray perfume on your neck and some ends up getting in your mouth. (Anyone else ever done that? No? Just me, then.) After that flavor died down, it was pretty palatable, but I couldn't bring myself to go through the cycle again with another bite. I don't pretend to be a kimchi connoisseur, but I'm pretty sure this was not top-quality stuff.


I'd get the beef burrito again, and I'd love to have a side of the Spanish rice. The tofu tacos weren't special enough for a second go-round, in my opinion. As a whole, the Kimchi 21 experience wasn't the best time I've had at a food truck: compared to the kickass BBQ and warm friendliness at Barbie's Q, or the mind-blowing flavors and attentive service at Coolhaus, neither Kimchi 21's food nor its atmosphere was particularly memorable.

Vegetarian-friendly? Yes, you can get tofu tacos, burritos and quesadillas. There's also a kimchi quesadilla.

Vegan-friendly? Not particularly. The tacos, burritos and quesadillas all come with cheese.