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24Jan/112

Mighty Boba Truck

Mighty Boba Truck

The Mighty Boba Truck is one of two boba-centric trucks currently on the road - the other is simply called The Boba Truck. Mighty Boba serves different flavored teas with tapioca pearls; it also features Taiwanese snack food such as boneless pork chop, popcorn chicken, and sausage.

Popcorn chicken at The Mighty Boba Truck

Their food's available in a snack-size portion ($4), or in a lunch box ($6), which also contains rice and veggies. I got a snack-size portion of the spicy buttermilk popcorn chicken. Small pieces of light and dark meat were coated in a tangy, slightly sweet breading that packed a bit of heat. Just two tiny complaints: the chicken was ever so slightly overdone, making the breading tough to bite through in places; and it could have used a pinch less salt. Otherwise, it was really tasty, and I ended up getting it again a few weeks after this first visit.

We got two boba teas ($4 each, plus $0.50 each for the boba): black milk tea and honey milk green tea. The boba were a tad smaller than what I've determined to be "standard" boba size. Like too-large matzo balls, big boba tend to be less flavorful, and their outside skins start to soften and slough off, creating a gelatinous muck on their surfaces. (Can you tell I've eaten quite a bit of boba in my time?) These smaller boba were chewy and tasty. They also zoomed up the big boba straw, meaning I pretty much had a perfectly sized mouthful of tapioca every time I took a sip of tea.

Boba tea from The Mighty Boba Truck

I could have drunk a gallon of the black milk tea. (It's a good thing I didn't, though, or I wouldn't have slept for the next three or four days.) So many boba places drown their black tea's flavor in milk and sugar, but here, the tea definitely kept its smoky aroma, even though it was surrounded by sweetness. This boba tea is higher-quality than the tea you'll find in a lot of boba joints, because it doesn't taste like someone made a giant vat of it; it tastes as if it was brewed just for you.

The honey green milk tea was almost preposterously sweet. I loved it, but for those of you who prefer less sugar in your tea, the Mighty Boba Truck will make it how you like it - just ask.

The Mighty Boba Truck

The truck doesn't have too many options for vegetarians, but then again, it is a snack-and-drink truck rather than a full-on meal-serving machine. On the day I visited the truck, there was one vegetarian choice on the menu: sweet potato fries with condensed milk ($4). Looking at the menu online, I see the truck also offers pan-fried tofu steak with a honey-soy sauce glaze. Since I'm a sucker for anything with condensed milk, I'm going to try the sweet potato fries on my next visit to the Mighty Boba Truck.

Photos by Oliver Seldman

21Jan/111

No Tomatoes Truck

No Tomatoes truck

No Tomatoes is an Indian food truck that's been on the road for about eight weeks now. It gets its name from one of its co-owners' food-ordering habits. He noticed he was always asking for menu items sans the red fruit, and so he decided to turn that preference into his truck's gimmick. The cute thing is: the truck's soda-and-chips side display features a big stack of plump, bright red tomatoes. They're free, and you can ask for them to be included in any of the truck's dishes.

Tomatoes on the No Tomatoes truck

I paid my first visit to the truck on a freezing night in West LA, on Sawtelle and Olympic. Their menu included: a kathi roll - a whole-wheat wrap filled with either shredded meat or veggies; a chapli burger - ground beef or chicken on a burger bun with mint chutney and red chilies; and biryani rice, which is what I ordered. The dish consists of saffron-flavored biryani rice and tender pieces of chicken, garnished with red onion, cilantro and mint chutney. I got the combo ($8), which came with a drink and two samosas. My food came up super quick, and was piping hot. The spice level was perfect for a pantywaist like me - it was full of flavor, but not mouth-burning. The biryani gracefully walked the line between succulence and greasiness without once stepping over to the dark side.

Biryani and samosas from the No Tomatoes truck

The samosas were stuffed with ground beef and potatoes, and practically melted in my mouth. To heck with crispy samosas, I say; the doughier the better. These delivered.

No Tomatoes served up some seriously delicious Indian street food. I felt like I'd eaten a decadent meal, but escaped the grease hangover that so often accompanies dishes like the ones I chose. I have only one request to make of these lycopene-eschewing folks: that they start offering desserts.

The No Tomatoes truck

Photos by Oliver Seldman

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.

16Oct/102

Lake Street Creamery

Lake Street Creamery truck

Ice cream + food trucks = perfection, as far as I'm concerned. My trip to Lake Street Creamery only served to strengthen this conviction. The service is exceptionally accommodating, and the (ridiculously good) ice cream comes in unique, interesting flavors.

I love the look of the truck: its powder-blue wrap and classic fonts come straight from the 50s, but its logo is hardcore gangsta. The speakers were blaring the Brian Setzer Orchestra's "Dirty Boogie" album when I visited, which added to the 50s vibe.

Lake Street Creamery menu

The kind folks at Lake Street Creamery obliged us by letting us taste a few of the ice cream flavors. Donut was awesome, but my favorites were Black Jack and California Zephyr. Both were incredibly subtle flavors that still managed to be memorable. Black Jack is licorice-flavored, but isn't so intense that it blows your head off. California Zephyr blends Tahitian vanilla, mint and Meyer lemon. I expected it to be much tarter and tangier, but there was only a hint of lemon - the perfect amount. I eventually opted for a single scoop of Holiday Chocolate ($4), which featured cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and ginger in a base of Ghirardelli chocolate. The bits of ginger gave the ice cream a nice kick, and were the ideal size - big enough to be recognizable as pieces of fresh ginger, without being giant chewy chunks.

The scoop came in an edible waffle-cone bowl that stayed crisp all the way through my leisurely devouring of the ice-cream inside it. Seriously - my husband and I were amazed at this waffle bowl's ability to keep its shape and not get in the least bit soggy. A feat of culinary engineering! It was crunchy and sweet, with a touch of molasses flavor - one of the best waffle cones (and the only waffle bowl) I've had and it's eco-friendly, too.

The Pancake Breakfast flavor had maple syrup, bacon, and big cakey slabs of flapjack, all topped off with a sprinkle of fresh-ground coffee. My only beef? The pork. The bacon flavor was just too overpowering - maybe it was the size of the pieces. I'm not generally a huge fan of bacon in my sweets, however, and judging from the very positive online reviews, this flavor's a fan favorite, so what do I know: try it, despite what I say.

Lake Street Creamery offers floats, too - mix any of the truck's sodas with any ice cream flavor, and, as the English say, Bob's your uncle. Try Donut ice cream with chocolate soda for a Chocolate Donut float. There are also a whole bunch of flavors the truck serves as daily specials. One I definitely want to try is the Don Draper: vanilla ice cream with smoke, bourbon, and caramel sauce. Another is Bananarella: banana ice cream with chunks of banana and a Nutella ribbon. I'm going to have to go back to Lake Street Creamery for a return visit very soon.

Holiday Chocolate ice cream from Lake Street Creamery

Photos by Oliver Seldman

2Jul/103

Enter the Ninja: Yatta-! Truck

Yatta-! Truck

The Yatta-! Truck, which serves sushi with an American twist, has been on the road since June 5. I stopped by this past Friday on Miracle Mile. The menu offers several unique rolls, including the All-American, a deep-fried cheeseburger roll. It also gives you the option of building your own sushi, which you do by using the brightly colored popsicle sticks sitting in cups on the side of the truck. You pick the sticks corresponding to the ingredients you'd like in and on your roll, and then you hand them to the folks at the truck's order window. "You be the Chef!" is the Yatta-! Truck's tag line.

Yatta-! Truck Creation Station

I'm not quite confident in my ability to design my own roll without accidentally picking flavor combos that will turn out to be unexpectedly gross, so instead I chose one of the five pre-designed rolls on the menu: the Cream Cheese Explosion, a deep-fried cream cheese and spicy tuna roll. It was $3.50 for four pieces. The cream cheese and spicy tuna was a great combination - the cream cheese tempered the tuna's spice. My only complaint: deep-frying the roll cooked the tuna a little too much for my liking. I'd have preferred a greater contrast between the crunchy, hot batter on the outside and the cold, tender tuna inside the roll. I don't know if that's asking too much, culinarily speaking, but hey, if Acapulco can make deep-fried ice cream... (Yes, I'm talking about Acapulco, the Michelin 3-star restaurant that has introduced Southern California to such gustatory delights as the Mucho Macho-tizer Platter. Stop looking at me like that.)

Yatta-! Truck Menu

This truck comes complete with a ninja. Yes, a masked, sword-wielding ninja who will obligingly strike badass poses if you ask to take a picture of him. Despite his garb, he's not fierce at all; in fact, he's very sweet and friendly. We shot the shit while I waited for my order to come up, and he told me the Yatta-! Truck has two regular spots: where we were currently standing, at 5900 Wilshire Blvd; and 2nd and Santa Monica Blvd, in the city of Santa Monica. It also hits downtown and Venice fairly often. Look for its latest stops here. In addition to tasty sushi, the Yatta-! Truck gave me the opportunity to say a sentence I may never again utter in my lifetime: "Hang on; I gotta say goodbye to the ninja."

Yatta-! Ninja

Photos by Oliver Seldman

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

5May/103

Even Quicker-Fire Review: Worldfare

What's Its Deal?: Worldfare's repurposed double-decker bus is sort of like the mullet of food trucks, except that here, the business is down below, and the party's up top. You order your meal at the side window, where you can look into the bottom-deck kitchen; when your food's up, you climb the stairs to the top deck, where there's a counter you can eat at.

What Do They Have?: Bunny Chow ($4), a South African street food. It's a hollowed-out bread roll filled with short rib stew, BBQ pork, chicken curry or veggie chili.

Is It Good?: Yes, but pricey. Two Bunny Chows (short rib and BBQ pork) and truffle mac and cheese balls ($11 for the combo), a lychee lemongrass mint drink ($2.50), and a 8-ounce Piedmontese World Fare burger with fries ($10) set us back more than $20. I enjoyed the Bunny Chows so much that I can't wait to hit up World Fare again. Here's the problem, though: they're tiny. The truck displays a picture of three Bunny Chows in a row, which led me to believe that $4 would buy me three of them. Nope; just one. The truffle mac and cheese balls didn't blow my mind, but they were still tasty. Ditto on the burger and fries. The drink was sweet, tart and refreshing - I'd definitely get it again.

Anything Bad?: Yep. Why are there not tables and chairs on the top deck? They won't slide around if you bolt 'em down. If I want to stand and eat, I can do that outside on the street.

9Mar/100

Quickfire Review: Lomo Arigato

Recently I've been hitting the food trucks hard, so hard in fact that I have a backlog of reviews to do. Rather than do up a full review of each truck, I thought I'd experiment with a quickfire review format. This is the last in a series of five mini-reviews.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Truck: Lomo Arigato

What I ordered: Lomo saltado (beef stew with french fries; $7)

Was it good?: Like Frysmith's chili fries, these fries soaked up the juices of the beef stew in which they swam, and were all the tastier for it. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the onions were plentiful (and you know I love me some onions). There was white rice on the side, but I'm not big into plain white rice: I see it as a chunk of calories I'd rather spend on something with a bit more flavor.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Overall experience: The dudes at Lomo Arigato don't go the extra mile for their customers. That's a compliment, not a criticism: read on for an explanation. See, right before my husband and I arrived at Mid-Wilshire, the parking goons had shown up and demanded the Lomo guys move their truck. We walked up a minute later to find the truck with doors down, and the chefs standing on the street talking. "We asked if we could just move the truck into a space down the street," one of the guys told us, "but they said, 'No, it has to be a mile away.'" We all agreed that this sounded dodgy, and that because the goons really had no good reason to move the trucks along, they were now just inventing random parking laws. Still, the Lomo guys weren't going to protest right now; they wanted to keep serving lunch. "We'll open back up real quick before we move, though, just for you guys," chef/owner Eric Nakata said, and he pulled up the doors and hopped back in the truck. How nice is that? We got our lomo saltado with a side of awesome customer service!

Vegetarian-friendly: You can get both the lomo saltado and the chaufa (fried rice; $7) with tofu. It's unclear whether they do the tallarin (Peruvian spaghetti; $7) with tofu as well - I'll ask, and add a note here when I know.

Vegan-friendly: The lomo with tofu is vegan; the chaufa has egg, so it's not. The tallarin is vegan if you can get tofu on it.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

8Mar/100

Quickfire Review: Frysmith

Recently I've been hitting the food trucks hard, so hard in fact that I have a backlog of reviews to do. Rather than do up a full review of each truck, I thought I'd experiment with a quickfire review format. This is the fourth in a series of five mini-reviews.

Truck: Frysmith

What I ordered: Chili cheese fries ($5)

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Was it good?: Made with beer and chocolate, the chili was some of the best I've had in a long while, on top of fries that got soggier and more starchily delicious as they soaked up their topping. Capping it off were lashings of grated cheddar cheese. I ate it with a fork, and got it all over my face, and I loved every minute of it. Plus, it didn't give me a stomachache, despite my having eaten it as my first meal of the day, and despite it being filled with fatty, greasy cholesterol-y insanity. I'd already decided it was OK by me to suffer a little for some chili cheese fries, and now I'd had all the fun without the punishment. Magical. They didn't have their famous kimchi fries ($6) the day I went, but next time I'm going to get them.

Overall experience: Brook Howell and Erik Cho, the owners and operators of Frysmith, were very friendly and welcoming. We talked about the look of the truck: they achieved that brushed-metal finish themselves, with gallons of paint stripper and a sander. Running a fry-centric truck means customizing its kitchen. Whereas most food trucks have a standard kitchen with one small deep-fryer, Frysmith has four large fryers in a row, with a big window so customers can see the action taking place. The guy who built their truck installed Plexiglas: an error, it turned out, because as soon as the fryers fired up, the window got so hot it started to warp. Real glass is going in soon, Brook says.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Vegetarian-friendly: They have vegan chili fries ($4.50), with organic tomato, mixed beans, soy chorizo and smoked paprika. You can get them with cheese...

Vegan-friendly: ...or without cheese. I know it doesn't seem like much of an option, but it's important to remember that often with these trucks, there are only a few items on their menus, so what looks like slim pickings for vegetarians/vegans actually makes up a sizable chunk of the menu.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

7Mar/100

Quickfire Review: Dogtown Dogs

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Recently I've been hitting the food trucks hard, so hard in fact that I have a backlog of reviews to do. Rather than do up a full review of each truck, I thought I'd experiment with a quickfire review format. This is the third in a series of five mini-reviews.

Truck: Dogtown Dogs

What I ordered: Trailer Trash dog (all beef, topped with chili and crumbled Fritos; $6); Dogtown Dog (all beef, with fennel slaw, dijon mustard and roasted red peppers; $5)

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Was it good?: The dog itself was very tasty. The Fritos could have been a bit more plentiful on the Trailer Trash dog, but the chili was hearty and rich. The Dogtown Dog's fennel slaw didn't do it for me. It was too thickly cut, there was slightly too much of it on the dog, and the fennel itself was a little flavorless.

Overall experience: The dude who took our order was happy to chat with us. He sounded like he had a little bit of a Boston accent, which I absolutely love. He gave us the lowdown on "snap dogs": they've got a natural sausage casing, so they have a nice snap to them when you take a bite. The problem? These dogs are expensive. Yes, they're pretty good, but to be honest, I'd like them a lot more if they cost a couple dollars less.

Vegetarian-friendly: The portabello cheese steak dog ($7) has grilled portabello mushrooms, peppers and onions. It's topped with melted cheese. You can also make any dog soy for $1 extra.

Vegan-friendly: Get a soy dog on the Dogtown Dog or California Dog ($6). You could ask for the portabello dog sans cheese. I have a message in to the Dogtown boys asking them about the vegan status of their hot dog buns, and I'll report back when I hear from them.

Photo by Oliver Seldman

Photo by Oliver Seldman