Sunday, September 5, 2010

GREETINGS FROM THE CINCY FOOD TRUCK SCENE

Those of you who've been reading along for a while know I've been excited ever since Cincinnati's first food trucks took to the streets. I held my breath when a brouhaha erupted over whether they could operate legally in our fair city. Then I breathed a sigh of relief when a plan was adopted to permit them to park in three designated locations with city limits, and happily blogged about opening day here.

I'm not sure how long this mobile food vendor sign has been up at the Fifth and Race location (which is closest to my office and has become a go-to place for interesting lunches), but I'm hopeful they are an indication food trucks are here to stay. I love what these folks are doing and wanted to share a little report. The three I'm featuring here have also been nominated to compete in the next season of the Food Network's Food Truck Race, and you can vote for them through Friday, Sept. 10 (voting details and contact info for all these great vendors below).

NEW ORLEANS TO GO/STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
I finally caught up with New Orleans To Go, aka Streetcar Named Desire, a week ago Friday, and wow was I glad I did. (I think the proprietor had been out of town for a while.)
On my first visit, I had this fried shrimp po'-boy "dressed" (with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mayo), which came with a side of excellent red beans and rice filled with chunky andouille. The shrimp were lightly breaded and freshly fried with cajun seasoning that added kick but wasn't too hot for my palate. Both the sandwich and the side knocked me out! A huge, and steaming hot, plate of food for the price, which I think was $6.95. (Apologies for vagueness on the price - I was much more focused on the food.)
On my next visit to the Fifth and Race location, I'd intended to check out Senor Roy's taco of the week. But when I saw shrimp and grits on NOTG's daily specials board, I simply could not pass it up.
You can see just one of the many plump shrimp peaking out from under the cheesy, creamy grits, lightly flecked with green bell pepper, which came with sweet cornbread that incorporated actual kernels of corn. I think this was $7.95 - again, a stunning plate of food, steaming hot, and a bargain for the portion.

Based on my experience, NOTG offers a selection of three to five lunch specials each day, rather than a fixed menu. So don't go with your heart set on one particular dish, but go - you will not be disappointed!

SENOR ROY'S TACO PATROL
Senor Roy's also blew me away on my first visit, and I've been coming back ever since. Their standard offerings are grilled marinated flank steak, spice-rubbed chicken, and al pastore (pork with pineapple and adobo), on wheat or corn tortillas, with a wide array of cheeses, salsas, and other accompaniments - don't miss the pickled red onions! While some bloggers have compared the customized ordering process to Chipotle's, the food is far superior, and at only $5.00 for two or $6.00 for three soft tacos. Check out their website for more info about their full standard menu.

To spice things up, Senor Roy's recently held a contest for customers to suggest their own taco creations, which I posted about here. Each week through the end of October they will be featuring a taco of the week based on one of the winning customer creations.

I’m sorry I missed the featured taco the first week: Duck, Duck, Duck, Taco! suggested by Glenna McLendon, served with a corn tortilla piled on roasted duck in a chipotle/cumin/coriander rub, topped with a slaw of cabbage, mango, cilantro, sweet onion, hot pepper, lime juice and apple cider vinegar.

But I loved this week's Thai Taco, suggested by Chris Isbell – Curry chicken, cilantro, tomatoes, onion, basil, peppers, thai chili sauce.
Per Polly Campbell's blog in the Cincinnati Enquirer, here are the upcoming tacos of the week. Innovative suggestions from fans coupled with excellent execution by Senor Roy, I want to try them all. For my long-distance readers, maybe a few of these ideas will inspire you to try something different in your own kitchen.

Winner # 3 “Twisted Teriyaki”
9/6 – 9/10
Lauren Brandstetter- Shredded teriyaki chicken (or pork), grilled pineapple salsa, cheese, and a little lettuce for crunch

Winner # 4 “Asian Fusion”
9/13 – 9/17
Rebecca Crouse Kelley – Asian-Mexican fusion with orange-marinated chicken with stir-fried rice, with some cucumber sour cream salad

Winner # 5 “The Wingman Steak”
9/20 – 9/24
Cincy Wingman – Marinated/Grilled flank steak, caramelized onions, goat cheese, habanero salsa verde, on a corn tortilla

Winner # 6 “The Buddha”
9/27 – 10/1
Matthew Hoover - Butter curry chicken, roasted red pepper, mango chutney, a sprinkle of rosemary, all on top of a nice piece of romaine lettuce, wrapped up in thin naan. Wild rice optional.

Winner # 7 “Little Piggy Tacos”
10/4 – 10/8
Mati Senerchia – Grilled corn tortilla, barbecued pulled pork, fresh coleslaw with apples

Winner # 8 “Man Taco”
10/11 – 10/15
Nick Rodish – Steak, feta cheese, onion straws, bacon, garlic butter

Winner # 9 “Oktoberfest”
10/18 – 10/22
Diego Sebastian Moena – Apple chutney tacos: traditional pork/chicken tacos served with a red onion/granny smith/cinnamon chutney, sharp cheddar cheese

Winner #10 “The Little Ratita”
10/25 – 10/29
Little Ratita – Vegetarian taco of grilled eggplant, mushrooms, onion with roasted corn, zucchini flowers and cotija cheese (Flor de Calabaza relish)

CAFE DE WHEELS
This truck makes a serious, and seriously tasty, burger, which they will cook to medium rare if you ask (I hate being told places won't cook burgers to anything less than medium). It is sloppy and delicious, with balsamic onions, and a sauce so good that it actually makes me enjoy lettuce on a burger :) Cafe de Wheels also has a number of other options, including a Cuban sandwich and several grilled cheese sandwiches, most of which I haven't tried. Kind of got stuck on the burger ($6.50) and the feta fries, which add another $3.00 to the bill, but they're a large portion.
CINCY FOOD TRUCK 411
WHO'S WHERE WHEN
These three vendors, and others as well, have no set schedule as to when they'll be at any particular location inside or outside city limits. That's one of the points of being mobile, after all! All seem to have their own strategies about where they can get the most traffic, and seem to be interested in catering, especially if you have a group who would like them to set up at a spot near you. My lunch-going experience has been primarily at the 5th and Race location, which is closest to my office. I usually try to check out who's there before I go (via their twitter or facebook). I've never walked over on my lunch hour and found zero food trucks there. I have occasionally found only one. In my experience, Fridays seem to draw more food trucks to that location. Then again, downtown office workers tend to go out for lunch and be more adventuresome as the weekend draws near, especially if it's a payday Friday.
EXPECT TO WAIT FOR YOUR FOOD
Rather than grumble about it, go in with an appropriate expectation. Depending on how many people are in line when you arrive, and the fact that these vendors are at least assembling, if not also cooking, your food to order, don't be surprised if it takes 10-20 minutes to get your lunch. Cafe de Wheels  offers an option for you to email your order ahead, but I've had mixed success with how effectively that works, especially when they're slammed.
SEATING
When I've talked up these trucks, people have asked about this too. This is take-away food, people, and my suggestion is to figure that out where you'll eat it yourself. I usually take mine back and eat at my office. For outdoor dining, Fountain Square is only a block from the Fifth and Race location, and I noticed plenty of tables available last week. Cafe de Wheels has a couple of tables and chairs it puts outside its truck.
WHERE TO VOTE FOR OUR TRUCKS
You can cast up to 10 votes a day through Sept. 10 for any of these great food trucks to become contestants on the next season of Food TV's Great Food Truck Race show (and become eligible for some sort of sweepstakes the network is offering if you vote). Just go here and follow the directions.    
VENDOR CONTACT INFO
The best way to find your way to these trucks is to keep track of them via twitter or facebook (which you can do even if you don't have your own twitter account or haven't friended them on FB). With apologies to anyone who caught this post before it was "cooked," here's the 411.
You'll find the New Orleans To Go truck listed as Streetcar Named Desire on the Food TV contest website. New Orleans to Go's website. New Orleans to Go's twitter. New Orleans to Go's facebook.
Senor Roy's website. Senor Roy's twitter. Senor Roy's facebook.
Cafe de Wheels website. Cafe de Wheels twitter. Cafe de Wheels facebook.

7 comments:

Aunty Belle said...

MOANing here--ahhhhh, can ya send that N'awlins truck down this away? PLEEEEASE??

Incredible--why would ya eat in a restaurant when there days are lovely fall days an' ya could grab a Po Boy or a duck taco an sit in under a tree??

Yummy post, Eggy!

intuitive eggplant said...

Aunty, thanks for stoppin' by! I'd send these fine folks your way if I could :) Mebbe they'll git on that food network show and stop in yer town? Or not. Not sure what it would take for a show like that to make a stop even in Cincy. But I loves the food they're offerin' up. And happy to support them with my lunch time dollars and a little shout-out on my blog anytime.

Dani said...

I soooo want tacos now!

intuitive eggplant said...

Dani, they were soooo good!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

That po-boy looks so like New Orleans. I am fascinated by the food trucks and their clever names.
sam

Dani said...

How can you go back to work with all this great food around?!

Keri said...

Great Post here. Your photos are amazing.

Just an FYI, your sandwich has been posted on Sandwich 365.com in a sneak peek for the world to see. Go and check it out. Contest winner to be announced on Sunday the 12th. Thanks again for participating. Keri www.samwich365.com