Keep on truckin’
Our food reviewer test drives the grub from some of the local food trucks
I love food trucks, but sometimes it's difficult to discover where they'll be from week to week. Beginning in May, the new season of mass truck events begins, so I trekked around town finding a few more standouts to add to my list from last year (“Road Food,” Arts & Culture, May 15, 2014). I don't mind saying it was difficult, delicious work.
The Traveling Pizza Maestro serves up mini 9-inch New Jersey-style pies with two toppings of your choosing, a zesty red sauce, and a thin, crispy handmade crust ($6). I paid an extra buck for an additional topping and my sausage/mushroom/feta pie didn't disappoint. Definitely the best pizza I've had from a truck, and better than many you'll find in a restaurant. I paired the pizza with a simple side salad of spring mix and arugula greens with an Asian sesame dressing ($2). My buddy ordered a three-piece serving of steak and cilantro empanadas, served with chipotle ranch dip and a side salad ($6). As much as I liked the pizza, the empanadas were crispy, spicy, gooey heaven and I wished I wasn't already too full for another order.
All Wrapped Up serves wraps, but these ain't your average cold cuts and cheese in a tortilla. Burgers, chicken and marinated sirloin are grilled to order, resulting in wraps to write home about. Shock Therapy ($10.75) is a half-pound burger wrap with bacon, potato pancakes, tomato, caramelized onion, red, yellow and green bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, your choice of American, pepper jack or cheddar cheese, finished with jalapeño ranch dressing. All wraps come with a side of potato pancake or green salad with a dizzying array of housemade dressings available. Sam's Insane Buffalo Wrap ($7.75) is simpler and lighter but no slouch on flavor. Grilled chicken is tossed in spicy wing sauce, wrapped with cheddar cheese, plenty of romaine lettuce, then drizzled with ranch dressing. If you're avoiding carbs, you can order any wrap “served naked” on a bed of lettuce.
Truckee-based Pho Real travels down the hill on occasion to share its fare with Reno, and I'm certainly glad I got to try it. Though they weren't serving pho the day I found them, they make one of the best Bahn Mi sandwiches I've tasted ($11). Slow-braised pork shoulder is piled on a toasted French roll with housemade pickled veggies, fresh herbs, jalapeños, and an herb citrus aioli. The meat was tender and well-seasoned, all the vegetables popped with flavor, and the dressing was a perfect finish. But as good as it was, the sandwich was nearly outdone by a side of fried Brussels sprouts ($4). Sprout halves are deep fried, then tossed in a housemade balsamic vinaigrette. Crispy, tangy, zesty, and so good I'm almost at a loss for words. Even if you think you hate Brussels sprouts, you're going to like these.
Operated by a true son of the Windy City, Organic Taste of Chicago
serves up South Side street food with a modern twist: Where possible, the ingredients are sourced from local providers and certified organic. I’ve been craving an Italian beef sandwich, and I wasn’t disappointed ($8.50). Thin-sliced roast beef, simmered in seasoned juices, served on a French roll and topped with sweet peppers, hot giardiniera (housemade vegetable pickle), or both. I ordered both and was asked, “Do you want an Italian sausage added?” Well, of course I do ($1 extra for the organic chicken sausage). Going all in, I ordered it “wet,” meaning the sandwich is soaked in beefy meat juice. Think French Dip, but all at once. Yeah, it’s a bit soggy and a little harder to eat this way, but your tongue will thank you for the effort. My dining companion went with the heart-healthy option, a chicken sandwich with marinated-and-grilled free range chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, feta, and “Original Bronco Sauce” (a spicy mayo-based sauce) on a toasted sesame bun ($7). It was a kickin’ clucker, but couldn’t compete with hot, wet, spicy beef.
’s Food Truck features a unique fusion of Hawaiian, Asian and Mexican favorites with a choice of chicken, pork, beef and tofu. Where else can you get a classic Hawaiian plate lunch, quesadilla, and fried udon all on the same order? Served with two scoops of steamed white “sticky” rice, Hawaiian-style macaroni salad (essentially a mayonnaise delivery system) and Hawaiian barbecue beef ($8.50), my plate lunch was much better than others I've tried. The salad was smoother and less gloppy than I've come to expect, with some veggie crunch and seasoning I enjoyed (you can substitute a spring mix green salad if you like). The beef was charbroiled, cut into long thin strips, and coated in the version of teriyaki that says, “aloha.” Hawaiian barbecue sauce usually includes pineapple, sesame and more garlic than its rice-vinegared cousin; Kenji's version has quite a bit of zip which I found very appealing. I chose to add pork to the quesadilla ($7 total), a winning combination with caramelized red onions and a chipotle and cilantro sour cream sauce rounding out the stuffed and fried tortilla. At this point, the fried Japanese udon noodle with chicken ($6) might seem like overkill, but the fat noodles and mild sauce provided a light Asian balance between the heavier ingredients of the other two dishes. Good stuff.
Saving one of the best for last, Stephon’s Mobile Bistro has been serving what I'd call “pre-hangover food” for over eight years. Though he does lunches and catering gigs, Stephon and his family team are best known for being a beacon of greasy goodness parked within stumbling distance of various watering holes over the years. During my recent midnight visit, a brisk business was underway with the well-relaxed customers treating Stephon as something between savior and favorite uncle. I was ordering take-out sandwiches, so I loaded up with three best sellers: Philly cheese ($7), grilled barbecue chicken ($6) and the infamous Woody burger ($10). The first was pretty good, if standard, chopped steak and cheese served on a long roll with grilled onions and peppers. Better was the chicken breast, served on a round bun with plenty of sauce and onion. Tasty. But nothing compares to the Woody, a double bacon cheeseburger split in half, served on a long roll with a grilled hot link on top. The Woody is every bit as good as it sounds and maybe a little bit better. Best of all, every order is served with fresh, hand-cut fries that are crispy, fluffy, and beyond delicious even without a drink or three beforehand.Truck stops
With the approach of summer we enter the busy season for street food, and that means food truck events. Each have their own charms and all are worth your time:
Reno Street Food, Idlewild Park
Fridays, May 23 - October 3, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Over 20 trucks, live entertainment
Feed the Camel, McKinley Arts & Culture Center
Wednesdays, June 3 - September 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Over 10 trucks, crafts, entertainment
Sparks Food Truck Drive-In, Victorian Square
Second and fourth Saturdays, June 13 - October 24, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Over 10 trucks, free movie screening
South Reno Food Truck Fest, Damonte Family Event Center at Sage Hill
First and third Fridays, year round, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
5-10 trucks, live entertainment, indoor seating