The food truck craze has continued in Nashville, in spite of it being “winter.” And I think it’s the mild winter that’s helped the love of food trucks to thrive. After all, these aren’t the typical roadside carts or food vendors that have been around for years. These food trucks offer gourmet classic, ethnic, and fusion cuisine at fast-food prices. Our love for food trucks has grown out of a desire to eat great food (locally grown, healthier, high-quality options) but not pay the price to eat at a sit-down restaurant.
We are frequently asked what our favorite food trucks are, and over the last eight months, we’ve slowly tried almost all the food trucks that are still serving. Interestingly, the more we try, the more we like our favorites. So I thought I’d share our favorites with you.
Here are the food trucks we’ve tried, from best to, um, less than the best.
1. Riffs. We’ve come to trust anything Riff’s makes. Their fusion cuisine and their traditional dishes are always a hit. These guys know flavor, and they consistently rotate their menu, keeping the choices interesting but never disappointing. I find myself drawn to their new dishes because I’m never let down, and I never know how long they’ll last. Plus, they’re awesome people, which always makes it more fun to support. My favorite dishes have been their jerk chicken plate, fish tacos, and their liege waffles with dulce de leche.
2. Smoke Et Al. This truck is a “mobile boutique smokery” that serves competition quality meats in a variety of dishes. Your mouth will thank its lucky stars with the first bite of their brisket tacos. With goat cheese, cilantro, and a jalapeno sauce, I find myself craving them often. They also offer a generous sampler platter to try a wide selection of their offerings, so everyone can find their own favorite.
3. Grilled Cheeserie. Who doesn’t love melty cheese paired with interesting ingredients like Benton’s bacon or a fried egg? I especially love their Saturday (and Sunday) brunch offerings when they are parked outside Crema, where you can get a perfect breakfast with a cup of coffee and enjoy inside.
4. Mere Bulles (currently returning from hiatus for the winter) This was the first food truck that I ever ate from, before gourmet food trucks had really even made their debut. They are a mobile extension of the restaurant by the same name, and their food is awesome. My favorite is their crab cake sliders, and I love their fried macaroni and cheese bites. Their blacked chicken sandwich is also divine.
5. Mas Tacos. The classic Nashville food truck-turned-restaurant. We foolishly missed the whole Mas Tacos original craze, and started eating at their restaurant first. But their food truck, when it’s out, serves up the same marvelous tacos as the restaurant. Flavorful. Creative. Colorful. Delightfully messy. Enough heat to let you know you’re eating Mexican, but not enough to ruin your day. And their aguas frescas are a cool relief from the heat as well. My favorite the pineapple cillantro water. Just remember to take cash or checks!
6. Yayo’s OMG. More than just a typical taco truck, their Mexican cuisine serves traditional dishes with a twist. They are a little pricey for the quantity of food they serve, but every bite is delicious. Almost killed me one time because they put almonds on a taco (I have an anaphylactic allergy.), but didn’t list it on their menu. (Who puts almonds on a taco?) If I’m going to die eating from a food truck, it has to be at least in the top 5 on my list. 😉
7. Labor of Love. Their generous Philly sandwiches are great for the food-truck-phobe who wants to try a food truck offering but not eat anything too unique. The fact that they serve Tastykakes is the icing on the snack cake!
8. Hoss’s Loaded Burgers. These burgers are mounds of ground beef stuffed with various cheeses. While delicious, each burger could, and probably should, be shared by two or three people, otherwise they are sure to cause “the meat sweats.” Maybe if they had some sliders for more reasonable portions, they’d move up on the list. Their rosemary parmesean fries are awesome, and I have ordered a main course at another truck and gotten Hoss’s fries more than once. YUM.
9. The Latin Wagon. Again, if interesting twists are not what you prefer, this truck offers more basic Latin foods with good, but not mind-blowing flavors. Good for food truck beginners who want a safer option than eating at a taco truck.
10. Deg Thai. This is a truck I wish I liked more. Perhaps we just haven’t ordered the right items. Every time we have eaten from their truck. Three times. Still better than anything you could get at a fast food restaurant, but their noodles and veggies aren’t as craveable as the options above.
11. The Hot Spot. Hit and miss has been the story of The Hot Spot. Serving mostly very traditional southern dishes, and breakfast, their unique take on a dish is their twisted chicken. I have enjoyed a perogie pie, though it was nothing particularly special. Their twisted chicken was memorable, but not for good reasons. Now, let me say first off that I am not afraid of spice. Sometimes Ken thinks I have already burned off my taste buds because I have a pretty high tolerance for heat. But their twisted chicken was so spicy that it ruined my ability to taste anything else. Was the chicken good? No idea. The coating? No idea. All I could taste was the freakishly hot sauce dumped over the top without restraint. Balance folks. Balance. Leave me some taste buds, unless you’re actually trying to hide your food.
12. Jonbalaya. This was the first food truck that we didn’t care for. I tried their pork parfait, thinking it sounded interesting. It was pulled bbq pork layers with mashed potatoes. INSTANT mashed potatoes. I’m not completely opposed to instant mashed potatoes in a pinch in a home kitchen, but they should never be used in a gourmet food truck, especially when one of the most important features of the new generation of food trucks is quality ingredients. I’m just not sure that Jonbalaya understands that the new trend in food trucks is to elevate mobile cuisine. Now, I will say that they are best known for their ribs, and I’ve not tried them, but it’s awfully hard for me to pass up all those on the list above to go back to Jonbalaya.
Those are our thoughts on the current food trucks. I’m still hoping that a buyer has been found for Happy Eating and that it will make its return. There are still food trucks that we have yet to try, like Blackbird Heritage and Terra Delicious. I also love some of the dessert trucks . . . but that’s for another post. If you’re a Nashvillian, I hope that you take the opportunity to enjoy the high quality cuisine at low prices that our local food trucks offer!