Food Truck Favorites

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!

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The Perfect Day

Inspired by a few of our favorite things, today Ken and I had a perfect day to celebrate of our 15th anniversary and the payment of our referral fees. The past few years, Ken and I have celebrated our anniversary at Old Hickory Steakhouse, or by buying a NHL Center Ice cable package. This year, we celebrated by taking a day off together to do some of our favorite (or favourite) things.

We started the day by sleeping in. No alarm. We even convinced Holly to sleep in until 8:00 a.m. We enjoyed a leisurely cup of coffee before heading out to the post office to mail our referral payment off. (Yeah!)

We had a couple of other stops to make before we headed to Food Truck Fridays at the YWCA on Woodmont Boulevard. We both tried a new food truck: Mere Bulles. I tried the crab cake sliders and mac and cheese bites, while Ken opted for a mac and cheese burger and sweet potato fries. The food was phenomenal!  And I got a slice of pie from Just Like Nannie Fixed It, and Ken got a plum ice from Izzie’s Ice. Picnic tables were set up on the lawn of the YWCA to enjoy the gorgeous weather for the day. With a high of 73 sunny degrees, it was a perfect day to enjoy the outdoors.

We then headed to Centennial Park, where we sat on the steps and people-watched, and sketched to our heart’s content. We were particularly fascinated with a man who was sprinting back and forth in front of the steps. On purpose. Curious.

We then turned packed up the car and headed to the Nashville Public Library’s downtown branch. Ken signed up for a library card, and we enjoyed their beautiful facility. There is a cafe in the library that was featured on the Food Network, and we decided to stop for a late afternoon snack special: a latte and piece of cake for $4 total. I got the pumpkin cheesecake, and Ken got a chocolate raspberry cake. Both were amazing! We then walked through the gallery on the second floor, which featured mixed media portraits of the mug shots of the Freedom Riders, who heroically sought to desegregate transportation in the South.  The paintings often contained newspaper articles about their arrests, JFK’s response, and their struggles to promote equality among all races. The story is amazing. The library also features a beautiful courtyard with a fountain, and large study rooms. We were genuinely amazed at all the features of the downtown library — and they even validate parking!

We picked up some groceries before heading home to watch this week’s episode of Survivor. It was one of the best kickoff episodes of a season, ever. We loved it!

Finally, we finished out the evening by making our version of our favorite meal at Old Hickory Steakhouse. We had grilled steaks (which had been marked down for immediate sale at Kroger this afternoon!), applewood smoked blue cheese mashed potatoes, and mascarpone creamed spinach. I must say that we did a pretty good job mimicking our favorite dishes!

But by far, the best part of today was getting to spend some uninterrupted time with each other. We will definitely always treasure our perfect day!

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Food Trucking For a Good Cause

Ken came and snatched me from work today to take me to a joyous event: Food Truck Tuesdays at Second Harvest Food Bank. Grilled Cheeserie, Riff’s, Mas Tacos, Happy Eating, and Maggie Moos were all gathered in one spot to raise money for Second Harvest Food Bank. Second Harvest opens up their dining room for a nice cool dining space while enjoying some great food truck fare.  

September is Hunger Action month. One in six Americans struggle with hunger, and this is the month to go through your extras in your pantries and stock the food banks in your church and community with anything you can spare. Your donation could help a family know where their next meal is coming from.

For more ideas on how you can get involved in Hunger Action Month, check out Second Harvest Food Bank’s 30 Ways in 30 Days!

Making My Own Food Truck: Shirazi Chicken Tacos

Okay, okay. This recipe wasn’t actually inspired by a food truck, but by another trendy taco restaurant in Edgehill, our favorite Kabob restaurant, and by the produce that our neighbors brought us! A fusion of Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisine make this recipe a definite winner. We had it twice in one week!

Shirazi Chicken Tacos

For chicken:

  • Two chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Marinade chicken breasts in the above for one hour.  (Meanwhile, put together salad.) Grill or bake marinated chicken until done. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Salad

  • 1-2 cucumbers, depending on size
  • 1-2 tomatoes, depending on size
  • 1/2 of a medium sized red onion
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 ears corn, cooked and removed from cob (Optional. We did this once with and once without. We liked it better with.)
  • 1 green pepper (Optional)
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Chop cucumbers, tomatoes, and pepper into 1/2 inch cubes. Dice red onion into 1/4 inch pieces. Toss with cilantro, feta, corn and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate while cooking chicken.

Other ingredients:

Hummus (I buy refrigerated because I haven’t tried making my own. Yet.)

Flour taco shells

Layer taco shells with hummus, chicken, and salad. Delicious, and surprisingly low-fat for how GREAT it tastes! The cilantro and feta are very flavorful, and complement the produce nicely. The hummus is the smooth texture that holds it all together. This has become our new favorite!

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Making My Own Food Truck

**I borrowed the idea for this week’s foodtruckalike meal when I saw the ingredients and immediately started salivating. I love the combination of sweet and savory, especially when a grill is involved. And just about anything topped with melted cheese has to be a winner.

Here are the ingredients that I used for a . . .

Sweet Buzzin’ Bacon Melt!

  • Ethio bread. (A thick fluffy break purchased at our International Market. A focaccia bread or other favorite hearty bread would work well too.)
  • Honey
  • Bacon (We prefer Smithfield. When I have coupons and it’s on sale, I stock up and freeze it for occasions like this!)
  • Ripe peaches
  • Brie cheese (We used brie, but thought other mild cheeses would work just as well — and be more cost-efficient)

Fry or oven bake the bacon until cooked but soft. Drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, cut peaches in half, remove pit, and grill flesh side down approximately 7 minutes, flip, then grill skin side down another 7 minutes until peaches are soft and carmelized. Remove from grill and slice into 1/3 inch slices.

Brush bread with honey. Layer one side of the sandwich with bacon, then peaches. Layer the other side of bread with peaches, then slices of brie.

Bake in oven at 375 for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt. Finish with 1-2 minutes under broiler to make cheese bubbly. Stack halves together.

Eat in silence with a napkin and a heart of thankfulness for the goodness of God and this sandwich!

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**While saving for adoption, we’re bringing our love of food trucks home, and making our versions of our food truck favorites!

Making My Own Food Truck

Inspired by some of our recent food truck adventures, but short on cash, I’ve been attempting to replicate some of our favorite food truck dishes while adding my own twist. I’ve not been entirely successful in the past, but tonight’s Jamaican Tacos were a huge hit, if I do say so myself (which I may since I am 1/2 of the total number of people who ate them).

The main components are: Honey coconut curried rice, jerk-spiced chicken, tortillas, and spicy slaw.

Honey Coconut Curried Rice

  • 3/4 C Coconut milk
  • 1/4 C water
  • 3 Tbs honey
  • 1 tsp curry
  • 1 C white rice

Bring first 4 ingredients to a low boil, add 1 C rice. Cover and simmer until all liquid is absorbed.

Jerk-Spiced Chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbs Jamaican jerk spice

Bake in crockpot on low for 4 hours until done.  Shred.

Spicy Slaw

  • 2 C shredded cabbage (I used packaged slaw mix)
  • 1 C crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries
  • 3 Tbs vinegar
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (I used jarred slices)
  • 3 Tbs red onion, finely chopped
  • Handful cilantro

Mix well.

Tortillas

If you think I’m the sort of person who makes her own tortillas, you would be wrong!

Pile tortillas with rice, chicken,  and slaw. The sweet warmth of the rice contrasts nicely with the spicey crunchy slaw. The cilantro cools fire of the jalapeno and onion. Yummilicious.

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We’ll definitely be making this one again!

Foodtruckery and Friendships Are Best Served Steamed

Today’s food truck adventure was shared by our across-the-street neighbors, Katie and Karl. We had planned to meet at 11:00 a.m. to head out to the Woodbine Farmer’s Market, where Riff’s food truck was scheduled to be, but we awoke early to a heavy rainstorm. A slowly moving rainstorm.

Not a great atmosphere for foodtruckery.

So I hung out on Twitter while working on Monday’s lecture, and sure enough, the storm broke around 10:00 a.m., and Riff’s tweeted around 10:30 that they were at the farmer’s market and were open for business!

Game on!

We rushed to get ready, and then suddenly realized that we didn’t have any cash. With just ten minutes to spare, Ken asked me if he should run to the ATM a 1/2 mile away to get cash. Ummmm. Okay. I would finish getting ready, go over to Katie and Karl’s to let them know that Ken was coming right back.

Ken left. I got ready. And as I was walking out the door to go tell K2 that he was coming back, I saw them pull out of their driveway, presumably thinking that we had left without them. Oh Noooo! I tried to call them, and then realized that Katie’s cell phone number is on my old phone, which is now dead.

Meanwhile, Ken went to one ATM, and found that it was out of service, so he had to search for another. So he was running late!

Eventually, we got to the farmer’s market and were able to join Karl and Katie for a selection of Riff’s awesome cuisine. K2 graciously forgave us for our ill-timed ATM run, and let us move on to a wonderful brunch.

Katie and I opted for the breakfast selection of Bananas Foster French Toast. The warm French toast was smothered in a wonderful sweet banana sauce, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  It was bananalicious.

Ken and Karl went for the lunchtime Jerk Chicken Burrito, which was different from the last time Ken had one, but still every bit as delicious. The curried rice and spiced jerk chicken were cooled by the slaw and wrapped in a soft flour tortilla.

Then we felt bad for leaving out the Blackened Fish Tacos, and so we all split an order of those. After all, if you’re going to try fish tacos for the first time, we are confident that Riff’s is going to do it right. And they did!  

To top it off, we enjoyed Watermelon Lemon-Limeade, a perfect watermelony refreshment to a day when the temperature was creeping up by the minute.

We  laughed through lunch, as the sun began to peer through the clouds, and we watched as the farmer’s market shut down and packed up at noon. Riff’s too began to pack up for the day, when suddenly, the chef came jogging over to our picnic table with four lemon blueberry custard desserts, just for us.

Riff’s, you had me at “lemon,” but the blueberry made my taste buds sing. It was like a blueberry lemon meringue pie that felt no need to be distracted by a crust.

By the time we finished dessert, the summer sun had transformed the bygone rain into a steamy sauna, and we decided that the remainder of the day was waiting to be tackled. Drowsy from a delicious lunch, and happy from spending time with special friends, we were indeed victorious in this week’s adventures in foodtruckery.

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Food Truck Chasers

One of the adventurous parts of food truck eating is that it is remarkably difficult to FIND the food trucks! But we love the fact that we can get gourmet food on a fast-food budget, even if we have to eat it at a picnic table or in the car. The trucks are a moving target, literally. We follow blogs and Twitter to try to track them down, but their posting is sporadic and often last-minute. It seems like we’re the storm chasers of this Nashville culinary subculture — always waiting for the perfect storm of foodtruckery.

So when we saw Riff’s food truck post on Twitter that they indeed were going to the Urban Flea Market in East Nashville, we were there! Even better? They were serving stuffed French toast.  Not just French toast, but STUFFED French toast! Doesn’t Saturday morning seem like the perfect time for stuffed French toast? ‘

We GPSed our way down to the Urban Flea Market, we spotted Riff’s food truck, but we immediately realized that there was a parking problem. We had to circle around, dodge cars coming down now one-lane streets due to traffic overload before we finally found a place to pull onto the grass on the side of the road.

We made our way through the Urban Flea Market: vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, someone playing guitar. Yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah. Show me the food truck.

We finally ducked under a tree and stepped up to the parking area where Riffs was parked. Or HAD been parked. In the ten minutes it had taken us to find a parking space, Riffs had packed up and left. WITH the stuffed French toast!

Oh the humanity!

We stood there dazed and confused, wondering where to turn to next. Lacking Divine inspiration, Twitter was our answer.

Mas Tacos Por Favor had just posted their lunch menu. We Googled their location. Even though they started out as a food truck, they now have a brick-and-mortar in East Nashville. Perfect.

We once again GPSed our way over to McFerrin Avenue, but the address we had seemed to be wrong. We only saw a barber shop, and a deli.

Wait. There was a chalkboard on the sidewalk with “Mas Tacos” and an arrow. We were headed in the right direction.

We found a place to park on a neighborhood street, hid our valuables, and prayed that Jesus would protect our car. We walked to where the arrow was pointing. There was a guy with a baby sitting out on a patio area behind the deli, and we asked him, “Pssst. Where is Mas Tacos?”

“Right around the corner,” he whispered, “The sign is just next to the door.”

Sure enough, the place that we had designated as the deli (because of the giant DELI sign on the roof) was indeed Mas Tacos. Bars on the windows. Cars crammed in the parking lot. A paper bag with hours scrawled in pen hung next to the door. We couldn’t see inside.

We entered the restaurant, not knowing for sure if we were going to be encountering a restaurant or a crime scene. The interior looked like a little of both. It was clearly a clandestine culinary operation. No frills. No ambience. Only 82 degrees and packed with customers in food-stuffing silence, even though it was 11:30 on a Saturday morning, which is typically much too early for tastebuds to be awakened by tacos.

This food must be REALLY good. 

We stumbled through our order, like all good rookies do. We were thankful that we didn’t hear an exclamation of “No tacos for you!” as we attempted to order a combination of classics and specials. Ken ordered the breakfast taco and pulled pork taco. I went with the fish taco and the carne molida. To drink was a watermelon aqua fresca for me, and horchata (cinnamon almond milk)  for Ken.

We made our way to the last available table with our drinks while we waited for food. My drink was like drinking pure watermelon: delicious. I realize now that in the past I’ve only had drinks that are watermelon-flavored, which are okay, but this was actual watermelon in my drink! Yummy. I didn’t try Ken’s almond milk because I wanted to live (and have an anaphylactic allergy to almonds), but he agreed that it was cool and delicious too.

When our food arrived, we decided to proceed to a more oxygen-rich environment where we could keep an eye on our car: outside on the patio.

Our tacos were indeed delicious, though a bit on the spicy side. I love spicy heat, but only if the heat compliments the flavor, rather than overpowering it. Still, the meat was tender and delicious, the slaw fresh and crispy, and the double-layered corn tortillas provided a thoughtful way to keep me from dumping the ingredients in my lap.

We were very thankful for our drinks.

All-in-all, the tacos were very good — not necessarily life-changing, but good. We’ll definitely remember the experience, and if we happen to be in the neighborhood of their brick-and-mortar, or their food truck, we’ll find it hard to pass up.

After all, that’s what Food Truck Chasers do!

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And I Would Walk 100 Miles for a Nashville Food Truck

Saturday night, we gathered with some of the college students/young adults in Public Square Park for Mayor Karl Dean’s “Walk 100 Miles” campaign to support making Nashville a better place to live. Jo Dee Messina and Melinda Doolittle were there in concert, and there were more than a dozen activities and booths to visit.

But let’s face it, we were there for the food trucks.

Ken and I discovered Riff’s food truck last week, and have been Twitter-stalking them since. We found out that they were going to be at this 100 mile event.  Bangin’ Tacos was there along with some-other-food-truck-that-serves-wraps-but-we-didn’t-eat-at-so-I-didn’t-get-their-name.  Izzie’s Ice provided a nice dessert to cool off at the end of a warm evening. By far, the best part of the night was getting to hang out with friends!

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