Don't get us wrong, we're damn proud of the Valley's mobile food scene. And it's not like Phoenix doesn't boast some nationally recognized trucks. Now-defunct Truckin' Good Food from Jeff Kraus made a list of Most Influential Food Trucks in 2010 and more recently, Torched Goodness made Smithsonian Magazine's list of the 20 best food trucks in the United States. With the Phoenix Street Food Coalition growing bigger every day, we know we've come a long way and are confident there's still room to grow.
But all this Phoenix love doesn't mean we don't, from time to time, harbor a little food lust toward the street food in other cities. This is one spread-out city, which means plenty of territory to share. So check out our list of nine trucks from across the country we wish would make a road trip the Valley of the Sun. Because how the hell else are we going to get schnitzel, dinges, or beef-based cupcakes?
Wafels and Dinges New York
Belgium native Thomas DeGeest wanted nothing to do with IHOP and Waffle House fare. So he brought not one, but two kinds of waffles to the streets of New York City. The "mother of all wafels," the Brussels wafel is a light, crispy waffle made not from pancake batter like those you might be familiar with. They also offer Leige wafels, more dense and chewy and sweetened with caramelized sugar pearls. The dignes, or "whatchamacallits" in Belgian slang, refer to the various toppings with which one can crown the golden wafels. We'd particularly appreciate a few jars -- okay, a giant tub -- of the spekuloos spread, which helped DeGeest take down Iron Chef Bobby Flay in a Belgian Waffel Throwdown.
EggSlut Truck Los Angeles
Word on the street is that this truck's "Thee Slut," a soft-boiled egg on top of mashed potatoes in a jar, is a simple but delicious invention when combined with ample baguette slices. We love the sound (and look) of their small menu of egg-related dishes and fried egg-topped sandwiches. Oh, and the name's pretty awesome, too.
Finding good, fast-casual Italian (that's not pizza) isn't easy. That is, unless you live in Portland. Doesn't get much faster than a food cart or more casual than a parking lot -- and as for the food, well, we've heard it's pretty damn great. In true Portland(ia) style, Artigiano bills its handmade, seasonal, local and fresh food. And while that laundry list of terms has become the mantra of pretty much everyone nowadays, chef Rachael Grossman stays true to her word. Sure, the handmade Yukon Gold gnocchi tossed in sage-browned butter with filberts and parmigiano reggiano will run you $12, but we're willing to bet that'd be $12 very well spent.
DC Empanadas Washington, D.C.
You'd think someone would have though to bring these stuffed pastries to the Phoenix, food truck scene, but of all places, D.C. is the place that's already got 'em. Looking over the long menu of gourmet offerings from DC Empanadas makes us imagine Cornish Pastry on steroids with a distinctive Latin twist. With everything from the "Luau," a Hawaiian-inspired pineapple and mango pork-filled pastry, to the shredded beef, Spanish olives, and red pepper stuffed "Traditional," this food trucks sells original cuisine the likes of which this city's streets have never seen.
Spencer on the Go San Francisco
When the food truck scene started, it was about bringing inspired food, excellent cuisine to the masses in an affordable and convenient manner. In short, it was about trucks like Spencer on the Go. Chef Laurent Katgely, a France native, trained in classic culinary schools and apprenticed in well-regarded kitchens in France; he also owns Chez Spencer, your typical upscale thirty-plus-dollars-an-entrée sort of place in the City by the Bay. And while that's great, what we want a piece of is his mobile venture: Spencer on the Go. A mobile bistro hawking foie gras torchons, braised lamb cheek sandwiches and halibut soup with saffron aioli, and all for $12 or less. You may have seen the truck on Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race and while Spencer didn't win, we'd be happy to host this French food vendor.
Nammi Truck Dallas/Fort Worth
Besides the fact that this food truck would fill the gaping Southeast Asian hole in our Phoenix food truck scene, after reading this little nugget from our Texan cousin the Dallas Observer, we're seriously dying for a taste whatever Nammi is dishing out. The menu at Nammi reads a bit like Chipotle: Pick your meat, then pick the delivery system, except that instead of burritos they've got banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) served on 12-inch baguettes. Rumor has it that the basil mint lemonade will blow your mind -- and we believe it.
The Chef Shack Minneapolis
"Coherent" is not the first word to come to mind when looking at The Chef Shack menu. They've got signature Indian-spiced mini-doughnuts and heirloom tomato/watermelon gazpacho and while those two things might not seem like they should ever be on the same menu, The Chef Shack unites them with their under-lying theme of using ingredients from family farms and co-ops within Minnesota and Wisconsin. Professional chefs from the Twin Cities area Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson started the truck in 2007 (i.e., before having a food truck was the "cool" thing to do). The Chef Shack's upscale and locally sourced cuisine has garnered attention from USA Today, Serious Eats, Bon Appetit, and Saveur.
If you think you're sick of cupcakes, wait 'til you catch a glimpse of these "Loafies," or meatloaf cupcakes. Owner Cynthia Kallie brought the world's first meatloaf bakery to the Windy City back in 2008 and (because, duh) she took her meaty treats to the street last year. Besides being totally adorable -- yeah, we just called meatloaf adorable -- the little loafs have made quite a splash with the popular food media. In addition to classic meatloaf recipes, Kallie's created novel offerings such as Herby Turkey Loaf (topped with stuffing and served with cranberry sauce) and the Omega-3 Loaf of salmon, lemon and dill crowned with wasabi mashed potatoes.
Schnitzel & Things New York
If you caught Schnitzel & Things onGood Morning America last week
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SHOW ME HOW
you might be familiar with the general idea. Since 2009, they've been bringing the Austrian classic dish to the streets of NYC. Schnitzel -- or a hand-pounded, lightly breaded thin cutlet of fried meat -- and bratwurst are the name of the game and won them a Rookie of the Year award at theVendys
in 2009. For the non-beef eaters they offer eggplant and cod filets, which when combined with their unique sides truly shine. They offer an Austrian take on the American classic, potato salad, made with Yukon gold potatoes and white wine shallot vinaigrette as well as traditional Austrian cucumber salad.