Archive for Alex Levine

Review: Bob & Jo Truck

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How can you see the super hero-reminiscent logo and NOT stop to check out this truck? Bob & Jo Truck is describes themselves as Korean fusion cuisine. I stumbled upon them on a beautiful Thursday afternoon, on 22nd St. right off 5th Ave. Bob and Jo's Food Truck

As I browsed the menu, I was offered a full cup of steaming hot delicious soup. Though the sun was out, it was still a chilly day and this was a welcome warm treat. The soup was brothy with substantial amount of fresh corn, large slices of mushrooms, and rice. After enjoying that, I was excited to see what else these gents had cooking.

I got to the truck around 2pm when they were wrapping up, so many items were sold out and when I ordered chicken and rice platter he asked if it was okay to add half portion of chicken (all that remained) and half portion of beef. In fact, that sounded even better! I wanted to try both. Bob & Jo’s “special sauce” was drizzled on top. It’s a creamy sriracha with some smokiness, and I believe a hint of curry? Whatever it was, I’d buy it in a bottle if they sold it!

The meats were both delicious and perfectly cooked, tender, and juicy. The beef was my favorite of the two because it was seasoned with a delicious blend of seasonings. While the chicken was well-seasoned in that it was salted and not bland, the beef was infused with a variety of herbs and spices that made it equally delicious with or without the special sauce.

The meat came on a bed of rice and a side of very fresh salad, which was nice to offset the heavy meat. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of my meal here and will be tracking there whereabouts. They’ll also make it on my shortlist of must-try trucks in New York. Ya I just made that up right this minute.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

NOTE: Bob & Jo accepts CASH ONLY!


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Review: Valducci’s Original Pizza Truck

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Every now and then, we’ll get a spring-like day in Manhattan. When that occurs, the food trucks pop out of the woodwork! I was stoked to see a bunch of trucks near my house, and have since every nice day since (during the week). So, we now have a steady stream of food trucks to review while I gain my street food bearings here, guys! food truck, new york, manhattan, pizza

First up, let’s talk about Valducci’s. Obviously, New York is known for their pizza. When we think of a New York slice, however, we’re talking about a slice that’s: thin, doughy, face-sized, floppy, triangular, light in color (not charred), un-topped rim of crust left to grab the pizza from.

Sicilian pizza is a whole different beast, and is also very common around town. It is: square-cut, rigid, denser dough, buttery & crispy crust, very crisp crust pressed into the size of the pan like Chicago-style and all toppings go to the edge. It actually seems likely a hybrid of Chicago pizza and New York pizza to me.

Peppers and Onion Sicilian Pizza Slice

Peppers and Onion Sicilian Pizza Slice

I’ve had a few slices of Sicilian pizza while in New York, one of which was from Valducci’s Original Pizza Truck on a Monday while parking on 5th Avenue around 18th Street for lunch. I opted for the pepper and onion slice. They popped it into the oven behind them. I was surprised to see a full-sized pizza oven in the truck! The slice was fresh as can be, from being piping hot and crispy to the fresh and thick-cut veggies on top. The sauce was good; I prefer mine more robust but I can appreciate that this was an authentic fresh tomato Sicilian sauce. The mozzarella was fresh (as a sign on the side of the truck promised).

As far as authenticity goes, I can’t make a judgement call there as I’m no expert in Sicilian pizza (I’m barely even a novice). If this is a very authentic slice, which I assume it to be, it’s a bit too shy to be one of my faves. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious; however I was missing some butter in the crust or more oomph from the cheese or sauce for me.

Was it the BEST Sicilian slice I’d ever had in my life? Can’t say so. Was it the BEST slice of pizza I’ve had from a truck? Yes.


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Review: Midtown Empanada Cart

Beef empanada nosh
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Usually I write about gourmet food trucks, but in New York street food is unlike what we have in Chicago. Why? Because we don’t have street food in Chicago. Why?

NYC Empanada Cart

Because it’s prohibited by law and pretty much always has been. So, we don’t have the street food culture that cities like New York do. As the saying goes, though, when in Rome, eat from an empanada cart with a smiley empanada face on the side!

I was somewhere around 7th avenue and 39th Street (I’ll admit I was darting back from fabric mecca Mood Fabrics on a lunch break, so it’s near Mood). I peeked in the warming cabinet and saw ginormous empanadas that were flakey and seemingly fresh. So I got one. It was only $2!

The crust was flakey and crunchy, much more so than I would have expected for an empanada sitting in a warmer for who knows how long. It dripped with beef juices when I bit into it (though not as much as Nuchas truck).

I think I may just start checking out these little carts more often!


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First NYC Food Truck Stop: Nuchas Empanadas

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Sometimes the universe has a funny way of giving you a hug. The day I came to New York to find an apartment, that happened. I landed at LaGuardia around 9am, grabbed a taxi and was in the city by 10am to meet a friend who would be helping me with my hunt, and by 10:05a.m. I had a steaming hot empanada in my hands. Right at the intersection my friend and I had planned to rendezvous, there sat a shiny brown food truck!

Freshly baked empanadas from Nuchas Food Truck in Manhattan

Freshly baked empanadas from Nuchas Food Truck in Manhattan

I was stoked to stumble across Nuchas Empanadas. They had just parked and were setting up shop as I waited outside their window.

I noted a couple of things you don’t see in Chicago. First off, it was parked at a major intersection (on the main avenue, not the small side street!). Secondly, they had a pop out bar with utensils and room to dine. They also have 2 windows, ability to bake these hot little pockets on board, and plenty of room for several workers inside. One day, Chicago, one day.

The menu was organized by meat, vegetarian, and sweet empanadas. Given this was my first visit, I wanted to get the typical Argentine empanada with beef, onion, peppers, potatoes, and olives. I took my first bite, and it was surprised by how juicy, hot, and crunchy this little empanada was. The dough was substantial enough to carry the weight of the hefty stuffing without falling apart when I bit into it, while still being delicate and light in texture. The juiciness was the most surprising part; perhaps from the picture you can see all the gooey awesomeness. Again, I was surprised the bread hadn’t become soggy from all that liquid. It was piping warm, literally steaming on the cold New York morning.

manhattan new york food truck menu

There was a cool detail on each of the empanadas: each was marked with an letter embossed into the corner for easy identification.

nuchas empanada argetntine

So, all in all my first New York food truck experience was pretty awesome. As I’ve talked to new acquaintances here and we inevitably start talking about food trucks (obvi), I’ve compiled a few initial suggestions of food trucks and carts to start with. Up this week: apparently there’s a food cart that cannot be missed at 53rd St. and 5th Ave., just a short walk from my office on 42nd and Madison. The best part of this recommendation was I was specifically told not to be fooled by the other vendors who flocked to this intersection to piggy back on the success of the famous cart, which can be identified by their yellow shirts. I am quite intrigued.

If you have any suggestions of carts you want me to hit in the NYC area, hit me up in the comments below!

photo 3


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Food Truck Freak Does New York City

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Get excited for a brand new chapter of Food Truck Freak! I’m excited to announce I’ve moved to New York City for an awesome new job (can you find me on the roster?), and have already stumbled a bunch of great food trucks!

Due to the amount of food trucks in New York and the much more constitutional laws allowing them to park where patrons are, I will once again be able to blog regularly about the mobile noms. Yes, for those who have been readers for a bit, that WAS a snarky *shakefist* at Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city alderman who have failed to provide Chicago entrepreneurs the same constitutional rights to make a living without arbitrary government interference. The distance bans in particular make it tough for Chicago food trucks to reach their customers, which in turn made it super hard for me to continue blogging about them since I wasn’t at a hotspot like 600 W. Chicago or the lucky pants over at University of Chicago.

Rest assured, I will absolutely stay abreast of the lawsuit against the city. Heck, if it passes, I’ll come back and host a partay. Until then, I’ll be posting food truck #foodporn from Manhattan.

Know of food trucks in the New York City area I need to check out? Leave a list in the comments below and I’ll add it to my list!


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What We Ate @ Food Truck Social 2013

FoodTruckSocial2013
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Food Truck Social 2013 was a success and we hope you got to enjoy it, too. But, if you didn’t (or even if you did and you enjoy #foodporn, which we bet you do), we put together pictures of what we enjoyed for your viewing pleasure.

My partner in crime for this adventure was my friend Tessa (@nuprinz). BTW She’s an awesome swing dancer and if this super awesome Charleston video with amazing shots of our beautious city gets 10k views she gets pied in the face (and they’re close), so take a look.

We hit up the Windy City Patty Wagon first. Being a big quinoa fan, the turkey & quinoa patty with pepper jack, a tangy slaw and aioli sounded provocative. It actually came with tomatoes

Turkey Quinoa Patty from Windy City Patty Wagon

Turkey Quinoa Patty from Windy City Patty Wagon

too, and a side of delicious housemade potato chips. First off, the sandwich was GIGANTIC. Literally as big as my face. As I bit into it, I tasted the delicious crust and char on the patty. I love a good char! Turkey burgers are usually underwhelming, right? They’re usually the “I’ll throw you healthy peeps a bone” afterthought item on a burger menu. Not this one. Not to put too fine a put too fine a point on it, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten from a food truck. Ever. It didn’t taste like quinoa nor turkey, but rather an incredibly moist curry-seasoned falafel. Even my pickiest preferences were satisfied: e.g. the height was optimal; it was hearty but I didn’t have to unhinge my jaw to take a bite. My only criticism was I really dislike tomatoes and they weren’t mentioned on the menu. Also, the aioli looked like a pesto aioli, so I wonder what sauce was actually on the sandwich.

The Juddlys: Drunk & Sober

The Juddlys: Drunk & Sober

Next, we mozied on over to Fischman’s Wagyu Wagon and ordered the Drunk Juddly: 80% wagyu beef 20% bacon patty slider with onions caramelized in Maker’s Mark (hence the drunkenness), sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, arugula, and garlic aioli. We happened to run into the burger’s namesake, @TheJuddly (who happened to be sober, for the record). He said they created the burger by his request after learning he had a less-than-awesome burger from a well known burger joint. Juddly is a total food truck freak and has been a strong supporter of our trucks for a long time! The slider came with a side of fries

that, I think, overshadowed the slider. The slider was good but the fries were ridiculous. (All of our trucks seem to be hitting the fries out of the park! Fat Shallot’s truffle aioli fries, anyone?)

Bahn Mi Long Time from Chicago Lunch Box

Bahn Mi Long Time from Chicago Lunch Box

Tess picked next! Bahn Mi Long Time from Chicago Lunch Box. I’m going to preface this with saying I’m no expert in the bahn mi; Tess on the other hand has had much more filipino food than I; same goes for Juddly who also tried a bite. They both really liked it and vouched for its authenticity. The sandwich had longaniza sausage and liked that it was sliced in long strips to make for cleaner/easier eating; the sausage was topped with jalapeños, cucumbers, carrots, and onions. It was all very fresh, the baguette was light and flakey. I thought the sandwich was missing something; it was slightly dry. That said, I would definitely try another menu item from the truck.

This picture doesn't do the Pork Nachos justice.

This picture doesn’t do the Pork Nachos justice.

On the restaurant side, we tried an al pastor taco (pork shoulder, pineapple, onion, cilantro) from Big Star. Amazing as usual. Then, despite our stomachs crying for us to stop engorging them, we ordered the pork nachos with kimchi and jalapeño aioli from Saucy Porka. The nachos were another one of the dishes I’d categorize as “addictive.” They were nicely spicy for my taste (medium heat tolerance) and a bit much for Tessa (weakling heat tolerance), and a good pork-to-chip ratio (Yeah, I said it.).

Al Pastor taco from Big Star

Al Pastor taco from Big Star

In sum,

Cooking Demonstration over a Beer

Cooking Demonstration over a Beer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got dishes one at a time, and took a seat at the picnic benches. Usually, someone would ask us where we got what we were eating and what we thought of it. The crowd was really friendly and laid back. We arrived at around 5pm, so I’m not sure if we just missed the huge crowds that usually gather at these kinds of events, but we never waited more than 6 or 7 minutes from the time we got in line to when we had food in hand. The one exception was at the very end of the night when it got cold and everyone wanted hot donuts and coffee from Beavers:

In summary, this is how we feel about Food Truck Social 2013 and fall food truck gatherings in general:

emma-stone-excited-2


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9/21 Mega Food Truck Social & Concert Event

Food truck social 2013
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Yesterday we told you about the Vendy Awards that will take place at Kendall College, but in just 2 days 17 food trucks and a heap of restaurants that love them (some were them) will set

Yaaay so many fall food truck events!

Yaaay so many fall food truck events!

up shop for us to enjoy a smorgasbord of awesome. We gotta say, we love this event trend: this, the Vendys, and potentially monthly events in the West Loop (more to come).

The Basics

When: Saturday September 21, 2013, 11am-10pm
Where: Kendall College parking lot, 900 N. Branch St.

Admission: $5

Who: Food trucks & restaurants listed below

 

The Scoop

There are several new food trucks here that we’ve never tried, so when we arrive we will start by visiting these trucks: Greek Eats, Windy City Patty Wagon, Chicago Lunchbox, Husky Hog BBQ.  This is also one of Fischman’s Wagyu Wagon’s first events (if not THE first event) since relaunching, so we’ll definitely check out what’s new with them as well since being bought by Fischman’s Liquor (we assume by the name, we haven’t yet confirmed, sorry to go all CNN on you on this one).

If you are reading this and you’ve never been to a food truck in Chicago,

Do you miss Amy Le’s food via Duck n’ Roll? Have you not been able to make it to her new restaurant, Saucy Porka? Have no fear! Saucy Porka is one of the restaurants on the list of participants. Plus, arguable Chicago’s taco with the longest wait – Big Star! – will be there!

If you have tips about the other restaurants, please leave them in the comments below!

 

Who will be there?

On the event’s official website the following are listed as participants.

Food Trucks
*designates a truck that is outfitted to cook and prepare on board usually, though all can at a private event like this

Fischman’s Wagyu Wagon*
5411 Empanadas
Tamale Spaceship
Beavers Coffee & Donuts*
Beyond Borders
Chicago Cupcake

So many trucks! And restaurants!

So many trucks! And restaurants!

Greek Eats (New to us!)
Husky Hog BBQ*
Jerk*
Starfruit
Two Italians
Windy City Patty Wagon*
Taquero Fusion
Get Curried Away
The Slide Shoppe (a.k.a The Slide Ride- we’ll have to get the scoop on the name, comment below if you know why the change)
Chicago Lunchbox (New to us!)
Porkchop*

Restaurants

Publican Quality Meats
Big Star
Longman & Eagle
Red Door
Endgrain
Dia De Los Tamales
Table Donkey & Stick
Saucy Porka
Puffs of Doom

 

Social Good

“Benefiting Share Our Strength, Cooking Matters, a national non-profit attempting to end childhood hunger in America, Chicago Food Social will bring together food aficionados in an affordable, accessible, and entertaining manner,” says the official event website.

Family Activities

“The superb culinary skills from some of the top students at the nationally acclaimed Kendall College will be on display, with local chef demonstrations, plus hands-on culinary activities for adults and kids,” says the official event website.”

Booze

Complimenting the exceptional culinary experience will be Leinenkugel and Pilsner Urquell beers, Bridlewood and Naked Grape wine offerings, Tito’s Vodka cocktails and the Tito’s 1965 air stream trailer lounge straight from the VIP section of Lollapalooza

Music

Entertainment programmed by West Town’s Empty Bottle Presents

11:30am – Todayshits

1:15pm –  Walking Bicycles

3:00pm –  M.A.K.U. Soundsystem

5:00pm –  Otis Clay

7:00pm –  Maritime

8:30pm –  R. Stevie Moore


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Win 2 Tickets to the 1st Vendy Food Truck Awards in Chicago!

ChicagoVendyAwards
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October is near. If you ventured outside to a food truck today (or in the past week, really), the air would have indicated as much. Not gonna lie, we couldn’t be more excited. Not only do we love fall, but that means that the Vendy awards are riiiight around the corner on October 5 (full details here).

IT'S FALL!  AND THERE'S AN ALL DAY BEER-FULL FOOD TRUCK FEST!

IT’S FALL! AND THERE’S AN ALL DAY BEER-FULL FOOD TRUCK FEST!

We’ve heard many a mention of the Vendy awards in other cities. Finally, they’re coming to sweet home Chicago. For $45 a person (tickets here- or win below), you can nosh on dishes from trucks nominated by the community (polls still open here) and bottomless beer from Brooklyn Brewery at Kendall College. Then, enjoy the mini awards ceremony. To us, that’s a perfect fall afternoon.

The fine folks over at the Vendys thought y’all might like the chance to win a free pair of tickets. Yes? Here’s how we’re going to do it!

Comment on THIS blog post and leave your Twitter name or some other way to be contacted should you be the lucky doggy to win. Each person should only leave 1 comment, por favor! Dupes will be eliminated.

At 5 CT on Friday, I will make & tweet a Vine that shows each person’s name who commented on the post on a piece of paper, fold them all up and have a random person draw one out of a bag. I’ll notify the winner via the method posted in the blog post AND post the winner on the blog post just in case.

If I don’t hear back from the winner by Sunday at noon, I’m drawing again! GOOD LUCK! Share with friends and make them all pinky swear they’ll you if they win.

P.S.  We just realized we can GIF up these blog posts. Get excited/you have been warned.

 

UPDATE: Congrats to Bret @bqdaddy, winner of the tickets! Thanks to all who entered, hope to see you there! Today I was asked to judge the Vendy’s, and obvi I accepted, so say hi if you see me (Alex)!


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Cole’s Texas Toast Food Truck Tale Gate

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Who doesn’t love Texas Toast? When I was contact recently by Cole’s to try their new products (in conjunction with the Hidden Valley Ranch folks) that they’re introducing around the country via food truck during their “Tasty Tailgate Tour,” so I hopped on board (figuratively speaking).  ColesTexasToast (2)

My first question? “What are the new flavors?” I love me some garlic bread, top it with more interesting flavors and I’m even more excited. The new flavors that they’re launching are:

  • Chipotle BBQ Texas Toast
  • Spicy Buffalo Texas Toast
  • Hidden Valley Ranch Cheese Sticks
  • Hidden Valley Ranch Texas Toast

I went to Jewel, Dominick’s, Mariano’s and a Neighborhood Walmart. My Neighboorhood Walmart was the only one that had them- minus the chipotle BBQ (which was actually kind of fine by me because I’m not big on chipotle). I was guessing they’d be around $4 each but they were around $2.40.

I popped a variety of them in the oven when I got home, heavying up on the ones I might like more (the ranch cheese sticky and spicy BBQ) since I had friends coming over soon and of course wouldn’t deny them whichever they wanted.

The ranch cheese sticks were far and away my favorite. They bread was fluffy and cheese gooey; they were laden with butteryness and flavor, a hint of ranch but not overpowering. Not having an Olive Garden in Chicago, I miss a good breadstick (don’t judge, chain haters- I DARE YOU to show me an awesome centrally-located breadstick; I haven’t found one).

ColesTexasToastYumThe spicy buffalo was good, not great. It had a hint of smokiness and spiciness, but didn’t really “go there” with either. If I were to have been blind taste tested and made to guess the flavor, I’m not certain I would have guessed correctly. I might have actually mistaken it for the chipotle BBQ.

I was super bummed by the Ranch Texas Toast. I wasn’t *as* excited by it because I thought it was going to be a shoe-in. Instead, I was surprised at how sour it was. Thinking that perhaps the flavor just wasn’t right due to oven cooking (undercooked, maybe? maybe a bit of a char will make it perfect?), I tossed another slice on the stove. That toned down the sourness a bit, but still made me pucker a bit. I like the idea so much that in the future, I might actually try the standard Cole’s Texas Toast and sprinkle on a pinch from packet of Hidden Valley Ranch’s dry mix (that exists, right?).Cole's Tasty Tailgate Airstream and Trailer

Try them for yourself! Cole’s Texas Toast truck will be at the Chicagoland Speedway this weekend September 13-15 for the NASCAR races. If you’re going to be there, hit them up for some samples!


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The Vendy Awards Come to Chicago

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Every industry has their major annual award show; TV has the Emmys, film has the Oscars, twerkers have the VMAs. Food trucks? We have the Vendys. So far the Vendy’s are city-based, and they are coming to Chicago for the first time this October! 2013-Vendy-Awards-300x276

On October 5 around 1pm, flocks of food trucks and food truck freaks will descend upon Kendall College to enjoy bevvies of food and drink.

What Are The Vendys?

According to their website, the Vendy’s say we can expect:

  • A  grill-to-grill cook-off where 12-15 of the best street food vendors in brooklyn-logoyea hicago are invited to compete against each other for street food glory. At the event, we’ll have a team of distinguished judges score the finalists and decide who get the coveted Vendy Cup
  • General public can also buy tickets to the event; admission includes food from all the participating finalists and UNLIMITED beer from BROOKLYN BREWERY
  • Music
  • A short ceremony naming the award winners
  • Each ticket is also a tax-deductible donation.

Side Dish of Social Good

The Vendys website says some proceeds from the event will go to Slow Food Chicago & Asociación de Vendedores Ambulantes (AVA), which means Association of Mobile Vendors; they’re the group that advocates for the street vendors in areas like Little Village. If any of you were at the IJ Clinic Meeting at U of C (in 2011?, I forget the date, but it was so long ago that Gaztro Wagon was still around and in the food truck politics game) you’ll remember when a group of 20-30 people arrived together, most of whom didn’t speak English but came with their AVA translator who advocated for them during this meeting and helped them to learn the latest information pertinent to their businesses. We were told AVA picked them each up and transported them to the meeting. Incredible social service for these business owners who told stories of marginalization and discrimination.

How To Join

Ticket purchase

Food truck nomination

We’ve got our tickets! See you there!

 


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