When you were a kid, there was something immensely exciting about playing in the front yard and hearing the sweet song of the ice-cream truck making its way up the street. Sure, you could have bought those crappy treats at any convenience store, but there was something special about chasing down the moving vehicle, inhaling exhaust fumes, and taking that first bite.
As is usually the case when you grew older, chasing ice-cream trucks became beneath you. And food trucks, often referred to as “roach coaches,” were jalopies filled with cheap eats that must be avoided.
Then, one day, that was no longer the case. After the economy tanked in 2008, restaurant startups slowed, but some crafty individuals packed up their knives and filled their trucks with gourmet delicacies serving creative riffs on everything from chicken wings and burgers to tacos and ethnic-focused fare.
Today the food-truck scene in South Florida is populated with a number of creative options. With food-truck roundups taking place most days of the week, there’s always an option for a variety of taste buds.
10. Curbside Gourmet
Call 561-371-6565, or visit curbsidegourmet.com.
Matthew Somsy is one of the chef-owners behind West Palm Beach-based Curbside Gourmet, which rolled onto the Palm Beach County food truck scene in 2011 — often considered the first in those parts. Today, they continue to specialize in serving the local lunching crowd. Locations change by the day, as does the menu, with everything from the soup du jour to daily fresh catch tacos and a panini of the day. Signature items include the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich served with a balsamic mustard, or the crab cake sliders prepared with a lemon-tarragon aioli. The food has been praised by celebrity chef Robert Irvine, who crowned them a winner during a food truck event at the 2012 Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival for a dish dubbed Skirt Steak Two Ways, a lemongrass-Asian flank steak tacos with cilantro-lime slaw and an heirloom tomato salad with Argentine steak and beer-battered shallots.
9. Crazydilla Food Truck
Call 786-301-4886, or visit crazydilla.com.
As the name suggests, Crazydilla Food Truck chef-owner Noah Tanner takes the quesadilla and does some crazy things to it. The truck offers a concise menu of eight signature quesadillas — which can also be ordered as tacos — each of them a riff off on some of the most popular sandwiches. That includes the signature Cubadilla, a spin on a traditional Cuban sandwich with pulled pork, serrano ham, pickles, and Swiss cheese accented with a garlic-mustard aioli. Our favorites are just as zany, however, like the Reuben made with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing or the Caprese with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, and finished with a tangy balsamic reduction dipping sauce. Crazydilla also keeps it real with the final menu item, a traditional Mexican quesadilla for the purists that think the original is as good as it can get already.
8. Spring In Roll Out
Call 561-385-5332, or visit facebook.com/Springinrollout.
This white truck adorned with two plump panda faces is hard to miss, a rolling kitchen that serves up Vietnamese cuisine. The brainchild of Maky Huynh, the chef says he got his recipes from his father, a native of Vietnam who taught him everything he knows in the kitchen. The menu items are mostly traditional, but with a few tweaks, of course. Everything is made fresh to order, a menu that offers a handful of bánh mì options, each featuring a different meat (barbecue pork, lemongrass pork or lemongrass chicken, plus pork pâté as an additional request) constructed in tradition bánh mì format with fresh baguette, daikon radish, pickled carrots, sliced cucumber, jalapenos, cilantro, and garlic mayo. For a lighter bite, try the spring rolls rolled in pastry paper and filled with carrots and jicama. Available in pork or turkey, they're fried to golden perfection. The summer rolls — available with pork, lemongrass chicken, or shrimp — are lighter and a touch more refreshing on hot days. The housemade peanut sauce is the perfect accompaniment.
7. Box of Chacos
Call 954-648-6535, or visit boxofchacos.com.
A Chinese taco truck? In South Florida, anything goes. And, when it comes to Box of Chacos, the pairing proves the melding of these two cultures is a match made in heaven. The man behind this unusual East-meets-West concept is chef-owner David Peck, former chef for Tap 42 turned "chief chaco" thanks to his concept, dubbed Box of Chacos. From North Miami to Fort Lauderdale, Peck serves specialties like the Tio Tsao's five-spice pork with a spicy green salad, queso, sweet Chinese soy, and a spicy mayo or the Pink Chaco, with seared ahi tuna and sesame salad. But it's Peck's attention to detail and knowledge of Asian cuisine — something he learned from Mark Militello's namesake restaurant and sushi centric Nobu in Dallas — that gives his food an extra edge. That, coupled with time spent in Tex-Mex-loving Texas, gives you the best of both cultures, wrapped into a single tortilla. Each Chacos taco is sold à la carte, including seasoned Black Angus steak with fried cheese, house kimchi, and the chef's own special sauce. There's also meat-free and vegan menu items from the deep-fried and breaded avocado prepared with quinoa and a touch of spicy mayo to chipotle braised jackfruit "carnitas" served with pineapple salsa, tofu, and a dairy-free "krema."
6. The Waffle Wagon
Call 561-262-3500, or visit facebook.com/thewafflewagonfl.
Chicken and waffles may have been so 2013, but everything old is new again thanks to a West Palm Beach-based food truck. Waffle Wagon co-owners Kelley Leafe and Salvatore Accardi are serving this classic combination, along with a number of sweet and savory variations, from their newly launched food truck.
They wanted something popular — and easy — as evidenced by the truck's hand-breaded chicken tenders, a light flour-based batter that fries up to a beautiful golden brown crisp with just a touch of heat. What makes this truck unique, however, is the couples' recipe for Liege-style waffles. A special bread-like pastry dough based largely on 18th- and 19th-century brioche, Liege waffles are made using bread flour, milk, and a near obscene amount of yeast. But what really sets the Liege waffle apart from the classic Belgian waffle is the use of Belgian pearl sugar — large, bead-like globes of glucose made from beet sugar grown in Tienen, Belgium. Baked into the waffle mix, these candy-like pearls caramelize within the waffle as it cooks, resulting in a crunchy pocket of sweetness. The Waffle Wagon also serves several savory waffle dishes. There's the popular New York Chicken & Waffles (Buffalo-hot-sauce-marinated chicken tenders served with a waffle and blue cheese or ranch slaw) or Wu Tang Waffle (sweet teriyaki chicken tenders served with a waffle and soy ginger slaw). For purists, the standard Chicken & Waffles (plain chicken tenders served with a waffle and choice of maple syrup or dijon maple mustard) will hit the spot.
5. Sauced Up
Call 954-829-2553, or visit facebook.com/SaucedUpFoodTruck.
In June 2013, Sauced Up hit the streets with a menu serving two American staples: burgers and wings. The brainchild of Florida natives Dan Scala and Matt Kaiser, the Coral Springs-based food truck is best known for its gourmet-style filet mignon sliders — a pair of two-to-three-ounce filets dressed with homemade garlic aioli, topped with sautéed onions, and served on fresh potato-bread buns. Kaiser, who attended culinary school at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, boasts that his latest menu item — chicken and waffles — has become one of the truck’s more popular dishes. Buttermilk fried chicken is stuffed between two Belgian waffles slathered with maple-bourbon buttercream frosting and topped with warm maple syrup. The real stars here, though, are the stuffed chicken wings, which earned Sauced Up its cult following. Jumbo wings are filled with a gooey mac ’n’ cheese and a choice of sauce, including mild, medium, hot, garlic-Parmesan, barbecue, apple barbecue, raspberry barbecue, whiskey barbecue, and sweet Thai. These treats are so delectable they garnered Sauced Up a shout during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, when the food truck was recognized for “Best Bite” by the Food Network blog FN Dish.
4. Rolling Chefs
Call 561-877-0989, or visit facebook.com/Rollingchefs561.
Chefs and husband-and-wife team Patrick McCarthy and Eminely Rivera are the co-owners of Rolling Chefs, a Palm Beach County-based food truck launched in 2015 that’s best known for its seasonally, ethnically, and craft-beer-inspired menu. Private chefs for a family for several years before going into business for themselves, the two have translated their passion for local brews into a unique niche in the food-truck world, offering various area breweries the chance to have their beers paired (and used) in many of Rolling Chefs’ specials menus. Many dishes are inspired by some of the couple’s favorite craft beer creations from breweries like Accomplice Ciderworks in West Palm Beach and Wynwood Brewing Company in Miami. Such dishes include the popular chili chocolate cheesecake; it’s reminiscent of Boynton Beach’s Due South Brewing Co.’s Mexican Standoff, a chili-spiced porter. Then there’s the peanut butter bar with dulce de leche, sea salt, and popcorn cream, which Rolling Chefs pairs with the chocolate peanut porter from Bangin’ Banjo Brewing Co. in Pompano Beach. The truck also offers its own signature creations, including the favorite mojo pork maduros — orange-marinated pulled pork layered over fresh mashed plantains and topped with applewood-smoked bacon bits and melted cotija cheese — something that can’t be removed from the menu for fear of a customer uproar.
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3. Ms. Cheezious
Call 305-989-4019, or visit mscheezious.com.
If you love grilled cheese — or just cheese in general — this is your truck. Remember when Mom used to make the best grilled cheese sandwich? Well, not anymore. Now that title belongs to Ms. Cheezious, the food truck known across South Florida for its cheesy concoctions oozing with gourmet fixings such as barbecued pulled pork, smoked turkey, braised short rib, prosciutto, and even mac ’n’ cheese. This mobile supplier of your favorite childhood comfort food is a regular crowd pleaser. Choose one of six signature sandwiches, or build your own with a choice of bread and cheese. The ultimate grilled cheese is a French and Hispanic version, the “croqueta monsieur” — ham croquetas, ham, Swiss cheese, and a rich béchamel sandwiched between two thick slices of sourdough bread. Other popular menu items include gourmet spins on comfort food, such as the Grilled Blue & Bacon (crisp bacon, creamy blue cheese, and green onion on sourdough bread) and the Goat Cheese & Prosciutto (goat cheese, prosciutto, tomato, and arugula on marble rye bread). There are even sweet options like the s’mores melt, made with roasted marshmallows, salted chocolate-hazelnut spread, and graham cracker crumble on sourdough.
2. BC Tacos
Call 954-801-4123 , or visit bctacos.com.
Brett Chiavari’s BC Tacos has received a number of accolades for its colorful array of gourmet street tacos. Since its launch in 2011, the truck (named not for the years in the Gregorian calendar but for its founder’s initials) has been a three-time nominee for Food Truck Taco of the Year by Mobile Cuisine; was named the People’s Choice Best Food Truck and Best Taco Truck by South Florida’s resident burger expert, Burger Beast; was deemed “One of the healthiest food trucks in the U.S.” by SheKnows.com and “One of the eight most essential food trucks in Miami” by Eater Miami; and is listed in Zagat’s “The 10 Best Food Trucks Around Miami.” Ask any self-respecting South Florida taco lover, and he’ll most certainly confirm an intimate knowledge of Chiavari’s ten best-selling tacos, from the Encino Man (Buffalo mahi-mahi) and T-Rex (chicken) to the Fred (braised beef short rib) — each served on homemade hard corn tortillas with a side of fresh pico de gallo. One of Chiavari’s first recipes, the Pulled Pork Prehistoric, is still on the menu, a barbecued pulled-pork taco served with coleslaw and corn. They’re so popular that Chiavari also opened a standalone restaurant in Davie for hungry patrons who can’t catch them on the road.
1. Palate Party
Call 954-495-8385, or visit palateparty.com.
Former Food Network’s Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen winner Robyn Almodovar knows how to give you a party in your mouth. The Staten Island native started her rolling kitchen, Palate Party, in 2011 after returning to South Florida following her competition on Season 10 of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen, where she finished as a top finalist. Following a successful culinary career aboard a number of luxury yachts, the chef launched a food truck that would allow her to “bring the party directly to you.” Today the truck continues to offer some of the best gourmet offerings around, dishes you wouldn’t be surprised to find at a white-tablecloth establishment: Crabcake sliders are served with a sweet chili-tomato jam, garlic aioli, and mixed greens; grouper tacos come with pineapple salsa, shredded cabbage, sriracha crema, and cotija cheese inside homemade corn tortillas; and mushroom risotto balls sit atop tomato sauce with Pecorino-Romano cheese. Most of the dishes come with Almodovar’s fiery hot sauce, not to be missed if you like some heat.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.