You'll never guess where I had a five-course meal on Wednesday night.
Not on a white tablecloth in the heart of Manhattan, nor in the comfort of my urban kitchen next to a hot stove.
I ate dinner out of a truck, or rather, five food trucks, with seating (and beer pairings) inside the Brooklyn Brewery out in Williamsburg, just a bridge away from dead-center New York City.
Let me backtrack.
If you’re an urban dweller, east coast or west, food trucks must not be anything new. After all, Seattle has its beloved Maximus Minimus, the pig-shaped truck with a windshield shade in the shape of sunglasses. The same Pacific Northwest stronghold has The Skillet, known for its burger with beloved bacon jam that is taking the country by storm. Then there’s Boston, home of the crunchier Clover Food Lab, the food truck serving vegan meals designed to wow hungry diners with their deliciousness (roasted rosemary French fries, anyone?) at prices on-par with Chipotle or McDonald's. The Economist covered the Twitter-driven food-truck traffic as it exploded in late 2010. Even television has caught on, with a show dedicated to following the craze across the country.
If you haven't enjoyed a delicious liege waffle out of a truck, the concept might not make sense. What’s the big deal? If you pick an edgy name and a pimped-out truck, are your four wheels set to go?
It’s not so easy as some paint and a twitter handle, and that’s the best part. Over the past couple years and especially on Wednesday night, I’ve become convinced that, assuming the economics make sense, food trucks aren’t going to drive away for one simple reason: they’re producing delicious meals.
The trucks on Wednesday night not only executed on an innovative quick-service dining concept (read: the food was fast), they’ve figured out that other critical component of any restaurant, steering wheel or not: the food has to be superb. Not just good, but great.
Sponsored by Edible Manhattan and hosted at Brooklyn Brewery, the event brought together five different culinary concepts from Cuban sandwiches to lobster rolls to ice cream sandwiches. So you might say that the sandwich in all its beautiful forms was the theme.
With a seating area to dine inside the brewery, we walked outside to each truck to pick up the meal’s next course, then ate inside with a good, fresh pour.
We started out with a Cuban sandwich from Bongo Brothers. Hot off the grill, this combination of ham, roasted pork shoulder and whole-grain mustard was pork at its finest, and I was already feeling full: could I eat four more courses?
Round two was a hotdog like no other from Feed Your Hole. A tender tube steak on a soft, warmed bun, the ‘dog was swathed in the smokiest, crispiest bacon bits I’d ever tasted, with crunchy sour pickles and a drizzle of – no joke – wasabi mayo. No detail went untouched: Even the beer pairing was exquisite, with Brooklyn Brewery’s hoppy Blast!
After our turf, we moved to surf, with a lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound. Freshly poached, on a brioche roll, with chipotle mayo to boot, that third course drove home the point: food trucks can be the source of delicious dishes you might not expect to find on the move.
Our fourth course was cut short by supply, I suppose one downside of the humble food truck: storage space. Morris Grilled Cheese makes a mean melt, although we only got to try a taste. I’d go back just for the wallop of their superior hot sauce.
Dessert didn’t let us down. Coolhaus had such a plethora of cookie-ice cream combinations, it took us a ten minutes of deliberation to pick our favorite. Chicken and waffle ice cream? They had it. I went with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream on a Snickerdoodle cookie ... and loved it. Two cookies bordering both crunchy and chewy, with a powerful scoop of ice cream in between? And a sip of Brooklyn Brewery’s chocolate stout? Yes, please!
This is not street meat. Each course was a labor of love, and I savored every bite. The next time you pass a food truck, stop and have a look. You may have just found your next memorable meal.
Follow my epicurean adventures on Twitter @KathrynAndersen