I’ve been eating at a lot of food trucks recently… at a local Food Truck Rodeo here in Saratoga, at the annual Eat Real event in Oakland, and at the weekly Off the Grid party in San Francisco’s Fort Mason. And my conclusion is that while food trucks have their place, not a few are coasting in neutral, taking advantage of the trend to sell mediocre food at prices that would never stick in a terrestrial establishment.
I’ll start by saying that ome of the best meals I ever ate was from a food truck: a grilled romaine salad with soft boiled duck egg and cured duck breast at Odd Duck Farm to Trailer, a sadly defunct institution in Austin. (You can read my adoring review on Yelp.)
That was food truck eating at its finest: a meal as good as you could get in a restaurant, but with the added seasoning of a chef who’s figured out how to deal with the challenges of cooking in a very confined space with minimal prep area, refrigeration and storage. As I recall the meal was also an excellent value, which makes sense because there are no dishes or tablecloths to wash, no rent and utilities to pay.
And then there’s the gritty entrepreneurship of food trucks: not everybody can open a restaurant, but it seems more doable if you’ve been told you’re a good cook to hit the road in a food truck serving a limited menu. In fact, the more limited the better because the confines of a food truck allow you to specialize in one thing and do it well. (In the Bay Area, the “original” food trucks were taco wagons that still line up along Oakland’s International Boulevard, serving simple perfect edibles that last but a minute from stove to mouth.)
But that doesn’t excuse the thorough mediocrity of the endless repetitions of pork belly sliders at Fort Mason (or the current craze, sisig tacos) or just plain pizza or sandwiches that are supposed to be special (and command a higher price tag) when you buy them from a truck. Food truck wannabes, please have a raison d’etre before you ask me to stand in line in the heat, cold or rain. Otherwise, get a room.