Friday, July 15, 2011

Food Trucks Invade the Strip

Food trucks selling cheap eats have posted up at construction sites and outside bars and concerts in cities since the beginning of time. But hip haute-cuisine sold off of trucks is a more recent phenomenon, made popular by the success of The Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck, which offered innovative fusion style food and was savvy about self-promotion on Twitter. Pretty quickly, there were food trucks all over Los Angeles offering an endless variety of international cuisines, from Indian to Peuvian to Argentian. Some trucks resorted to gimmicks, like hiring hot chicks to sell burgers or creating fancy versions of grilled cheese meant to appeal equally to our inner child and our inner hipster food snob. The trend got so popular so quickly, The Food Network launched a hit reality show/cooking competition all about food trucks.

If the presence of diverse food trucks is a test whether a city has a thriving hipster scene (a premise I'm positing with no real evidence to back it up), then Las Vegas gets a passing grade. Sin City has seen a full on food truck invasion, and on any given Friday night you can find all kinds of tasty treats sold off the back of trucks all over town. First Fridays provide a great opportunity to sample the city's offerings, as many of the best trucks gather in Downtown Vegas for the artsy monthly event.

Proof that Vegas isn't quite there in terms of hipster culture is the fact that most of the food trucks offer less than groundbreaking cuisines. There are a lot of burger trucks, many of them very good. SlidinThru Slidertruck, LBS Patty Wagon, TastyBunz, and the Green Chili-centric Sloppi Jos all offer tasty takes on the American classic, but the irreverently named Fukuburger is the best (and most popular). The truck was recently written up in a pretty good New York Times Travel article about Las Vegas, in which the writer described Fuku's Karai burger, adorned with cucumbers, avocado cream, spicy mayo and a habanero soy sauce "the best burger" he’d had in years, an assessment I basically agree with. Los Angeles is going through a true Burger renaissance, with selections like the unbeatable Office Burger at Father's Office and the MSG-infused delights of the quickly expanding Umami Burger chain, but Fuku's Karai Burger is truly something special.

Non-burger offerings include the  BBQ Boy truck, offering Filipino BBQ on a stick, Haulin' Balls (with a creative selection of meatball sandwiches that un-appetizingly call Ballwiches), and Snow Ono (selling authentic treats for people who know the difference between Hawaiin Shave Ice and the more common-on-the-mainland Snocones).

The selection of Vegas trucks continues to grow, but you can't find too much for those with a truly adventurous palette quite yet. No trucks in Sin City can compete with LA's diverse offerings, which include Nom Nom (which serves Banh Mi sandwiches and other Vietnamese foods),  Ludo Truck (offering gourmet fare from French Chef and "Top Chef Masters" breakout Ludovic Lefebvre), CoolHaus (a gourmet ice cream sandwich truck that features unique flavors served in edible wrapping paper), or Kogi (the grandaddy of them all, as it were). Vegas has become a foodie-tourist destination, but only for sit down gourmet restaurants. Until a chef is innovative (or crazy) enough to gamble on a unique international fusion cuisine served off a truck, LA will still have the edge in terms of mobile fine dining.

1 comment:

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