Food trucks have redefined the term “fast food.” Preparing made-to-order dishes in minutes and utilizing fresh ingredients all while working in miniature kitchens, food trucks have been taking the world by storm.
Food trucks have broken down traditional restaurant norms to form innovative culinary concepts and have the opportunity to share their food with large audiences every day. In the Palo Alto area, there are a plethora of food truck options serving everything from ethnic foods to traditional American cooking. Some of the most convenient gatherings around Palo Alto include the Willows Market evening food truck gathering, the Off the Grid dinner meetups and the Moveable Feast gathering. Take a look at the unique food truck options that the Bay Area has to offer.
It is hard to miss a bright red truck complete with panda donning a Mao-style cap. Formerly known as Chairman Bao, this truck combines modern Chinese cooking with a humorous take on Chinese history.
The San Francisco based truck with a cult following serves up baos, Chinese for “bun,” on the daily. Baos consist of some type of filling, usually a meat, and a dough covering which is traditionally steamed. Baos are sold in two sizes, small and large, with the small bao served as a traditional steamed bun and the large bao served in a baked hamburger-style bun.
At Clement Restaurant in San Francisco, baos are baked using yeast culture imported directly from China. The Chairman balances fresh ingredients with an affordable price range, with a small bao coming in at under $4. Try the classic pork belly bao with a small steamed bun. The crispy and juicy pork belly is complimented by a hint of acidity of pickled daikon, a Chinese radish.
The bao is topped off with a sweet sauce that completes the snack. If baos are not to your liking, The Chairman also offers wonton chips topped with strands of seaweed.
The unique atmosphere of The Chairman compliments the modern flavors. The Chairman is headed by Chef Hiroo Nagahara and is a member of Mobi Munch, a collection of food trucks.
“Mobi Munch challenged me to blur the lines between brick-and-mortars and the food truck scene,” Nagahara said on The Chairman website. “We wanted to see how far we could push street food using techniques from high-end restaurants and The Chairman was my first concept.”
Check out The Chairman on Monday nights at Willows Market and some Off the Grid events.
Little Green Cyclo
If you have never sampled Little Green Cyclo’s (LGC) legendary Banh mis, you are seriously missing out. LGC brings modern and fresh Vietnamese flavors to the Bay Area food truck scene. LGC offers one of the most extensive food truck menus; however, you cannot go wrong with classic dishes like the banh mi or garlic noodles. A banh mi, which literally means “bread,” is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich prepared on a baguette with fresh vegetables and your choice of protein.
Try the 9-spice chicken for a flavorful meat without the heat. If sandwiches are not to your liking, you can instead opt to get your protein to be placed on a bed of garlic noodles, which offer a lighter option. LGC can be a bit pricey, at $8 for a chicken or pork banh mi and $12 for chicken or pork garlic noodles. However, LGC’s fresh ingredients, hefty portions and friendly service make their Vietnamese treats worth the price and wait. Find LGC at many Off the Grid events.
[pullquote speaker=”” photo=”” align=”left” background=”on” border=”all” shadow=”on”]Food trucks have broken down traditional restaurant barriers to form innovative culinary concepts and have the opportunity to share their food with mass audiences every day. [/pullquote]
Capelo’s Hill Country Barbecue
For those searching for authentic barbecue on the peninsula, Hill Country Barbecue may be just the right place. With an emphasis placed on ingredients and time, Hill Country Barbecue prioritizes the quality of their products.
“To us, quality means everything,” owner and pitmaster John Capelo said on Capelo’s Barbecue website. “We take great pride in what we make and serve.”
Hill Country Barbecue offers meat plates with sides, tacos, sandwiches, meat by the pound, racks of ribs and quarter and half chickens. It is certainly on the pricier side, with plates ranging from $12 to $16, though the large portions partially explain the price. Skip the sandwiches, and instead go for one of the meat plates. Any combination of beef brisket, which come on a forgettable brioche bun, pulled pork, pork ribs and smoked chicken is great, but for the sides try the baked beans or macaroni and cheese.
Capelo’s Hill Country Barbecue Truck can usually be found at a Bay Area Off the Grid event, the Willows Market gathering or the Palo Alto Square Moveable Feast lunches.
The long lines coming from the KoJa Kitchen food truck may look intimidating, but the food is well worth the wait. KoJa Kitchen’s innovative fusion of Korean and Japanese cuisines results in unique menu items, like a choice of protein sandwiched between fried garlic rice buns. Proteins range from Korean barbecue short rib or beef to chicken to a soy and portobello mushroom patty.
At about $6, the sandwiches are reasonably priced. The kamikaze fries are an interesting addition to the menu and worth an order. These fries consist of generous servings of Korean barbecue beef, kimchi, Japanese mayonnaise, red sauce and green onions topping a bed of waffle fries. Find a friend or two to come with you so you can sample all of the proteins, but be sure not to miss the short rib.
Check out the KoJa Kitchen truck at many Off the Grid events.
The Waffle Roost
If you are looking for a place that serves chicken and waffles, The Waffle Roost is the truck to visit. Offering different combinations of chicken and waffles, Belgian waffles with a variety of toppings and sides including collard greens and spiced cauliflower, The Waffle Roost has something to please everyone. Try the Poppin’ Combo, bite sized chicken pieces and waffles with maple syrup dipping sauce at around $7, or The Stack, a waffle split and stuffed with chicken, bacon, an egg and honey at $8. The waffles can also stand alone as a dessert option, with a variety of delicious toppings ranging from caramel and salt to dark chocolate and toasted almonds.
Find The Waffle Roost at various Off the Grid events including the Menlo Park location and Willows Market gatherings.