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Small-town food trucks?


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Hey all,

Excuse the onslaught of food truck topics!

I've been researching food trucks, and it looks like the big cities like LA, Portland, Austin have everything you could ever want from a truck/trailer/cart, but I'm wondering about us folks in the smaller towns - are there trucks/trailers/carts in your town? What sort of variety? Do they get a lot of business?

I'm living in a town of about 1800 by Yosemite in California. We have a cold-sandwich trailer (decent, but just the usual offerings), a Mexican seafood truck (which I've been hesitant to try just because we're not that close to the ocean and turnover looks pretty low), and taco truck which is pretty popular but sells unimpressive tacos. Aside from the popular/lackluster taco truck, business looks slooow.

All around the San Joaquin Valley nearby, there's genuine taco trucks - no fusion, just good Mexican food for $5 or less. I love these trucks. They keep me from starving in a recession. Except one truck where they unloaded their burnt meat on me and apparently thought the gringa was too dumb to notice?

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Three food trucks in a town of 1800? Is there a lot of pass-thru traffic or lots of other small towns adjoining?

Around here (SE Texas) probably the most common mobile vendor in a small town would be a barbecue trailer, followed by taco trucks/trailers which I'm seeing more of. The bbq place would probably be temporary, like weekends only, maybe just a smoker on a trailer that is lifted off onto the ground when they set up for business or a shack on a trailer or smoker mounted on a trailer with a roof over it. You might encounter one of these on the highway, miles from any town, too.

The further south you get in the state the more likely you'll see some sort of vendor of Mexican food by the roadside or in a small town. One of the best I ever stopped at was a pollo asado wagon and it was some of the best I'd ever had, too. A real find I thought, but the next time I was through, months later, it was gone; there were three taco trucks/trailers in the town, then, but none open for business. That's a town of about 2500. Pollo Asado (think charcoal chicken if you're not familiar with it) is very popular here - half or whole chicken with charro beans, rice, tortillas, roasted onion and jalapeno peppers, lime wedges and salsas. $6/7 medio, $11/12 entero. They'll usually offer ribs, fajitas and salchicha, too, with a platter of all three meats going for $16/17. I've never tried one of those so I don't know what all you get with the meats.

One thing I've noticed in smaller suburbs around Houston (much larger towns than 1800, though) is the taco trucks almost always have perros calientes - hot dogs. Very seldom see that on taco trucks in Houston proper.

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I live less than a half-hour from the San joaquin valley in California, so old-school Mexican taco trucks are pretty common, since most of the population is Mexican. Basically, we don't have any of the trendy food trucks you'd find in Portland or Austin or wherever. And me and my partner are the only gringos I've seen patronizing the Mexican trucks. To most people they're still roach coaches. And yes, my town does get thru- traffic for Yosemite, although the last few years have been very quiet due to a landslide a few years back and the generally crappy economy.

I've never seen a perro caliente - what's on it?

Pollo asado sounds great, sure I can find it around here if I keep an eye out...

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I guess what you get on a Mexican hot dog can vary by vendor and maybe what part of the country they're from, just like here. I haven't had many but I had one a couple of months ago from a truck called El Rey del Churros outside a grocery in a Hispanic neighborhood on the east side. A salchicha, typically a plump, skinless, bright red, fine ground sausage (as in wiener), steamed or boiled, on a standard hot dog bun. This one had ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard plus chopped tomatoes and onions. The others I've had have been a bit more elaborate. Here's what Wiki says about the Sonoran hot dog:

The Sonoran hot dog, found in Tucson, Metro Phoenix, and in neighboring Sonora, Mexico, is a hot dog grilled in a processor or on a griddle, wrapped in Mesquite-smoked bacon, topped with freshly chopped tomatoes, onions, shredded yellow or cotijo cheese, tomatillo salsa or red chili sauce, pinto beans, mayonnaise, ketchup and/or mustard, and served on bread and often with a fresh-roasted chili. It originated in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora.

I've had a couple of these at brick-and-mortar places here and really liked them. I've also had one with grilled onions and avocado slices on a bacon-wrapped, grilled salchicha stuffed w/cheese. I think this was supposed to be Monterrey style.

The pollo asado units tend to be larger vehicles - school buses or larger trailers - I guess maybe because the grill takes up a lot of space?

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I've never seen a perro caliente - what's on it?

A favorite trailor, not truck, at the Laney flea market in Oakland, CA on Sunday mornings lets you load your dog with any or all: lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped onion, cilantro, sweet relish, dill pickles, jalapenos, mustard, mayo, catsup, srirachi. I ask for it all on my turkey dog. Sounds wrong but works for me.

re true taco trucks, our all-time favorite is in Lodi, CA, (north of Stockton) opposite the car wash on Lodi Ave. I order them with single tortilla, since I think they get too heavy with the normal 2. Choice of lengua, cabeza, birria, al pastor, carnitas, pollo or steak asada, all superb. Simple layering of tortilla, meat, salsa, hot sauce, chopped onion, cilantro. $1.25 ea.

eGullet member #80.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I live in a town of about 14k and work in a college town of about 100k in Missouri. Amazingly, Home Town has a much better food truck scene. I regularly see a truck with a brick oven that makes pizzas and calzones and stuffed sandwiches, a Philly Cheese Steak truck, an Indian Taco truck, and small carts with hot dogs and the like. Not to mention kettle corn, sweet corn steaming (in season), BBQ, and ice cream stands around town occasionally. Nothing ground breaking, but generally good in a pinch and at festivals and the like. Work Town, OTH, has a couple of hot dog vendors, one general food truck, and a recently announced waffle truck. There used to be soul food and Jamaican trucks, but they disappeared.

I think it's mostly to do with county health codes. WT has stricter guidelines. One of my mom's friends owns a hotdog cart in HT, and he said he'd never be able to get passed the inspection in WT with his current rig.

A food writer in WT recently did a one-day taco truck for charity, and it went over like gangbusters. There is tremendous call for food trucks there. I see something nearly every week on Facebook or Twitter begging for one to come through. I hope the new waffle truck does ok, so that others will be encouraged to start up here, too.

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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How funny Emilyr, I was just in Columbia, Missouri, then on a scenic drive through the NE corner last week. I had no idea there were so many food trucks in the area! I will have to check them out next time I pass through. Although food trucks can be hard to work into a travel schedule, cuz if we're trying to make good driving time, driving around new towns trying to track down trucks can be pretty time-consuming. (Another reason to love the food trailer parks/pods...) Cheers for the tip!

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