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Mar 8, 2010 09:02 AM

Trucks That Suck

After several disappointing lunches, I am rapidly losing interest in the truck scene.

South Philly Experience - so-so cheese steak: poorly seasoned meat, provolone not melted, bread not fresh.
Kogi - used to be better, now the quality and quantitiy of the meat is a problem.
Fishlips - skimpy sushi, bland rice
Bar-B.'s Q: tough, tough, tough

I think Nom Nom is the only one I would go out of my way for, and that's not 'cause it is so good but because of the Banh Mi Blight on the Westside.
Dosa is not bad either.

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  1. I think South Philly is outstanding, especially the Italian sandwiches. But I agree they don't seem to have the cheese ratio/distribution down quite right. It gets lost in the roll. My only other complaint is that the sandwiches tend to be VERY oily, as taiwanesesmalleats noted on another thread.

    I like Nom Nom a lot. Hounds sometimes turn up their noses at it because it's not some dingy deli in Little Saigon. But the roast pork is a solid Banh Mi that I believe would do just fine in a blind taste test.

    I wasn't impressed with Barbie's Q, either. Pulled pork was mushy and oily, and the sauce tasted too sweet. Potato salad was also not to my taste -- I prefer it more eggy.

    Have you tried the Fresser's pastrami truck or India Jones Indian?

    16 Replies
    1. re: a_and_w

      I have not tried either one. I walked by India Jones on Friday at Truck Alley in Santa Monica and it smelled OK. What do you like there, a and w?

      I will say there was ALOT of meat on my South Philly Far more than I would get in Philly. It was a big, heavy, greasy torpedo. Perhaps I got over meated, and under cheesed. The lack of melting of the cheese suggests they rushed it out, and didn't give me hot enough meat.

      1. re: Ciao Bob

        I highly enjoyed my cheesesteak despite its problems. It could definitely use more cheese and a little less on the grease. But it's probably the best food I've had from a truck so far.

        I tried the meat curry at India Jones and was disappointed. The curry/rice ratio was off and it was lacking in flavor despite being spicy. It was also on the oily side.

        Tried the red velvet pancakes from the Buttermilk truck. Flavor was ok but they were mushy rather than light and fluffy.

        Tried a piece of pizza from the Slice truck and was also disappointed.

        1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

          Yeah, I wasn't super impressed with the meat curry I tried. See my comments below to Bob for the stuff I like there. I'm SO with you on the rice-to-curry ratio. I recently started asking for just half rice for that very reason.

        2. re: Ciao Bob

          "Trucks that suck," "over meated," and "under cheesed" -- I LOVE the way you talk, Ciao Bob! I'm being completely serious here; I love the manner in which you get straight to the point! It's not just funny, it's informative and helpful.

          1. re: Ciao Bob

            Your cheese wasn't melted?! That's unforgivable and suggests to me something went wrong on your visit. Was there a long line? I confess I always hit them at their more lightly trafficked locations. As for India Jones, I really like the lamb frankie, cauliflower paratha, butter chicken, and vegetable korma. I also hear great things about the fish curry, but have never tried it myself.

          2. re: a_and_w

            Agree completely about South Philly. I love em. Best Philly cheesesteaks I've had in LA - easily. Brought my (visiting) nephew there this last weekend, and he said it was the best Philly he had had.

            1. re: mdpilam

              The cardinal sin with philly cheesesteaks is that the make too much steak and it steams in giant piles, with the flavor diluted by all the water trapped in between the meat (Pat's and Geno's). The really great places cook to order in small batches, developing flavorful browned bits of steak around the edges, allowing evaporation to intensify flavors. Is the So. Philly Experience truck representative of the former to the latter?

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Former for sure. At least the one I had.

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  The cheesesteak I had was definitely lacking a bit in the charred, browned goodness department.

                  1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                    I've one or two with nice crispy bits, but most could have been crispier I wonder what would happen if you asked for the steak well done? BTW, I can't recommend the chicken highly enough. Nice chunks of well seasoned meat that are particularly well suited for the Italian.

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      You can get the Italian with chicken? Hmmm...

              2. re: a_and_w

                Agree 100% that South Philly is outstanding. I totally disagree with one of the above posters that it is "greasy" ... *for* a cheesesteak. The quality of the meat is excellent and to me it doesn't feel greasy at all. Goes down nice and clean and my stomach doesn't feel heavy afterward. The bun is soft and chewy in a good way, very authentic east-coast style bun. (I think they get them shipped in.)

                Also, I've had the butter chicken and one of the curry fish dishes at India Jones and both were superb. My only warning about that place is: do not get the naan as a side with your meal. It is not naan, it's basically what normally comes as a gyro wrapper at Mediterranean places.

                If anything, Nom Nom has been hit and miss for me. I like it, but have had one or two sandwiches with fatty, not so great meat that I ended up not finishing.

                1. re: a_and_w

                  On South Philly, I like their sandwiches too. But I can see where some people might find it greasy since it leans that way and depending on your tolerance it might be too much. I was pleasantly surprised by their chicken version. I too would prefer to see a better cheese/meat ratio and wish there was a bit more onions.

                  1. re: Jase

                    Jase, have you tried the chicken Italian?

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      I have not. Was not in the office last week when they pulled up. They only come around the Teleflora area every 2-3 weeks. Probably better for my waistline that way. Assuming they keep up the quality control and don't have sad looking ones like what Bandini had. Gotta say if that was my first experience with them, I'd be hard pressed to try them again.

                  2. re: a_and_w

                    My experiences with Fresser's have all been painfully disappointing. To top it off, they ripped me off last time. Don't know what the deal is, cause I love deli food.

                  3. Mattie's Southern Kitchen truck is awful. I tried their pulled pork recently and it tasted old and reheated. It was inedible. The accompanying biscuits were flat and unremarkable too.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Ernie

                      Yeah, I've been pretty disappointed by Mattie's Southern Kitchen myself, especially the fried chicken.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        don't like mattie's much either. just nothing special in my book. we have yum yum bowl truck thing here almost everyday and i've eaten there twice- way too oily, and not the good kind.

                      2. re: Ernie

                        I've had mixed results with Matties. I actually liked their fried chicken plate. The crust was crispy, meat juicy, it was a touch dark on the crust almost getting to burnt. The sides were average. I had also gotten the biscuit with the gumbo another time and wasn't impressed.

                      3. I also found Nom Nom okay considering being a Westsider. The truck I thought pretty good was the "Get Shaved" shave ice truck. The quality of the ice was better than that found on the North Shore of Oahu. Not as good as the best in Honolulu, but a really nice shave ice. Just a tad more expensive however.

                        1. Q'Zilla (the hot pink truck I asked about a couple of weeks ago) - Horrible. We went the next day and wanted the hot link (they were out of hot, so settled for mild), 1 side - mac n cheese and texas toast. The BBQ sauce was like a balsamic vinaigrette with a touch of BBQ sauce in it - nasty, nasty. My friend said it tasted like straight vinegar. The link (if you can call it that) was anemic (thin like a weiner) but the flavor was ok. Could not detect any grillmarks, tho. Mac N Cheese may have been good when it came out of the oven, but by the time we got there, it was a cold congealed mess. I was able to eat it by putting it into the texas toast (not toast, more like Texas bread) and add some mustard. That was how I ate my Q on that day.
                          Also, I passed the Kogi truck last night on Melrose and thought I had to stop. There were 2 people eating and one ahead of me ordering while I was there. Not sure if this is the one people are writing about, but I saw "Kogi" and took the bait. I ordered 2 tacos - 1 beef and 1 spicy pork. They are in my fridge waiting for me to decide to eat them. I am not overly-excited about eating them, obviously, since they are still around!
                          I saw the Grilled Cheese truck pass by when I was eating at Merkato a couple of weeks ago but was unsure where they were on their way to. However, i think they are going to be somewhere in Pasadena this week, so I will give that one a try at that time.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: WildSwede

                            Interesting... I'm actually kind of intrigued by the super vinegary sauce, though less so by your description of balsalmic vinegar. Does Q'Zilla advertise itself as specializing in q from a particular geographic region? Also, is it possible the link was smoked? If so, you wouldn't necessarily see grill marks, though there should be a smoke ring.

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              Hi A,
                              You are right - I just checked their site and for some reason I remember seeing the word "grill" somewhere but can't see it now (at least not in any of the pics there". Maybe the link was smoked, but I could not detect anything from it. They are from St Louis according to their site.
                              I was so enthralled with the nastiness of their sauce that I kept tasting it as I could not believe it could be as bad as my tastebuds were telling me... but, yes, it was that bad.
                              Try it - maybe you will like it. But, my two friends who also ate it that day (they KNOW BBQ, whereas I only know what I like) hated it and quickly tossed the menu from their files.

                              1. re: WildSwede

                                Well, no mention of Carolina, which might have indicated that the vinegar sauce was intended. So I'm inclined to take your word that it was just nasty and to be avoided.

                            2. re: WildSwede

                              I had a great experience at Qzilla. My wife and I had the Mile High on Texas toast. It was what you want--moist, flavorful, meaty and plentiful.

                              When we were there, they truck was deserted. Reading all these comments, it seems like the busier the truck, the worse it is.

                              Mile High Cafe
                              7070 Summit Valley Rd, Hesperia, CA 92345

                            3. Oh, man. I have been wanting to post this thread for weeks, but haven't because I fear sounding like a crank. Thanks for breaking the ice, Bob.

                              The concept of mobile kitchens is exciting, but the combination of price, quality, and ambiance that the trucks deliver just doesn't do it for me. If I were eating out every day, I might patronize the trucks more, but since my budget is limited and I don't eat out every day I'd rather wait a few days until I'm passing by some better/cheaper chow, rather than settle for mediocre/expensive.

                              Kogi isn't worth the wait anymore. Kogi was barely worth the wait the first time. Calbi I can handle on occasion.
                              Fishlips: The sushi looks like Ralphs sushi. If I wanted Ralphs sushi at Ralphs prices, I'd go to Ralphs. I can make better for far cheaper at home.
                              The Pastrami truck: Nine bucks for a sandwich? I can get two meals out of a large Godmother for less than nine bucks. And at Bay Cities, they have tables. If their pastrami were better than Langers, it'd be worth it, but Langers isn't that far away.
                              I'm near a good banh mi shop once or twice a week. Nom nom may be good, but why should I pay a premium to eat standing on the sidewalk?
                              I tried a pulled pork sandwich from one of the BBQ trucks, which was okay, but I'm used to Dickeys in Dallas (from back when Dickeys used to be good). I want either cheap or fantastic, and this was neither. Pass.
                              India Jones is going to get a try because of the cool name, but I know going in that Jasmine or Mayura probably serve more, better food cheaper.

                              The only truck I've been to in the past month is El Pique, which is (of course) a different breed.

                              I can see how those who don't get around as much, or who have more money, or who have smaller waistlines, could enjoy the trucks. But for me, unless something truly special comes along, I'm more or less done with them.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Bjartmarr

                                thanks for the thoughts on Fresser (Pastrami truck). $9 for a pastrami sandwich that's not Langer's seems a bit ridiculous... It's about the only one that piques my interest right now.

                                1. re: Bjartmarr

                                  Regarding Fressers, comparing a Godmother to a pastrami sandwich isn't fair I think. Good pastrami sandwiches usually will run $8-9 anyway. I think the meat from Fressers is very good without even any qualifiers such as a truck. If it was a storefront, it would hold up well against most. It is a bit on the thin side though.

                                  1. re: Jase

                                    Clarification is in order.... the good "bad" pastrami (thinly sliced, chewy, "SoCal pastrami" like The Hat, Johnnies, etc.) costs about $8-9.

                                    The good "excellent" pastrami (thick sliced, butter tender, New York Katz's Jewish deli style) never costs less than $10 and often costs significantly more.

                                    By that measure, Fresser's is actually not a bad deal, though still pricey for a sandwich.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      yes, thanks, that is a good clarification. Also before someone points it out, I understand Johnnies, Hat is the huge overstuffed style. I like The Hat, grew up on it and was a lunch time staple in high school but I think it's not a good comparison for Fresser's when it comes to size of the sandwich.

                                      I was saying that Fresser's size is on the small size compared to Katz, etc. But the price is also less than that. In fact I was just at Junior's the other day and my wife got the pastrami sandwich there. It was maybe 50% thicker but it was also $15. So price to filling ratio of Fresser's seem to be equal.

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        i was just at katz last week and it was $15 for a pastrami before tax and the obligatory $1 to the counter guy.

                                    2. re: Bjartmarr

                                      Dude, if you think a pastrami truck is going to be better than Langer's, I'm not sure how you're going to be satisfied.

                                      Having said that, I think the way to go with trucks is to just hit up whatever you happen to see. Chasing trendy trucks around is a recipe for disappointment.