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Apr 26, 2011 11:44 PM

Food Trucks (not typical plate lunch wagons) on O'ahu

A couple of months ago I went to one of those foodtruck events in the evening. The lines were ridiculous, and I'm pretty sure I'll never go to one of them again. But I am curious about the trendy new food trucks sprouting out. This is a thread to talk about some of the new food trucks. (Note: let's try to stay away from discussing conventional plate lunch wagons.)

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  1. The "food truck" thing is spreading. Not sure if it was the Food Channel's "Food Truck Wars," or something else, but several boards are filled with requests for food trucks, even in cities, that are known for their unique cuisine. It is all about food trucks.

    While I am a bit surprised that O`ahu is involved in this, I probably should not be. As you mention - plate lunch trucks, and then the shrimp trucks, mainly on the North Shore.

    Like "gourmet cupcakes," I feel that this too shall pass.

    I do not wish to cast any aspersions on food trucks, but when I am in New Orleans, San Francisco, or some other culinary cities, I want a chef-driven restaurant, and not some truck, though I might well be missing something.


    1. I am also thinking that this phenomena might be sort a "flash mob" sort of thing. Many seem to be on Twitter, and other social networking sites. Maybe the send out tweets, telling people to gather, and they do. Here's one PHX thread:


      6 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        A couple of the trucks here are "chef driven" both literally and figuratively. Camille's, MELT, Soul Patrol are 3 examples of such. The NRA show in Chicago next month is having a food truck area as well as a seminar about food truck business/marketing/etc. I will be attending that.

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          hunt....i dont mean to be insulting here at all, but just gathering from your reviews, responses, and comments, you dont exactly seem to be a chowhound in the traditional sense. this site was founded back in the day to really search out (hound) the holes in the walls, little moms and pops, trucks, side of the road stands, and out of the way nooks. not necessarily dining experiences in the full service form. i mean, everyone knows what the best mid-to-high end dining establishments are in the big cities - you dont really need to hit up chowhound to figure that kind of stuff out, but most folks here like to share their opinion on these joints anyway. which is also always helpful.

          i think a lot of people on this board and in the country are excited about the food truck trend, and it could very well be a trend....but remember, most of these trucks (at least here and i reckon most other cities) are a daytime breakfast/lunch on-the-go sort of thing, or a late night snack kind of thing....rarely do people anywhere go "out to dinner" at a truck (though i totally would here and again). anyway, the truck thing is fun for a few reasons 1) low overhead for the chef which keeps the food very reasonably priced in most cases ...this also gives a lot of good cooks (not necessarily chefs trained in the biz) a shot at a business - however, i echo manomin's statement that a lot of trucks all over the country are started by trained chefs with plenty of kitchen experience that are looking to branch out their visions at low overhead - gotta throw in this phrase: "especially in this economy". 2) the food seems to be pretty experimental/ themed. the food is often more "fun" than a sit-down joint would be bc the low overhead means they can take that risk. 3) there's a sense of adventure in finding the truck and excitement seeing that it will be near your workplace that day - so, it helps to be technologically adept should you want to hunt down your roving truck of interest.

          with the general lack of capital and lending these days, these folks can take a risk on a business and not be terrified that they'll lose everything and be in debt/bankrupt for years on end if your restaurant fails. you arent tied to a specific location, which can sometimes be a total business killer if you dont research well enough...though i truly believe is your concept is strong, you execute well, and your provide value, then your restaurant should survive no matter your location. however, it doesnt always work that way.

          i think the biggest knock right now is everyone wants to be the next L.A. Kogi (korean) taco truck. if another freakin' taco truck starts up....enough already. but hey, its all fun and i'm happy to support these new businesses and most of them do a pretty decent job....especially at lunch time. to be honest, though, my expectations shift - i dont expect 4 star food out of these trucks...i expect fun, well seasoned, creative food that i pray is well executed given the circumstances. if it misses on some of those notes, then i'll prob be disappointed and hesitant to go back.

          anyway Hunt, i guess what i'm saying is, you might be missing something....and saying that, i dont think the folks starting the trucks even consider tourism as part for heir business plan, whether they're in a city that thrives on tourism (new orleans, san fran etc) or not....these trucks are more for the people of the town to have an alternative "dining" experience i guess you aren't off in your lack of desire to hunt out trucks in major cities. but i'd have to imagine that even if you lived in one of these cities, dining at a sit-down joint for every meal you leave the house for must get old, no? where's the adventure?

          1. re: fatstern

            Not sure that I follow you.

            Does this mean that unless one is doing a "diner, drive-in, or dive," that they cannot comment on the dining experience? Sounds rather odd, and extremely limited to me, but then maybe you know much more, than I do. Guess that I am just not the “expert,” and probably missed the inter-office memo, on keep all recs. to the “holes in the wall,” and discourage all diners from eating elsewhere, even if the food is divine and not to be missed. Can you Cc that memo to me for future reference?

            If you had bothered to notice my replies, or lack there of, when one is asking for “holes in the wall,” you might understand that I do not dine at many. That does not reflect negatively on any, but just my dining, especially when in Hawai`i. Obviously, you have managed to focus on the reviews and recs. that I HAVE given, and must not agree with those. Not sure which ones you take exception with, but maybe start a new thread, and I will address each one in detail.

            I am sorry, but I just do not see your point. I do not think that CH is totally dedicated to “out of the way,” “off the beaten path,” “diners, drive-ins and dives,” to the exclusion of fine-dining restaurants. I think that it is about great food, wherever it might be found. For me, it is also about the entire dining experience, as that is part of my equation. Where is that wrong?

            As far as “everyone knows what the best mid-to-high end dining establishments are in the big cities - you dont really need to hit up chowhound to figure that kind of stuff out, but most folks here like to share their opinion on these joints anyway. which is also always helpful.” I am not following again. Many posts on CH ARE about fine-dining recs, and not just for special occasions. Obviously, everyone does NOT know, though you seem to think that they are.

            That I seem to enjoy fine-dining, and that you do not, is but a personal choice. It has zero to do with the food being served. If the 3-star restaurant is doing great food, and so is the mom-n-pop down the street, though at different price-points and in different settings, there is nothing wrong with me making my recs., and you making yours - at least none that I see.

            As for the food trucks, I have dined at some in various cities. So far, all of those have been less than stellar, and this is regarding the food. Still, many have been standing in line for that opportunity, though I do not get it. That is why I speculated that it might be “the latest, greatest new thing, and perpetuated by the electronic media.” However, those observations do not mean that I have tried ALL food trucks on Earth. I have not even come close. I rather liken those, that I have, to “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” but that is ONLY for the ones, that I have tried. I am sure that there are many, that transcend those experiences, that I have had. At least I hope so.

            I am not interested in discussing the business plans, as the finances of any restaurant are not really fodder for the Hawai`i Board. Somehow, I do not think that such a discussion is germane to the thread here.

            I will continue to explore food trucks, and might have my mind changed, regarding some. If I do, I will post my reviews of that/those truck(s).

            As far as great food, the ultimate “fried shrimp,” that I have ever eaten, came from a little dive, with a Grade D Sanitation Rating, a hole in the roof, but the finest fried shrimp, that I have ever eaten. I miss Magnusen’s House of Seafood greatly, and all others fall below that level of excellent cuisine.

            I post my personal experiences and my personal observations. The posters can take those for what they are worth - my personal experiences and observations, and nothing more.

            Thank you for your personal observations.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              "hunt....i dont mean to be insulting here at all"

              i guess that doesnt always work. sorry dude, you seemed to be posing a question as to why foodtrucks are growing in popularity around the country. i was just offering an explanation, and i feel like economics are a big part of that equation.

              regarding my reference to you not being a "traditional" chowhound, i was suggesting that you might be out of touch with the adventurous low-brow street food/mom-and-pop eater.....thats not an insult or an attack on your character, and i certainly didnt mean it as such (hence the opening of my comments)... but i was throwing out there that the food truck is kind of exciting for these types of people, and thats why its growing on chowhound message boards...

              now, regarding the mission statement of chowhound, i should have done my research ahead of time. i thought i remembered the old mission statement being how i expressed it above, but i stand corrected:


              the link is to the OLD, original chowhound mission statement, which does indeed include fine dining.

              anyway, i think you took this way further than i intended. i've never criticized any of your reviews or invalidated anything you've posted...i mentioned above that though i thought fine dining wasnt the original intention of chowhound, i found the recommendations and reviews interesting and helpful. in fact, i appreciate your insight to the world of fine dining on the islands. i've never disparaged fine dining, nor ever said i don't like to eat chef-driven cuisine...thats crazy talk!!! i would love to splurge on meals at mavro, wongs, le mer, or any of the nice izakayas around here (which i do sometimes)...i can totally appreciate the creativity and high-level of technique that these establishments achieve, and who doesnt LOVE when a wine is expertly suggested by a master sommelier? i wish i could do it waaaay more often, but plain and simple, it doesnt fit in my budget and lifestyle right now. just cant justify it. which is partially what has shaped my eating patterns these days, and i reckon a good number of other hounds....

              all that being said, its now been a couple months since i wrote that post, and the food trucks keep rollin in. and, for the large part i think, keep disappointing. i mentioned above that i dont have high expectations of the trucks, and so far most i've tried dont raise the bar very high. i'm really starting to hesitate branching out past my tried and true plate lunch wagon near work, that serves pretty decent local grindz at a higher quality that most. not everything they do is good or appealing to me, but its mostly solid, humble, homemade stuff. ronny's express lunch wagon in kaka'ako.

              anyway, sorry if i insulted you, really. my intent was not to attack you and i really thought my tone reflected that...

              - fatsy

              1. re: fatstern

                I still do not see where only "street food" should be considered.

                Is not CH about food, regardless of the pedigree?

                Does being served from a cart, or a truck, make it more "CH-worthy?"

                Is there maybe a FAQ that I missed along the years?

                I comment on what I enjoy, and that always focuses on the food, with other attributes falling into place. I have done several trucks (the old ones, plus some new ones) and have been underwhelmed. However, and not too far removed from "street food," we loved Nico's - well, my wife loved them, and I loved her dish, while mine was not the greatest. Still, that is NOT linen table clothes, jacket dining with 20 pieces of flatware.

                Especially when we travel, our concentration is on dinner, and most ARE fine-dining, but that is just us. We also enjoy little diners, that do great breakfasts, and some times have the opportunity for lunch. Last major review that I did on Maui featured a couple of lunches at smaller spots, plus a couple of breakfasts, though our dinners were at higher-end restaurants. Is that a bad thing? Can a ChowHound contributor not appreciate fine dining, or is there some secret code, that I have missed?

                It almost seems that if a restaurant has table clothes and a wine steward, then some on CH discount that, but I hope that I am wrong.

                As for the "tone," it came across as any fine-dining should not be discussed on CH, and I fail to see that as applicable. Again, maybe I missed a memo that only carts are acceptable for any CH comments?


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  damn man, i think we're just missing each other on this one.....i'm gonna let sleeping dogs lie.

        2. When I was in North Shore, I went to the beloved Giovanni's Shrimp Truck for the garlic shrimp and frigging good..
          It's like crack on a plate of sticky garlic goodness..
          ; )

          3 Replies
          1. re: Beach Chick

            Quite a memorable quote there, Beach Chick.

            " crack on a plate of sticky garlic goodness."

            Sounds as delicious as it must have tasted. Good one!

            1. re: Tripeler

              Aloha Trip..
              It's so sublime and I've never had a sticky garlic goo taste so damn good..
              Do they have a rehab for that kind of thing?
              : )

              1. re: Beach Chick

                Rehab? Uh, yeah, but it involves lots of shrimp, garlic and crisped up rice...

          2. I believe there is a food truck event on Friday, April 29 beginning at 5 p.m. in the parking lot at the corner of Pohukaina and South streets. Food trucks are probably a flash-in-the pan trend, so why not enjoy them for what they are and show some support for local entrepreneurs.

            There is one I patronize because it is sort of mixed metaphor about food. It's a food truck bearing the likeness of a Japanese Shogun and called Shogunei, but offers an interesting selection of tacos (Greek, Thai, etc.) as well side dishes that seem to be from the eastern Mediterranean rather than Sea of Japan.

            3 Replies
            1. re: honu2

              Yes, the ever informative K-Man made a separate post about it with a link.

              1. re: manomin

                Hey Beach Trick.. 4 mths and counting and thought I better come online soon and start my chow worth spots to hit on oahu and mauii. have your sticky shrimp goodness on my list.. You never steer me wrong. I know i will find some good recs from you on maui as well such as hula girl barefoot :O)

                1. re: palmtree38

                  Aloha my sista....
                  Beach Trick..Love great to hear from you!
                  I've been jonesing for that garlic sticky shrimp over 2 scoops of white rice...OMG..crack on a plate..
                  Giovanni's is the food truck in North Shore..
                  You heading to Maui too?
                  Where are you staying...Napili?
                  Let's hear what you got planned so we can all help you...start a new thread.
                  Mahalo palmtree

            2. that group of food trucks at Kuhio and Kaiolu are gone. Don't know where or why, but I do know some waikiki residents really didn't like having them there... go figure.

              5 Replies
              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Everyone is on Twitter so they are easy to find that way. BTW, Camille's On Wheels is on vacation this week and Melt is closing down after this week.

                1. re: manomin

                  good to know... i guess eventually im gonna have to learn how to twitter. sigh....

                  1. re: manomin

                    Too bad about MELT, but you can't live on overpriced Melted Cheese Sandwiches in tropical climates. Shave Ice is more appropriate.

                    1. re: russkar

                      They are opening a place in Kailua called Prima. It is next to Foodland in the old Mama's Pizza which then was Blazing Steaks.