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Food Truck Frenzy...No More?...

I was, this evening, among 15 or so trucks and not a one seemed appealing. They showed up for the Thurs Farmer's Market/Cinco de Mayo in Newhall. I had the Gringowood salad bowl from Gringo's Tacos. For $5 it was ok. I ordered an ice coffee from Maui Wowi(?) for 3.50$ -it tasted like MUD! Shrimp Pimp looked interesting but, I didn't feel like forking over 9 bucks esp. when I have bigger and better in my freezer at home.

Baby's BadAss Burgers has a nice looking pink truck but, no one was standing in line. Even King Kone was lineless. So, has the infatuation worn off? Is this phenom getting out of hand as quoted by Josh Hiller from RoadStoves? Or, am I just missing the good ones. I do like the Dosa Truck...

Well, one more chance to try a few...
But, I'm really not impressed.

What say you?
Really...I am interested in your opinion.

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  1. I would have to agree that not all trucks are created equal. Most try to be trendy and cool, and aren't completely about the food. My favorites:
    The Ludo Truck - LFC...enough said, right? Ludo's fried chicken is like magic. The chicken croquettes, chicken wings, and buttermilk-fried chicken strips...all are super yummy. They take three days to prepare the potatoes for the Kennebec fries, which results in a super crispy yet pillowy soft inside french fry. The slaw is acidic enough to counterbalance the fact that you're eating fried chicken and fries, but has a great punch of heat from the jalapenos. I was impressed with the homemade berniase sauce that comes with the meal...there's a homemade mustard, and a homemade bbq sauce, too. I've only tried the bernaise because I love it so much. I've tried their famous lavender-honey biscuit...and it's really not as spectacular as people say...the honey was there, and so was the lavender and it was flaky, but there seems to be something missing. The food while is great, can be on and off. I've had days where everything is piping hot, and days where it's just warm.
    Border Grill Truck - One word...tacos. Yummy yummy tacos. My favorite is the fried fish taco that's glazed slightly with some honey and topped with pickled onions and slaw. It's by far the best rendition of the fish taco that I've ever had. The touch of sweet from the honey balances out all the other flavors. My only complaint is that there's not enough taco....three bites isn't enough for me, The chicken taco, while good, I can't remember, so probably not noteable however the busy working the truck recommended it. However the cochinita pibil taco was delightful. I always love me some suckling pig taco.
    Kogi - I know this is a controversial pick, but I really do like Kogi. The flavors of the food are balanced well. I've had a few imitators, and I always love the Kogi burrito more...fluffy, fluffy eggs, well seasoned meat, flavorful slaw...copiers beware...your imitation just can't live up to this one. While I'm not a fan of their blackjack quesadilla....too much sauce that overpowers all the other stuff in the quesadilla, I do like their tacos...with the spicy pork filling being my favorite.
    Coolhaus - Candied bacon and brown butter ice cream....perfect! Pistachio truffle ice cream. So yummy! The cookies are not all that great, but the ice cream is really good.

    Border Grill
    1445 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

    3 Replies
    1. re: attran99

      Hi attran99, totally agree with your assessment that many just aren't very good and all about the trend. I have been lucky enough to find a couple of other trucks that have decent and reasonably priced food:

      Komodo - it's asian fusion, but very tasty, with fresh toppings, and nice portions. The java taco has spicy pork, there's a crispy fish taco with grapes, and a carne taco with a nice jalapeno aioli. The sides are meatballs or fries, and the portions are big, and fries are decent, thin, crispy and well seasoned.

      Nom-Nom - yes the banh mi is all that, and huge!! They also have a lemongrass chicken taco that I really liked. Really just tried the banh mi, but was impressed by the size & freshness of the baguette.

      And my husband had good things to say about the Flying Pig truck's spicy pork belly burrito.

      1. re: Phurstluv

        I totally agree with you on Nom Nom, too! The banh mi fillings are super traditional...just the way my Mom would make them while we were growing up. However, I wish their picked vege was more pickled and they made their own mayo fresh...traditional Vietnamese mayo is made with egg yolks, oil, salt, and maybe some garlic. I do find their bread not as super fresh as banh mi shops who use baguettes that used to be in the oven about an hour before being used to make sandwiches.

    2. Anybody else read the LAT article on the whole food truck thing hitting the point of oversaturation?

      11 Replies
      1. re: Akitist

        I've been saying this since the first food truck festival.


        BTW, that LAT article was a crock. I don't eat @ Taco Zone for the communal factor, I do it cuz they taste great @ 1.25/ea

        1. re: ns1

          I have never understood the whole food truck mania (I refuse to use the word "frenzy").

          Why would I want to chase down a food truck, then wait around for 1/2 hour, to have a mobile unit that when I was growing up was affectionately called a "roach coach" prepare something that I could arguably get at a brick and mortar place that is just as good and perhaps cheaper and with better service. To top it off, I have to eat the food standing, often in the hot sun.

          No thanks.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I totally hear ya, ipse, and had those exact same thoughts & feeling initially. That's probably why I still have never tried Kogi, even though I know now you can buy them without chasing down the trucks. I've only chased down one, to much unsuccess, since they parked in a private lot, even though they publicly tweeted about it.

            I happened upon Nom-Nom while actually looking for a b&m store by An's daughter that sells banh mis to go. And I looked up Komodo first, before following them over to the same spot in SaMo. And just for the record, both times, I waited in line <10 minutes. And, I went back to my car to eat, I don't stand & eat generally either. But I was pleasantly surprised both times.

            1. re: Phurstluv

              It's funny, but if you were served the SAME food at a sit-down brick and mortar place, you'd be sort of non-plussed.

              But because it came out of a hip "food truck" (and now "food bus" if you're in SF), then it's a transcendental experience ... like the Dali Lamai kissing you on the forehead.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I guess that's right, since it does surprise me to get decent food served from a mobile unit roach coach. But I certainly didn't consider it transcendental, thanks.

            2. re: ipsedixit

              This off shoot of the original RC approach (Hey, I'm a poet) which stemmed from the captive office audience who either couldn't or didn't want to brown bag it or go out for lunch somewhere was really all about giving bar goers, or shoppers someplace to grab a bite on the way home. It has morphed into something that is/was hipper than thou for the LA scenesters (if you will) and a way for those who don't want or can't go to the time and expense of doing a bricks and mortar restaurant a way to get into the game.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  More like Pet Pop-rocks (since these are consumable).

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Three weeks back on a Friday there was a food truck festival - in the parking lot of Webster's in Altadena. We came back thoroughly disappointed. Unfortunately it turned out to be quite cold, and waiting in line for the two food trucks that we tried was NOT pleasant. Had the weather been warmer (like today), it might not have been as bad.
                We tried a Phily cheese-steak truck, with the requisite "wit or witout" jargon! We were the second order they took at that point in time (we tried to go to this thinking the line was non-existent, and so the food would come quickly, while I then stood in the long line for the Shrimp PoBoy truck). My wife got the order 15 minutes later! The sandwich was OK, and for $8 an extremely poor value proposition.
                From the shrimp truck we got two "drunken" shrimp tacos for my wife, for $5. I have never seen smaller tacos - these must have been special ordered, because I have never seen this microscopic sized tacos in any market, ever!
                My $8 shrimp sandwich was fine, but again nothing to remember past the weekend! Waiting in line for so long to get overpriced food in the cold - JUST SAY NO! On the way back home, we stopped at Bulgarini for two scoops of gelato, and talked to Leo for a while.

                At Caltech, Ernie's Truck serves most meals for between $3 and $4, and wait time ranges from 5-10 minutes (depending on when you get there). That I will patronize on a continuing basis!

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I like the concept of trucks offering something different you can't easily get. But I've always been lost on the concept of following them on twitter so I can drive somewhere to get their food.

                  My personal take on it is that lunch trucks are their for my convenience. I can't go get food easily, I walk out and there's the truck. I'm not there to chase them down and hope they're still there and haven't left already but forgot to tweet about it. If I'm after trying new and different foods, I'd rather compile a list of places I want to try and drive to them and know they're there.

            3. The trucks collectively may be working on nuking their collective fridge, but there are still tasty bites to be had and I still like the concept, process. Love how they all include sales tax in their price and usually make the transaction easy, love how they all tend to be customer focused.

              The SO had mandoline grill the other night, I had lomo arigato, both were just as good as they have ever been.

              1. There are always about 6-8 trucks parked near my office (Ocean Park/31st) and each time I wander over and buy lunch, I'm disappointed. The only trucks that I have consistent success with are the Dogtown truck and the Greasy Wiener truck - both have amazing hot dogs.

                Yesterday, I spent about $8 for one of the worst carne asada concoctions I've ever eaten, it was rubbery, chewy, gross. Had to buy a second lunch elsewhere, after throwing the truck lunch away.

                There's one good Indian truck that I lucked upon last month that I've never found again, and didn't get their name. Sigh.

                4 Replies
                1. re: yogachik

                  Maybe the Dosa Truck. I liked that one. Great Banana pakoras!

                  1. re: yogachik

                    I'm at the same corner for work. Probably Bollywood Bites. Dosa hasn't come by in months until they showed up this week, India Jones also hasn't been in forever and No Tomatoes practically lives there so you would have seen it again. Personally I'm an India Jones fan of the bunch.

                    On the food truck topic I think of it this way: There's a chinese restaurant near my house that I order in from at least once a month. Do you think it's any good? No. Would I recommend it on Chowhound? I'm not sure I'd recommend it to my next door neighbor. But every now and then, when I'm driving home from work, I have a desire to quickly pick up some Moo Shu, and this place is easy and mostly edible. The whole food truck thing is great in that when I don't have time to get in my car or bring my own lunch instead of having a couple of options nearby, I now have three times as many. I've tried a whole lot of them, some I'd go out of my way for, some I enjoy having around my office but thats it and some I'll never try again. At the end of the day, at least I've gotten to try lots of new things for relatively cheap.

                    1. re: Discokill

                      It's definitely not No Tomatoes. Maybe Bollywood Bites. I keep looking though.

                      Bollywood Cafe
                      11101 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604

                    2. re: yogachik

                      I tried Dogtown last night -- it was late and I was hungry. For six bucks, I was expecting something a little more impressive. The wiener on the "Spicy Angelino" dog was small, I couldn't taste the bacon, and...well, I can eat a hot dog with salsa on a generic bun at home.

                      I'd eat it again if it was available and I was hungry and there were no other options, but I'd hardly go out of my way to get one.

                    3. my first thought upon seeing the title of your post was the article from yesterday's LAT Food section that Akitist mentioned:

                      1. While still a convenience of sorts, I think the generation of food trucks representing cutting edge cuisine has "jumped the shark". Too many mediocre contenders have thinned the gene pool leaving the handful of good ones, wallowing in their wake. And so it goes.

                        1. Is that Nom Nom truck the one on the Great Food Truck race on foodtv? They are so cute and so cool.

                          11 Replies
                            1. re: Phurstluv

                              They definitely have the cleavage and tight t-shirt factor going for them.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Wow, didn't even notice. Guess I was too busy kneeling & bowing before the Dalia Lama.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Uhhmm...this is SO not what I meant!

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    it's clearly working for them...they're hiring right now so business must be good. of course i guess their success could have *something* to do with the food they serve ;)

                                2. re: Godslamb

                                  Imagine how much more successful they would be if the food was better.

                                  1. re: Jase

                                    Have you tried them? The banh mi is pretty good. Granted the tacos are just okay, but it's really all about that 12" long sammie on a fresh baguette.

                                    1. re: Phurstluv

                                      if it's not buy 2 get 1 free I don't care.

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        That's fine, more for me. Anyway, they have enough business, they don't need to give the food away.

                                      2. re: Phurstluv

                                        Yes, I've tried them a few times. I did one of the first write ups here when they started. I don't think they're as bad as some of the hard core Vietnamese lovers here think they are. But even taking into account the higher pricing and convenience for Westside, I think they're barely acceptable to satisfy the craving.

                                        Without even comparing it to SGV or OC shops, but by it's own merit, I think it's only an average sandwich. Certainly not one I'd go out of my way for.

                                        1. re: Jase

                                          I certainly wouldn't attempt to compare them to anything in SGV or OC, and I don't get the feeling they are trying to be "uber" authentic. I am also not one to "follow" them around the city. But for a tasty treat from a truck that satisfied my banh mi craving, I think they're pretty good.

                                  2. Hi... Though I loved the chow at the Wat Thai in N. Hollywood, I find that Los Angeles food trucks share the same experiential component that also greatly diminished (for me) the Wat Thai experience: the purgatorial queues. I am not talking about the 'wait' factor really, be it 5 minutes or 20 minutes, as I am as resigned to my self-imposed pilllar-of-salthood as the next doofus. Nope, time isn't the issue. But hungry/ravenous strangers who often grudgingly approximate a queue (more often, an amorphous amoeba-like mass with vague and questionable fronts and ends), all listing forward on their toes in an effort to see/hear if what they've been waiting to order has been sold out (due to the stock-pile-style ordering techniques by patrons who are not about to inhale their exploratory taco and then find themselves at the back of the line wanting more), does not constitue a communal summer-of-love vibe to me. No one I've met in food truck lines share their taco like a doobie with the nearest stranger. By night, someone toward the front will be texting with their buddies who are still looking for parking nearby, serving as point-man for an invisble foursome of dissipated inebriates in futile search of caloric sobriety and parallel parking. By day, the desperate/furtive glances at watches, the said-to-no-one-in particular asides about the correlation between indecision when ordering and intelligence quotient, and the dawn-of-the-dead thousand-mile stare that creeps over each face as the overhead sun threatens to melt the last chunk of good-nature into a puddle on the searing pavement, are just too depressing in the end. It's not like we're all standing in a tight and neat line, swaying to folk guitar stylings, awaiting the chance to donate blood to the Red Cross for the destitute children of Atlantis; we're there to wrangle that last serving of porkbelly before the merciless Archons of the Demi-urge intones: "Sold out"... Food truck queues may not be Hell. They're simply the lines forming at the entrance... P.S. - I do like the Lardon truck (frisee with lardon) near the corner of Chatsworth and Zelza on first Fridays!

                                    1. As my Daddy used to say, "you pays your money and you takes your choice."
                                      Use judgement. The Vietnamese tacos from the NomNom truck had boring toritillas: Cold and small. The fillings were ok. Bahn Mi next time.
                                      The Dim Sum truck had quality dumplings. I will check them again and again.
                                      A barbeque truck in Langer's square on the CycLAvia a few weeks back had a pulled pork that rocked.
                                      It's nice to have options, and the trucks vary these options. I hope to try more, soon.

                                      1. We've lined up twice at Kogi (the white truck) when they were parked beside the Coffee Gallery in Altadena, first from curiosity (and it's in our general neighborhood), second time to try other things. Nice, but not awesome or cheap. And I'm getting too old to stand around either freezing or broiling for 45 minutes to get a really expensive snack.

                                        On the other hand, if we've gotten out of a meeting or movie too late for Pasadena's chronically early closing times (what, you're up past your bedtimes??), we know where we can get a really nice late meal for cheap: at the truck parked in the lot at Fair Oaks and Bellevue. Don't even remember the name, but the tacos are good and honest and cheap. After all this "truck revolution" hooha, tacos is what trucks do best. Except maybe for the old guy in Nashville that did the amazing fried chicken …

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Is this the famous "Nishikawa" taco truck (because it stops at the Nishikawa Tools parking lot)?

                                          1. re: suvro

                                            Yes. I think the truck itself is "El Gallo" or something like that. One of our favorite things about eating there is the constantly-changing mix of customers; we were sitting on the wall one night exchanging instant reviews of what we were eating with three teenage Asian girls, and one thing we all agreed on was that the lengua tacos were the best!

                                        2. They were supposed to have this huge food truck gathering at the Del Mar Fairgrounds this summer but was just recently canceled but the joke of it all was that they were charging for parking, admission to get in and for two people it added up to $39..
                                          This is before eating anything from a food truck!
                                          How absurd..they need to get over themselves and realize your a food truck.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                            Wow, but don't blame the trucks on that one, Beach Chick, that is the race track's revenue there, not the trucks.

                                            And the trucks may even have to pay a fee to park there, not sure. This is the same type of deal at Santa Anita, where I used to work. But you're at a race track with built in entertainment. There is always going to be a fee to park, like $5 for general. And an admission fee, that's how the tracks work. If you find those fees exorbitant, and some do, then you're best bet is to follow the truck you want to eat at on Twitter, then meet up with them, early, when they park at a location that is convenient to you. That's what I do. But to complain about the fees a track charges to expose you to several different trucks at once is not really worth it. A lot of them congregate together anyway, so its possible to find one truck you want to try, next to a line of others you may not have even known about before.

                                            1. re: Phurstluv

                                              I don't blame the trucks but why would I want to spend $39 for 2 and we haven't had anything to eat?
                                              IMHO, this is the craziness of it all..

                                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                                Believe me, I worked for a track and I don't get it either. The tracks are there to make money from the gamblers. Those who come only to feed on the food trucks have to deal with the regulars that come by each week and drop their whole paychecks.

                                              2. re: Phurstluv

                                                I'd blame the trucks. I'd think it's part of their responsibility to find out how the event is set up. Then figure out how that would affect revenue and operations. Especially if they're going to need to pay a fee on top of that. Going blindly into an event and paying a fee on top of that doesn't sound like good business management to me.

                                                1. re: Jase

                                                  There seems to be a food truck festival at every race track, even when the live racing is elsewhere. Whether they pay a fee or not, I don't know. But if it's such bad business management, I get the feeling it wouldn't be happening with such regularity.

                                                  1. re: Phurstluv

                                                    Just because it's happening regularly doesn't preclude it from being bad management.

                                            2. as many have already said, not all food trucks are created equal. but, same as restaurants, from the greasy spoon to the high end.

                                              in this convo, we are generally talking the "gourmet" trucks, not the average trucks we have seen around LA for years.

                                              that said, there are good food trucks out there. I think the main factor in deciding is the taste, creativity and price. If I can't get a decent item or two for $5, I don't think it's worth it. Unfortunately, high gas prices and rising food prices due to commodity speculation has hurt them. As it is hurting all restaurants.

                                              based on my criteria. Taste - Price ($5 price point) - Creativity, Kogi is in the top (none of the many Korean imitators come close). Grilled Cheese. Dogtown. Many of the rest mentioned here don't make the cut based losing out in 1 or more of my categories of my 3 point criteria.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: dharmathug

                                                There have been quite a few strong recommendations and posts on the LA board for the Lobsta Truck as well.

                                                Lobsta Truck
                                                , Los Angeles, CA

                                                  1. re: Kitchen Queen

                                                    Exactly - expensive. But then again, you can't get a cheaper one in a restaurant so maybe this is the exception that makes my rule.

                                                    1. re: dharmathug

                                                      Exactly... people go, That's expensive! But it's LOBSTER! And its a good amount of lobster! People play more than that for Lobster Ravioli/Salad/etc... that has LESS Lobster...



                                                    2. re: Kitchen Queen

                                                      They are flying it in from the East Coast. Still think $12 is a valid price point for the product. And frankly, it's not that much cheaper when you are on the East Coast.

                                                1. Although the trend may have peaked, the food truck phenomenon has also forever changed the landscape of modern dining. There are many places in the greater LA area that lack for decent food options, and the food trucks help fill that need. There aren't many dining options along Pennsylvania and 26th, and having food trucks there doesnt hurt local business and fills a need. I do follow certain ones on Twitter, including Big Mista who doesn't food truck.

                                                  There have been some gems. Get Shaved provided the best Hawaiian shave ice in the LA area, but have now set up two permanent locations, in Northridge and Torrance.

                                                  I liked the Nom Nom truck since Banh Mi is hard to come by on the Westside.

                                                  I also like the South Philly truck. Really good Philly Cheesesteak.

                                                  BigGroadhouse has gotten raves over his burgers and crab cakes

                                                  Thanks to the CH'ers who give us updates on various trucks. I think trucks, farmer's markets and carts are part of the new dining landscape via Twitter and Facebook.