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Straight dish on the food truck scene?

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I'm visiting LA in a few weeks and hearing a great deal of conflicting advice about food trucks. Coming from an area with zero food trucks, I'm highly curious and eager to experience this trend. The friends I'm visiting are not really helpful, either are the conflicting blogs and websites that act as guides to the scene. One article says the LA food truck scene is declining due to increased fees (http://www.neontommy.com/news/2011/10...) and health grades pending (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09...) while others are still arguing over which of the dozens of current trucks are the best (http://www.ranker.com/list/the-best-l...).

As an outsider, can someone in the know take a few and clarify this for me? Also, apologies if links are not cool. They seemed relevant to my confusion. Thanks.

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  1. I think there was a general excitement at the handful of trucks that were doing something new and unique that has given way to the rough equivalent of your mall food court - there may be a very good option, there's likely a few decent options but there's a whole lotta bad choices.

    My personal feeling is that food trucks make a good option for lunch when they are close by or late night but there's nothing that they offer that you couldn't get better at a brick and mortar location (unless you try some of the great old school mexican ones).

    That said, they tend to congregate in the same places so if you let us know where you'll be I'm sure people on this board can direct you to some places to try. Also check out these previous conversations on the topic:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/790749
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/782930
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693099

    2 Replies
    1. re: Discokill

      If you're in the Valley, there are numerous food trucks (20+) in Granada Hills every Wednesday and Friday. There's something for everyone there. As the trucks congregate on the street, there's no charge.

      1. re: Discokill

        This is absolutely correct. Food trucks were exciting when they afforded a change of pace from the "usual suspects" people eat at near their workplaces. now there are so many that they're basically roving food courts that set up in parking lots or side streets. i can say that none of them are good "bang for the buck" deals (you'll always wind up spending $10 or more for tacos/sandwich/etc + a side). Food-wise, i can't think of any that are particularly destination-worthy. again, the beauty of the food truck was that they brought decent or unique food closer to you. no point in driving to one unless it's got something one-of-a-kind or really delicious, which is unusual. as people mention here, Kogi was the original truck so that's got historical value (korean taco trucks are in almost every large city now, though if not in yours, this might qualify as "unique" food worth finding). the Ludobites truck is good, too, though not cheap (celeb chef who quit the fine dining scene to just do food trucks and popup restaurnats). other than that, in my opinion there is no other food truck that offers anything i can't get a better version of (and probably for cheaper) someplace else.

      2. Kogi BBQ was the progenitor of the new-school food truck scene in LA (see: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/520765 and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/578016) and is still one of the best. As a visitor, you might enjoy the occasionally "only-in-LA" experience of waiting in line with locals at a Kogi truck. It definitely beats waiting in line at Pinks with tourists. Perhaps the best location to experience this is when they're at the Brig in Venice. Check the schedule at: http://kogibbq.com/#friday The atmosphere at more far-flung places (like Altadena) is less entertaining.

        It's worth checking out one of the old school trucks, too. The best one to try is somewhat dependent on your location. Unless you're staying in the SFV* or the SGV**, it's probably worth seeking out Tacos Leo, especially on a weekend when they (usually) have an al pastor spit. More info about Tacos Leo here: http://www.greattacohunt.com/2011/12/... and here: http://www.greattacohunt.com/2011/06/...

        * SFV: San Fernando Valley, or "The Valley"
        ** SGV: San Gabriel Valley

        1. A good place to try the trucks is the Santa Monica Main Street and Ocean Park Blvd. lot (behind the museum) on tuesday nights from 5-9pm weekly. Around 8-9 trucks a night, the trucks change weekly. Two of my favorites the Ludo Bites Truck and the Lobsta Truck will both be there on Tuesday Feb. 21st. They post the list of trucks a month at a time at this link:
          https://www.google.com/calendar/embed...

          -----
          Santa Monica Sunday Farmers Market
          2640 Main St, Santa Monica, CA

          1. i am surrounded by food trucks daily for lunch. honestly, i wouldn't bother with them. only a handful of them are good- i do like the lobsta truck, india jones, kogi, and eat phamish. there's also a great one for juice called 'juice on the loose'. also, mango tango for italian ices. that one is excellent. they are all pricy and i wouldn't go out of your way to find them because there is much better food to be had here in LA. that's coming from someone who is burnt out, and tired of paying top dollar for a horrible lunch from a food truck.

            1. I think I echo the fellow Chowhounders here regarding food trucks. The vast majority are mediocre to poor.

              I do like:
              Ludo Bites fried chicken
              South Philly Experience cheesesteak sandwiches
              Get Shaved for Hawaiian Shave Ice
              Nom Nom banhmi, (but you'll find better in SGV or Orange County)

              Also there are great Taco Trucks around LA. Here on the westside we have:

              La Isla Bonita on 4th and Rose in Venice for tacos during lunch time
              Also La Oaxaqena on Lincon and Rose in the evenings for tacos.
              Angelica at Venice and Clarington during lunch for tortas and especially Cemitas Poblanas

              1 Reply
              1. re: Ogawak

                Not to mention, overpriced for what you're getting.

              2. If the timing works out, you should check out First Fridays in Venice where the food trucks come out en masse and all the shops/galleries on Abbot Kinney stay open late. You'll have your pick of trucks there though only a few are great. As for which trucks, Kogi (the originator of the trend), Lobsta Truck (I like their crab sandwich more), Nom Nom (bahn mi), Coolhaus (ice cream sandwiches), Get Shaved (Hawaiian shave ice), LudoBites (fried chicken), and Grilled Cheese are some of the better ones IMO.

                On the opposite end of the spectrum, also visit a no-frills authentic Mexican taco truck. I like Tacos Leo for al pastor in the Union 76 gas station lot at the corner of La Brea and Venice.

                1. I havent' had a huge amount of exposure so I'm not at all jaded and burnt out on food trucks in LA. If you've never encountered them, I think you'll have a fun time. When you are visiting and having fun, you won't care as much if something is a dollar or 2 more, than if you have to face that everyday.

                  Once of the most fun places to encounter them is the monthly downtown LA Artwalk, which is a huge scene in itself. 2nd Thursday of every month.

                  I like Kogi korean tacos immensely

                  India Jones, esp lamb frankies

                  mango tango gelato is excellent

                  Big Mista BBQ, the sides were really good

                  Lomo Arigato - peruvian japanese fusion with great wok smoked fried rice

                  coolhause ice cream sandwiches are pure fun with crazy flavors (guiness ice cream with red velvet cookies anyone?)

                  frysmith and Ludo chicken were okay for me

                  Flying Pig - I only had a sample of the pork belly sandwich, but it was so good and I was mad at myself when I picked something else.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: coconutz

                    I thought of an even better CoolHaus combo, which was brown butter bacon ice cream (tastes like butterschotch with salty bits) and snickerdoodles or gingersnaps, can't remember

                  2. I've only enjoyed Ludo Bites, Grilled Cheese Truck and Kogi.

                    Otherwise, I'd find some good Taco Trucks around town.

                    A lot of the food trucks are pretty expensive actually for what you get and they try to be too campy with their combinations. Its oversaturation and everyone and their mother started a truck to get on the bandwagon, often with pretty mediocre results.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Xericx

                      Agree completely. There are a few good trucks and a lot of trend-surfers (most of which are trying to come up with the umpteenth conceivable combination of carne asada, bacon, duck fat, Sriracha, steamed bao, sweet potatoes, aged cheddar and saag paneer).

                      If you go to an event or location where there are a selection of food trucks handy (downtown, Eagle Rock, and Brewery art walks, SaMo, LACMA evenings, etc.), by all means do a little taste testing and have some fun with it. But I can't really fathom why in the world some people obsessively follow the Twitter feeds of some trucks, then drive 40 minutes so they can spend another 20 minutes in line for some $10 pork belly Oreos.

                      Yes, I'm getting old.