Archive for 'Food Truck'

A Curry on Wheels Truck is One of the Good Ones

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If the excitement for food trucks is on the decline here in L.A. nobody has bothered to tell prospective food truck entrepreneurs. Every time I hit up my favorite food truck lot for lunch it seems another (usually ridiculous) idea has placed itself on four wheels- from nachos to peanut butter topped hamburgers.  And while many early gourmet food truck fans have given up on finding anything of quality off of a truck that seems to have spent more time on their logo than researching their business plan, I still can’t help myself.  Sure, the relatively low barrier to entry has created a parade of mediocre trucks run by wannabe cooks who are in over their head- both financially and culinar-ally (yes, I just made that word up.)  But occasionally you stumble upon something so genius- I’m looking at you sushi burritos- or just plain tasty, that it restores your faith in the whole genre.  And if you work in an office near Mid Wilshire, or 26th & Pennsylvania, or Olympic and Bundy, or Overland and Washington, or 7th & Fig, being a snob about food trucks doesn’t really seem like an option.

So when I read on Grub Street that a new Japanese curry truck was hitting the street, I got a little excited.

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Lidia’s Dominican Truck Brings Patacon Pisao to L.A.

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I still remember the very first time I read about the sandwich known as patacon Maracucho. Named for the city in Venezuela that it comes from (Maracaibo), I remember it because for somebody as committed to being fat as I am finding out about a sandwich that uses fried plantains in place of bread is something that sticks with you.  Yes, you heard that right.  There is a town in Venezuela where they take shredded meat and sandwich it between two large patties made up of fried plantains.  (KFC Double Down, eat your artery clogged heart out.)

In New York, this sandwich (and the popular Vendy Award nominated truck that serves it) became known as patacon pisao, literally flattened plantain, and the rest is history. The open faced version of the dish, known simply as patacon, can be found at any number of Columbian restaurants in L.A. (like Cafe Columbia in Burbank.)  But the Venezuelan sandwich version is a bit more rare. So you can imagine how excited I was to read that the newly launched Lidia’s Dominican Truck was serving up their own version of patacon pisao off a truck on Miracle Mile.

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Pokey Truck Betting That L.A. Wants More Sushi Burritos

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It’s no secret that the Jogasaki Truck is one of my favorite new trucks to hit Los Angeles in the past year. Their sushi burritos are not only the perfectly portable food truck treat, but they’re also a good value and delicious. If they parked outside my office, I’d probably eat one every day.  Most of the press they received (and it was a lot for awhile there) was of the “can you believe this truck is making sushi burritos!?” variety, but apparently there were others who saw Jogasaki for what it is… a genius idea, worthy of copying.

A few months ago The Pokey Truck hit the streets of Los Angeles, and if you thought their signature item was going to be Hawaiian poke (like you get at this great place on the Venice Beach boardwalk) guess again.  It’s another sushi burrito truck.

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Angelica’s Cemita Truck is a Westside Gem

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If you live and/or work in Culver City you’ve likely noticed the new Westside Food Truck Central lot on Washington and Culver.  In fact it’s become such a popular lunchtime destination that they’ve extended their lunchtime schedule to 5 days a week, 11am to 2:30pm (they also have trucks out there for dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays.)   I’m a huge fan, and whenever I’m in the mood for some gourmet food truck action, near where I live, I now know where to go without even checking twitter (although they do have a twitter account to let you know their daily schedule.)  But that’s not the only place for a truck lunch in the area, and if old school loncheros is more your thing  it turns out one of the best trucks in the city parks on Venice and Jasmine (right in front of Smart & Final.)

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Mariscos Jalisco is the Lunchtime Taco Champ

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Over the weekend LA Taco’s 3rd Annual Taco Madness came to a close, and in the closest vote of all time Mexicali Taco & Co (in Westlake) was crowned the champ of Los Angeles tacos.  Only one problem for this lunch hunter…  they’re only open at night!  In fact, sometimes it seems like most of the great taco trucks are only open late at night (Leo, I’m looking at you.)  So when I saw that the Taco Madness Runner Up, Mariscos Jalisco was *only* open for lunch I got pretty excited.  Add to that the fact that they’re pretty close to Downtown, and dispatched (the amazing) Ricky’s Fish Tacos (1400 Virgil, Hollywood) in the semi finals, and I couldn’t resist heading over Monday to check it out.

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Komodo’s Storefront Makes Me a Reluctant Fan

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It seems that these days more and more food trucks are getting into the brick and mortar business.  It might appear to be a prestige or legitimacy thing to some, and I’m sure there are food trucks chefs who always saw a restaurant as their end goal.  But at its core, having a storefront is one of the best financial moves a food truck owner can make.  For one thing it gives your fans a static location to enjoy your food (a necessity for running any kind of retail establishment), but more than that it gives you a home base for your operations that actually generates revenue. It doesn’t guarantee success, and I wouldn’t recommend opening a restaurant to anybody. But if your concept is good, having a brick and mortar business spreads the overhead of your truck out and gives you a better chance of being profitable over all.

What many people don’t realize is that food trucks don’t really operate rent free.  In addition to the cost of running the trucks themselves, they also have to pay rent at a commissary or commercial kitchen to do all the prep work (and in some cases, a lot of the cooking.)   Having a self sustaining brick and mortar restaurant to utilize for prep is a great way to place less of a profit burden on your truck, and it’s part of the reason that it is far more economical for a restaurant to launch a food truck spin off, then it is for a food truck to launch on its own.

And that’s the main reason why you’re seeing so many food trucks going brick and mortar these days. Flying Pig has plans to open 3 restaurants, Coolhaus is opening a shop in Culver City this summer, and Komodo recently opened a storefront on Pico and Robertson- which I went to check out the other day.

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Manila Machine’s Response

For those who are interested, Manila Machine posted a response to my article on their blog yesterday.  It misses the point of my post, and twists some of my words around, but in a one hour conversation I had with co-owner Nastassia yesterday apologizing to her for any grief I might have caused them and explaining my editorial in detail, I told her I would post any response they had and promote it with just as much vigor as I promoted my own words.  But just for the record, I still stand by everything I wrote yesterday- and know that it is 100% true.

What I really wanted people to get out of my post yesterday was that running a profitable food truck is way more difficult than the media and food trucks themselves (who want to protect their reputations for future endeavors) would lead to you believe.  As somebody who has spent the past 4+ years supporting so many of these new food trucks (both in New York and Los Angeles) I’ve read too many of these rosey, “closing to pursue other opportunities” PR announcements.  Food truck owners need to realize that their actions effect the whole community of street food vendors, old and new.  And if you’re considering jumping into the street food world for any other reason than to create a sustainable, long term food truck business, you should reconsider, because it ends up hurting those who rely entirely on their food trucks to pay their bills.

I know that Marvin & Nastassia didn’t get into the food truck business for the wrong reasons.  The passion and love they brought to their food was clearly on display every single day, and it’s why I loved the truck from the beginning.  In fact, as one of their biggest supporters, and somebody who wants to see great food trucks like the Manila Machine succeed, it’s their continued insistence to spin Friday’s announcement as “good news” (or a “wonderful end”)  that makes me so sad.

Related:
LA Food Fest Tasting Event Makes Me Super Excited For The Manila Machine
Manila Machine is a Great Gateway to Eating More Face