There are a few things I miss about living in Los Angeles. The reliably warm sunny days, shopping at the Grove followed by lunch in the Farmer’s Market, walking the Silverlake reservoir, Marty and Elaine and copious amounts of martinis at the Dresden, those crazy-ass freeways, the proximity to Channing Tatum… It’s a great city, and it’s been kind to me. In the way that the tiger was kind to Roy that time it tried to protect him by sinking its tiger fangs into his neck and almost murdering him out of “love”. But I digress. One of the best things about Los Angeles has to be its culinary scene full of super chef rockstars all chomping at the bit to outdo each other all the while looking bored and tattied up and above it all. LA’s food scene is just that– a scene. And it’s a scene I find myself daydreaming about as I get further and further out of the foodie loop. It makes me weepy just thinking about that hamachi croque madame at Hatfield’s, the little fried bits of sweetbreads at Barbrix, and that godforsaken lobster bolognese at Melisse. Real tears. Hungry, pouty, dramatic, I’m-an-actress-what-the-eff-do-you-expect tears.
But my very favorite thing to do in Los Angeles, and the thing I did most, was hit up the food trucks. Every Angeleno worth their weight in skinny jeans knows that the food trucks are not to be taken lightly. Most are run by culinary rockstars in training who decided to take their brilliance out on the road, and with offerings like kalbi beef tacos, authentic pork bahn mi, grilled macaroni and cheese sandwiches, and peanut butter-jelly-bacon cheeseburgers, it’s no wonder these food trucks have line ups teeming with loyal fans, hungry incognito actors blowing their diets, and beaten assistants to studio execs. The lunch rush is no joke, and you best get there early to avoid the raging disappointment when you reach the front of the line only to be told that they’ve run out of cheesy tater tots. Trust me. Real tears.
And as much as I love Vancouver, it’s never been known as a food truck city. Maybe because it’s too damn cold and wet most days to spend any length of time in a lineup outdoors waiting for lunch when a perfectly good Cactus Club is practically on every street corner. (FYI: Cactus Club is fine and reliable and great. It’s also a place to go on game night when you want to be around single men looking to buy your Bellini. Not a place for a culinary epiphany, that’s for sure. Sorry, Rob Feenie.) But something has happened since I’ve been away in LA, and things have changed here in the ‘Couv. Because now everywhere I look, food trucks are popping up faster than a fight at the Roxy (local joke!).
It was time for a tour.
I waited for a sunny day– meaning a month– and dragged good ol’ Buzz out of bed from a hungover staff-party-induced stupor to start sampling some greasy delights. She warned me that the residual vodka in her veins was going to stifle her usual wit and fervour, but after watching her walk up to my house whilst doing a dance that looked like some sort of Irish jig-like ode to her vagina, I figured she was going to be just fine. We made ourselves a little map and a schedule using www.roaminghunger.com, which every food truck veteran knows is THE website to use if you’re gonna be in-the-know on where to go (hey, that rhymes in a super lame way!), and off we set into the downtown core.
Our first stop was Coma Food, a Korean/Mexican/American concept truck operated by just the cutest smiling boys a girl could ever hope to meet on a cold day. Plus, who doesn’t love a cute boy offering free spicy miso soup while you wait? The menu’s got delectables like kimchi quesadillas and korean chicken “nuggets”, all under $8, which in Buzz’s opinion, was the perfect way to “put the vodka fire out”. We ordered a round of crazy-delicious and super addictive korean bbq pork tacos, and a massive sweet and spicy ground beef burrito. Then we tried to clean up the mess of sticky sauce dribbling down our chins and hands while those cute boys laughed at us. What else is new. The best part about this truck was the lack of a lineup, which, judging by how great the food is and how friendly the staff is, isn’t going to last for long. Go!
Next stop was just a cruise up the street to Tacofino, but after being ignored by the less than cute and snippy girl at the window (“we’re out of stuff to make tacos, sorry bye”), we decided to skip it and keep walking up to the Bada Bing truck. Bada Bing is all about the Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, but they also offer a traditional poutine, “animal-style” fries (just like at In-n-Out!) with fried onions and cheese, and some sort of rice lunch plate for some reason that just wasn’t gonna happen. We opted for the chicken Philly cheesesteak, since our stomachs were full of meat from the last place, and a poutine, because Buzz is French Canadian and can’t turn down a damn poutine anywhere. For those of you crazy folk that don’t know, poutine is french fries with gravy poured on top and a heavy dose of cheese curds. In other words, you can die from it. And Bada Bing’s poutine was a pretty amazing way to go, super crispy fries, amazing gravy, and no skimping on the curds. Quebecois-approved. The sandwich, however, was pretty lacklustre, prompting Buzz to announce that she needed “some mothaf**kin’ iodine, son!”. It was way bland. Like, the elevator music of cheesesteak sandwiches bland. Maybe the beef would have been the better choice?
On we trekked to Burrard and Robson, the home of the creme de la creme of food trucks, The Roaming Dragon. This lil truck is right down the street from my yoga place, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to blow a perfectly good workout on any one of those things on their menu. This is pan-asian food you’d find in any good restaurant, done by chefs who clearly know what’s up. Vietnamese pork subs, lychee lemonade, sockeye salmon “fish and chips”, even an asian-inspired poutine! Once I calmly talked Buzz out of yet another poutine, we ordered some pork belly steamed buns and their fried rice balls. Which actually went a little something like this:
Buzz: “Hey there, buddy..”
Adorable chef: “Hi, ladies.”
Buzz: “Think we’ll take some of your balls.”
Adorable chef: “….. Um… Yep, sure thing.”
Buzz, looking at the gong hanging off the order window: “I sure like your gong. First thing I’ve seen I’ve wanted to bang all day.” BONG!
Buzz was oblivious, as usual. I was cowering in the corner laughing so hard I was crying.
The steamed buns were totally amazing fluffy little pillows of sweet and sour richness, pork belly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, topped with special sauce and a few slices of pickled cucumber. The rice balls were like a Chinese version of arancini, perfectly deep fried and topped with spicy mustard. If I wasn’t so close to throwing up at that point, I could’ve eaten a whole second order. This. Place. Was. The. Shiz.
We had one more stop in us before we washed it all down with a bottle of Pepto, so we figured we better hit up the grilled cheese truck on Howe and Georgia. The Grilled Cheese Truck in LA was always one of my very favorite trucks, and not just because they did a wine and grilled cheese night over at my favorite wine bar once a week. I miss it terribly. So I was praying to Beyonce that Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck would be just as good, if not better. And guess what? IT’S BETTER! They’ve got a meatloaf grilled cheese with marinara sauce, mozzarella and parmesan, a brie gruyere boursin triple decker grilled cheese called the Jackson 3, and even a dessert grilled cheese done on brioche with cinnamon mascarpone, caramelized apples, and pecans. Or if you’re feeling traditional, you can make up your own using their “pick your bread, pick your cheese, pick your add-ons” (which prompted Buzz to launch into a bizarre “pick your bread/bum/bubble gum” song that garnered us a few stares). Bonus? They even have tomato soup to dip your sandwich in! We ordered the Jackson 3 of course, which was just as gooey and gluttonous as it sounds, and washed it down with cherry soda, ‘cuz our stomachs were done for anyway.
And then we curled up in a ball and moaned for awhile. Or I moaned. Buzz did an impression of a mentally unfit British lady from what I can only guess is the early 1900’s.
Vancouverites! Go try these crazy trucks before word gets out and the lineups get too long! Some of them are good enough to brave even on a <gasp!> rainy day. But if I get there and you’ve cleaned them out of rice balls, you and I are going to have problems.