The latest four wheeled foodie fad, born out of cities like LA and NY, has finally reached PVD. Parked at farmers markets and intersections, these artisanal restaurants on wheels are showcasing specialty products ranging from gourmet sausages to vegan juices. The food truck makes high-quality, cheap food accessible to the local community. The chef, rather than being hidden away in the kitchen, is at the sliding window handing his product to the community members whom he knows by name. Business owners are no longer obligated to make the burdensome financial investment that a brick and mortar involves. The overhead is low; dreams of owning a food business can be realized by searching Craigslist for a used truck. And the more, the hungrier. So far, multiple food truck businesses in one city are creating not competition, but collaboration. Trucks tweet at one another, trade cupcakes for tacos, and six of them together at a farmer’s market create a veritable gourmet food court. Mobile dining has exploded along with social networking platforms like Twitter and FourSquare in a simultaneous increase in instantaneity in food and where to get it. Followers of a business on Twitter receive up-to-the minute postings to their Smartphone telling them exactly where to find a quesadilla dripping with cheese. And if you haven’t checked your Twitter, you might tap into the mystical aura surrounding the food truck. The truck appears as if out of nowhere, just when you could use a fresh-baked cupcake. Fine dining has been humbled, or street food has been glorified. Either way, I’m getting in line.
Juices and smoothies
Jay and Josie like juice. And they are good at making it. The tattooed newlyweds, Jay Nutini and Josie Morway, create innovative, local, organic juices and smoothies out of their self-designed truck (she’s an artist, he’s in metal fabrication). Concoctions such as Pear Vanilla Soy Shake with Dates, or the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie with pumpkin, pears, almond milk, maple syrup, and spices surprise and rejuvenate their loyal customers. As Jay insists of his invigorating juices, “It makes you feel alive.” The couple gets their produce for juices like Cucumber and Apple with Basil and Lemon from local farms, and the menu is inspired by whatever is fresh and available. They experiment with different flavor combinations, and with herbs and spices such as thyme and cayenne pepper. Josie even makes a sweet potato based juice with orange and pear. For them, this truck is also an opportunity to teach people about eating seasonally, and appreciating the local specialties. They are currently debuting hot drinks just in time for winter, featuring vanilla-mulled apple cider as the star. Intrigued? Find the truck on Saturday mornings outside the Frog and Toad shop on Hope Street, and check on Twitter for changing locations.
Follow on Twitter @pvdjuiceco
Erica Saladino and Kristin Amico are the women behind this dessert truck that is cute enough to eat. Tired of stifling jobs, the longtime friends decided to drop everything, and put their homebaking skills, pastry classes at Johnson and Wales, and a passion for desserts to the test. They are currently focusing on cupcakes, both egg-and-butter-laden and vegan — a tribute to Erica who has been vegan for years.
The aesthetic of the 1953 truck, as designed by Erica, a RISD grad and graphic designer, is simple and understated. Buttercream white and adorned with only the sprinkle-pink Sugarush logo, it is pretty, pure, like the cupcakes these stylish women are serving up. The classic carrot cake is crowned with heavenly cream cheese frosting and the coconut is a fluffy cloud of deliciousness, dense in flavor but light as air. The vegan cupcakes boast a fluffiness I thought eluded anything not made with eggs and milk. The vegan Meyer Lemon Lavender is bright and citrusy, with a hint of soothing lavender to counter the lemony tang. Sure, cupcakes are cutesie, but these flavors are not to be trifled with. Erica and Kristin will be out until the snow stops them, with coffee and other baked goods, including a new pumpkin spice cupcake, joining the ranks. And when the messy weather keeps their truck in the garage, look for their cupcakes now being served at the Cable Car Cinema.
Follow on Twitter @sugarushtruck
Sausages and sandwiches
Matt Gennuso’s personal passion is for all meats, cased and cured. He launched his gourmet sausage truck last August as a way to share the . Gennuso, who co-owns Chez Pascal restaurant on Hope Street with his wife Kristin, proudly states that all sausages are homemade, as are the sauces and condiments, and the bacon and pastrami are house-cured. The menu rotates among twelve specialties, including a Peking inspired sausage with peppadew and papaya relish, and a pork belly sandwich topped with a smiling fried egg. Gennnuso is a proud proponent of meat, but the Sloppy Joe, with sweet potato and butternut squash with Hannahbell cheese pinch hitting for beef, would tempt even the most vehement carnivore.
In addition to running a full-service French restaurant, Gennuso himself is in the truck two days a week. When he is back the Chez Pascal kitchen, restaurant workers Val and Chris take the wheel to joke with regulars, ooh and ahh over babies and puppies from the park, and hand out bacon wrapped pork meatloaf sandwiches with peach compote. In warm weather, you can also find their hot dog stand in Lippitt Park, across the street from Chez Pascal. Gennuso dreams of someday completing the meat trinity—stand, truck, full blown restaurant—and opening up a sausage joint as well. In the meantime, Hewtin’s Dogs will keep on trucking, bringing out sugar pumpkin bisque with brown butter to fight the cold, through the winter and indefinitely.
Follow on Twitter @ChezPascal
Tuesday at Grant’s Block facing Johnson & Wales off of Weybosset
Wednesday – Friday at Roger Williams Memorial State Park, corner of N. Main and Smith
Saturday in front of Chez Pascal restaurant, corner of Hope and Ninth Streets
Chimi trucks on Broad Street
Fast food from the Dominican Republic
They don’t have a Facebook, and you won’t be able to follow them on Twitter, but on any given night, Broad Street becomes a mecca for Dominican food trucks. La Casa del Chimi and countless other trucks line the street, and each claims to serve the best chimichurri. In this case, it is not the Argentinian condiment of the same name, but Dominican fast food. Seasoned beef, chicken, or pork spills out of a toasted roll with tomatoes and coleslaw. Or try frituras (salted fried meat), or pinchos (Dominican kebabs). Yuquitas, a Latino take on mozzarella sticks, are bits of queso fresco surrounded by mashed yucca, a root vegetable, fried to crispy and golden brown. Customers gather nightly, families with young children in line next to gangs of teenagers, to create a place of socializing and conversation, gaudy cars and a pounding base. It’s not local, and it’s hardly gourmet, it is warm and real and satisfies. Head to Broad Street with five bucks, a working knowledge of Spanish (helpful, but not required), and an appetite for smooth fried food the Dominican way.
Around 8:00 PM nightly, Broad Street.
On weekend nights, Brown students flock to the corner of Charlesfield and Thayer Streets with midnight snack on the mind. The intoxicating aroma of sizzling chicken and melting Monterrey Jack cheese draws them out of D-Phi and dorm rooms and to the taco truck. They line up for an antojito, the Mexican Spanish word that signifies not only casual street food, but also a whim or a craving. The smiling couple inside the truck is prepared to satisfy these nocturnal hankerings. They correct inebriated pronunciations of huaraches while rewarding with a tortilla piled high with pork and beans. With an almost parental consistency, they are there to forgive (or refuel) the night’s debauchery with a lovingly fried quesadilla. And since you have other things to consider than authenticity, you may not even notice the anachronistic sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on your taco. It could be the fact that it is 1:00 AM, or that the munchies have just hit with a vengeance, but this mediocre Mexican cuisine is what’s happening on Thayer on a Saturday night.
Weekend nights until 1 AM at the intersection of Charlesfield St. and Thayer St.
Like No Udder
Vegan soft serve and shakes
A loud purple truck makes a statement, and that is exactly what this vegan soft serve truck is doing. Serving shakes, soft serve, and frozen lemonade, Karen Krinsky and her truck, Like No Udder, are bringing a philosophy of conscientious eating to the East Side streets. Whether you’re a vegan, or not, who has been missing being a kid at an ice cream truck, the violet beacon offers a creamy respite to a busy day.
Among all the offerings, the sweetest thing inside is the owner. She hasn’t quite mastered her vegan recipe (she is working from a base, and creaminess can give way to chalkiness) but her enthusiasm is enough to draw you up to the window, and she is working on developing her own recipe to debut next season. The truck has only been running since spring, but Karen’s dream is more than three years in the making. It’s surreal, a vegan ice cream dream come true, and in between handing out chocolate vanilla twists, she can’t help but stop and think: “Holy shit. I’m, like, in an ice cream truck, and it’s mine!”
Vegan since 1993, Karen firmly believes in her product and the morals behind it. Every dollar spent on this ice cream is “one less dollar going toward an industry that I’m not interested in,” she states proudly. She fills a void in the Providence food scene, offering vegans soft-serve denied them by typical ice cream shops. Karen and her cow-emblazoned truck will be out until the end of October, so stop by for a taste before she packs it in for the winter, leaving us dreaming of spring and a bright purple return.
Follow on Twitter @LikeNoUdder (Mention the magic word posted on the Twitter page and get a free topping.)