The Trucks Stop Here

From tattooed 20-year-olds with bed head to corporate refugees in their 50s, food truckers are as diverse as their menus

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Food Trucks in Orange County

Crisscrossing the county in riotously decked-out rigs, local food trucks bring affordable, delicious, and unusual snacks to the hungry masses. Although it’s inevitable that trucks will compete for business with restaurants, crafty truckers go largely where diners seek grab-and-go fare, circling at farmers markets and the vast blacktop of corporate business parks. With three new trucks on average hitting the road each month in O.C., you’ll find plenty of choices, but we think the following will keep on truckin’.

1. The Lime Truck
It’s the only local rig we know that sells out of high-end entrées at $29 a pop, including Kobe beef rib cap on caramelized brioche topped with seared foie gras and savory bread pudding with confit of beef heart in pork fat and five-spice demi-glace. Most items cost between $4 and $7. We love the Ahi Tuna Poke Nachos, above ($10). Truck chef Jesse Brockman appears this month on “The Great Food Truck Race” (see Page 70 for showtimes) with CEO Daniel Shemtob, shown, and executive chef Jason Quinn, the part-owner who has left to start Playground, his Santa Ana restaurant. 310-704-6413, twitter.com/thelimetruck.

2. Rancho A Go Go Barbeque
Chris Rocke and Brian “Country” Zalewski, the reigning Mr. Barbecue, are the good ol’ boys of the truck set. Rocke hung up his tie after 27 years in pharmaceutical management and entered the world of food trucking; Zalewski won his mock pageant title at the OC BBQ Festival. Their truck serves Carolina pulled pork and Texas brisket smoked low and slow. Try their pulled pork grilled cheese: soft white bread grilled with butter, oozing with melted American cheese, and stuffed with tender shards of smoky pork ($6). 714-376-2717, twitter.com/ranchoagogo.

3. Barcelona On The Go
With a copy of Picasso’s “Guernica” on the side and live succulents thriving in a window box, Esteban Nocito’s sleek black rig defines truck chic. The Spanish tapas-style menu revolves around rustic, meticulously prepared dishes such as expertly seared and juicy top sirloin, ladled with garlicky chimichurri and served with skin-on fries ($9). The caramel-flavored dates blanketed in bacon ($4) seem straight from a San Sebastián taverna. 949-939-6798, twitter.com/barcelonaonthego.

4. Seabirds
Fresh-faced owner Stephanie Morgan and grill cook Raya Belna are mistaken for each other all the time. The two chefs and helper Nicole Daddona have created a cult following with their veggie tacos ($7 for two): Beer-battered flash-fried avocado quarters, rendered molten at the core, still hold their shape while remaining green and creamy. Drizzled with homemade sauce, topped with shredded cabbage, red onion, and lime, and wrapped in double corn tortillas, they’re as hedonistic as they are creative. 949-463-2473, twitter.com/seabirdstruck.

5. Chomp Chomp Nation
When Robert Zuetell and Gina Galvan lost their tiger-striped truck in a fire in March, the couple’s only option was a rental with a Virgin of Guadalupe painted on the side. They invented a one-day pop-up truck, Chupacabra Taco Wagon, and rolled. Now they’re back to serving snacks with a Singapore flair. Start with brioche French toast on a banana leaf ($5.50). It’s stuffed with coconut and pandan leaf jam, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, topped with coconut whipped cream, and flecked with a fine dice of lychee, mango, and dragon fruit. For lunch, it’s hard to beat the Thai chili-lemongrass lamb burger ($7.50). 949-637-1688, twitter.com/chompchomptruck.

6. Bakery Truck
Donna Collier and Tina Trujillo were FedEx couriers who thought they would open a bakery. Instead, they built one inside a GMC Workhorse Step Van. Their truck has double-stacked ovens and mixers on board, so the treats just keep coming. Collier, who went to culinary school, makes all of her cream puffs, cookies, Bundt cakes, and cupcakes from scratch. We love the vanilla-infused cupcakes topped with raspberry marmalade and cream cheese frosting ($3). 562-536-8774, twitter.com/bakerytruck. 

7. Slapfish
Sustainability is religion for chef Andrew Gruel and his entrepreneur partner Jethro Naude, but the two are more playful than pious about the seafood on their truck. The best of their fresh fare includes tender sea bass tacos ($5) and the superpopular Lobsticle: half a pan-grilled lobster tail on a skewer, topped with chipotle aioli, Champagne vinaigrette, and fresh chives (market price, usually about $6). 908-963-4150, twitter.com/slapfishtruck.

photograph by Melissa Valladares

This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Orange Coast magazine.

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