I have been stalking — um, following — the Buttermilk Truck on Twitter ever since I learned that the mobile diner serves red-velvet pancakes.
Are you kidding? I love pancakes and I love red-velvet cake! Why hadn’t I heard of this before? (No, seriously. This is a trend that Southern diners and brunch establishments need to capitalize on. After all, the resurgence in popularity of the red-velvet cake is often attributed to the armadillo groom’s cake in the movie “Steel Magnolias,” and Texan Jessica Simpson made it acceptable to have a red-velvet wedding cake.)
At night, the Buttermilk Truck’s menu includes another favorite: chicken and waffles, which I’m also eager to try.
A rotating selection of Los Angeles’ approximately 200 gourmet food trucks park at Westside Food Truck Central for lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and for dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays. Westside Food Truck Central is just a parking lot behind the Westside Events Center in Culver City, at Overland Avenue and Washington Boulevard. Luckily for me, it’s a short drive from my apartment.
On Friday, I bought Kenley a lemongrass chicken taco and a grilled-pork Vietnamese taco from the Nom Nom truck, which is run by two 20-something women who met at UCLA. You can read their story in LA Weekly.
And, for me, naturally I got the red-velvet pancakes, which have melted chocolate chips inside and are served with a side of cream-cheese icing.
The gourmet food truck trend started about two years ago when Roy Choi took to the road with his Kogi food truck and a menu of Korean barbecue. Choi had worked in the kitchen at the Beverly Hilton and other fine dining establishments before hitting the streets to prove that street food can be simultaneously easy on the wallet and pleasing on the palate. Read about how the Kogi truck got started in the Los Angeles Times.
There have long been more traditional taco trucks parking alongside the roads in Los Angeles. The Martha’s Kitchen truck is just around the corner from my apartment. Much of the menu is in Spanish, and it doesn’t have a Twitter handle or a fancy truck.
The gourmet food trucks, however, are brightly painted with clever names and Twitter handles. The good ones offer an interesting twist on traditional street fare. The best ones, such as Kogi, have developed a cult following. LA Weekly even has a Food Truck Friday feature to review the newest trucks on the road. Tug Eats Everything, an AltWeekly awards finalist, would be in heaven!
There have been some issues — similar to the taco war in my hometown of Columbia, S.C. — where restaurants and neighborhoods have complained about the competition, the long lines and the noise. Most seem to be resolved by the designation of food truck lots; trucks finding parking in the private lots of large companies; and street festivals, where the food trucks are one of the main attractions.
(An operator’s attempt to locate a taco truck on Main Street in Columbia, S.C., was met with resistance from owners of a proposed Mexican restaurant nearby and from city council members, but an artisan barbecue truck seems to be doing well. I’m looking forward to trying @artisanbbqtruck next time I’m in Columbia. You can read Adam Beam’s article about the great Columbia taco war in The State newspaper.)
In L.A., some food writers and truck operators say there are too many copycats and too few original concepts. They also point to chain restaurants cashing in on the food truck craze. (Read the Los Angeles Times’ story about why some think food trucks have taken a wrong turn here.)
Now, some food truck operators are reversing the trend and opening brick-and-mortar storefronts. Roy Choi’s Kogi truck menu is available at The Alibi Room, and the Coolhaus ice cream truck is expected to open a storefront in Culver City later this month!
Kenley and I are happy to embrace the food truck trend. It’s by far one of the cheapest meals you can enjoy in Los Angeles; most of the food is far better than food served out of a truck should be; and it’s a great way to entice a very picky eater (not pointing fingers at Kenley Young) to expand his palate. He’ll eat anything with “taco” in its name.
So on Friday afternoon when Baby’s Badass Burgers (@BabysBBs) tweeted that they would be at the First Friday event on Abbot Kinney, I texted Kenley and said I knew where we were eating dinner. He had been wanting to try out the truck, which is a pink vehicle featuring bombshells taking your order and flipping the burgers — and seducing you on Twitter:
VENICE the BURGER BABES R ready 4 U! We want 2 SATISFY U tonight at THE BRIG @1515 Abbot Kinney Bl till midnight-come sink ur teeth into us!
I had the Original Beauty, and Kenley had the She’s Smokin burger. I must admit I was surprised that the burgers were so good. Baby’s Badass Burgers delivers!
For dessert, we had ice cream sandwiches (aka “sammies”) from Coolhaus. By far the hardest decision of the day was deciding between the red-velvet cake batter ice cream and the brown butter with candied-bacon ice cream. I chose the latter — since I’d already had my red-velvet fix earlier — and I got the scoop sandwiched between two maple waffle white chocolate cookies. Just means I have to track down the Coolhaus truck again soon.
Then we walked down Abbot Kinney and discovered dozens more trucks parked along both sides of the street, including Barbie’s Q and The Sweets Truck. And Kenley’s favorite: the Tornado Potato truck, of course. We could have had a 10-course meal.
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, my first meal from a food truck was a sushi burrito from the Yogasaki truck. Since then, I’ve followed several more trucks on Twitter and am looking forward to them stopping near me soon: @grlldcheesetruk (features a chicken and waffle grilled-cheese sandwich), @letsbefrank, @crepenaround, @cupcakesagogo and @getyourlardon (all things bacon!).