Truck stop: Slap Yo Mama truck

I love the dichotomy of the food scene in Los Angeles. One week I can have prix fixe dinners at some of the city’s most well-known restaurants. The next, I can order from the hottest new gourmet food truck. And both meals are delicious!

While many Angelenos claim to want organic farm-to-table meals, there’s also a cultlike following for certain food trucks offering not-so-healthy options. Just follow one on Twitter for a couple of weeks and you’ll see.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz on Twitter about the Slap Yo Mama soul food truck, which you can follow on Twitter here: @slapyomamatruck. Earlier this month, I tracked down the truck at the recently reopened Westside Food Truck Central, a congregation of several different food trucks that gather for lunch Monday through Friday and for dinner on Wednesday. (Read my earlier post about the food truck trend here.)

Slap Yo Mama serves Southern-fried specialties, including crab cakes, shrimp, oysters, catfish and lobster po’ boys, as well as greens, mac and cheese, cheesy grits, sweet potato fries and corn bread. For dessert, there’s banana pudding and peach cobbler.

But I just couldn’t resist trying the Snoop Dogg Monte Crizto, which is a tricked out, fried version of a comfort-food favorite: chicken and waffles!

Only, in addition to the fried chicken breast, there’s also mac and cheese inside. The whole thing is deep-fried and served drowning in syrup.

It was amazing! The creamy mac and cheese helped to balance out the sticky sweetness of the syrup, and the fried waffle seemed airy instead of overly dense.

I even got a Snoop Dogg Monte Crizto to go and delivered one to Kenley for lunch at his office — because I knew he wouldn’t forgive me if I got to try this concoction and he didn’t.

The sweet and savory taste of chicken and waffles holds a rather special place in my heart, thanks to our good friend Tug Baker (check out his “Tug Eats Everything” feature in Columbia’s Free Times alt-weekly newspaper).

As a wedding present to Kenley and me, Tug persuaded The Whig — one of our favorite watering holes in Columbia, S.C. — to bring back their late-night chicken and waffles for the after-party on our wedding night. When I stepped out of the limo to the bar, I was engulfed by the maple and peppery aroma. That smell will always remind me of that moment. Pure joy!

We are so taken with chicken and waffles that Kenley and I sought out the authentic experience at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles soon after we arrived in L.A.

I hear the Grilled Cheese Truck has a chicken-and-waffle/grilled-cheese special (read what LAist had to say about it here), and Wood & Vine is supposed to have the best chicken and waffles in L.A, according to Los Angeles magazine. Both are on my list of things to try.

But the Snoop Dogg Monte Crizto is going to be hard to top when it comes to an overindulgent sweet-and-savory combination.

Later that night, after eating the Crizto for lunch, Kenley — for the first time in his life — requested a salad for dinner!

Seriously, that has never happened before. Ever.


Ludo bites Shellevation

I wasn’t lucky enough to score reservations to LudoBites 7.0, coming up Aug. 3 to Sept. 10 at Gram & Papas in downtown Los Angeles. Nor will I be able to watch the “Ludo Bites America” reality television show, which started July 19 on the Sundance Channel, since Kenley and I opted for the Internet over cable.

So when I saw that the LudoTruck (@LudoTruck) would be at Westside Food Truck Central on Monday night, I made sure not to miss it.

Kenley was excited, too, since he had read a lot about chef Ludo Lefebvre when he edited the Culinary Institute of America’s newsletter for SmartBrief.

Lefebvre started the “pop-up” restaurant trend in Los Angeles in 2007. He recently told Food Republic in a two-part interview that he prefers the term “touring restaurant.” So his touring restaurant, Ludo Bites, pops up and takes over the kitchen of a host restaurant for a limited run. He’s taken the Ludo Bites concept on tour with the “Ludo Bites America” television show.

Reservations for the upcoming Ludo Bites in Los Angeles reportedly sold out in less than a minute.

Earlier Ludo Bites were reviewed by Los Angeles Weekly’s award-winning food writer Jonathan Gold, and by New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton. TIME Magazine called Ludo the chef of the future in March 2010.

The Ludo Truck features three fried-chicken items: the provencal pepitte, honey-glazed garlic wings and chicken strips. A tag line on the Ludo Truck website declares: “This ain’t yo mama’s fried chicken,” and the truck itself is affectionately nicknamed the “Red Coq.”

I had the provencal pepitte, a dish made of thigh meat molded into balls, infused with rosemary and herbs de provence, and fried.

It was a similar concept to the croquetas de pollo (or chicken and béchamel fritters) that we tried at Jose Andres’ The Bazaar. (Remember, they were served in a tennis shoe. You can read about that meal in my earlier post here.)

The provencal pepitte meal was rich and full of flavor. Kenley said he preferred them over the chicken strips, which he ordered, although those had a nice flavor as well. Both chicken dishes can be ordered with a side of freshly made slaw, seasoned fries and — the best part — honey-lavender biscuits!

Check out Ludo’s television show when it stops in Raleigh, N.C., for Lefebvre’s take on barbecue. There will reportedly be a Ludo Bites America cookbook coming soon.

Just keep truckin on

A tweet that I’d been waiting for finally appeared in my Twitter feed last Thursday night: @ButtermilkTruck would be at @FoodTrukCentral on Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.!

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!
When we arrived, we found about eight trucks in the small parking lot of The Brig bar on Abbot Kinney Blvd. Baby’s Badass Burgers was strategically right across from the Kogi truck,which still boasts the longest line. (Kenley and I have eaten from the Kogi truck menu at the Alibi Room.)

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!).

Keep truckin!