The inventive offerings of L.A.'s gourmet food trucks have proven to be too much for The Fun Foodie to resist. The evolution from "roach coach" to regional specialty has now spawned a type of "foodie Disneyland": TRUCK FESTIVALS! My wife surprised me for my birthday and took me to the San Gabriel Valley Food Fest at Speed Zone in City of Industry. There's a five buck cover charge for this monthly event (held every first Friday). Many complain about this, but I think it's a decent deal since you get access to 15 or so trucks, professional security, seating, heat lamps, and a five dollar voucher for a game card! So if you're going to complain, go ahead and put five bucks worth of gas in your car and see how many trucks you can chase down around L.A.!
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that more than 2,000 people attend this event. I'd say about half of them were in line at Grill 'Em All Truck when we got there. No surprise that the winners of Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race" were the main event. My wife, being the incredible human being that she is, stood in line as I meandered through the festival. I felt like the "daddy eagle" gathering food to bring back to the nest. In the hour and ten minutes it took to wait in line, order and receive our burger from Grill 'Em All, I was able to hit up four other trucks!
The Grill 'Em All line.
WHITE RABBIT (see my original review here): The line was about 10-12 deep, and they were all Filipinos (maybe a couple non-filipino Asians). Too bad, I'm really hoping Filipino food will become more mainstream. We're the second largest asian population in California, but our food popularity lags waaaaay behind Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. The White Rabbit Truck fuses traditional Filipino flavors with classic Mexican preparations. The Tocino taco was as good as my first visit, vibrant flavor and nice texture. Had to try the Beef Steak taco, which is pretty much exactly what you'd get at a Filipino potluck (sans the corn tortillas). It was tender and juicy, with just the right amount of tanginess. We both absolutely loved these tacos!
BUTTERMILK TRUCK: This was probably the second most popular truck, the line 20-25 people deep. Everyone -- and I mean everyone -- who visited Buttermilk left with Red Velvet Chocolate Chip pancakes. There's pancake syrup available for self-service but something told me to pass. The pancakes come with a dollop of cream cheese frosting and dusting of powdered sugar and that's all it needs. They are divine, almost a flattened version of Red Velvet cupcakes. The chocolate chips are a great addition, a texture and flavor surprise that doesn't detract from the unique Red Velvet profile. This was easily my wife's favorite dish of the night. We also got the Hawaiian Bread Breakfast Sliders, which has Portuguese sausage, sauteed onions, and shoyu scrambled eggs. Not bad, but nothing worth ordering again. Shoulda just had a second helping of the pancakes!
Red Velvet Chocolate Chip pancakes. Just don't ruin them with pancake syrup!
Hawaiian Bread Breakfast Sliders.
TAPA BOY: The line was 8-10 deep and, once again, all Filipino (c'mon, folks, give us a try!). Tapa Boy specializes in Filipino breakfast, a delicacy known as Silogs which pair savory meats with garlic fried rice and a fried egg. Not wanting to fill up too quickly, I passed on breakfast and opted for a few tiny dessert bites called turon. "Turon Old School" is the classic recipe, banana rolled in brown sugar, a sliver of jackfruit, deep-fried in an egg roll wrapper. It's great, just like "lola" used to make! "Turon New School" replaces the brown sugar and jackfuit with Nutella. It's even better than it sounds. Pure genius! Then there's "Flan B", a bold move to deep fry creamy, decadent Flan in an egg roll wrapper. A great concept, but they need to work on their Flan recipe. A bit too eggy for my wife, non-descript for me.
Tapa Boy's Turon trio.
TA BOM: This Brazilian truck was quite busy for most of the night, but there were only two customers ahead of me when I finally got to them. I thought it was a strange stroke of luck until it was my time to order and I realized that they were sold out of most of their menu. I was able to get one of their last Pastels, which is a deep-fried crispy pastry filled with seasoned ground beef. It was great, kind of like a large won-ton with latin flare. We also tried the Coxhinas, croquettes filled with chicken and cream cheese. It was pleasantly spicy with a nice crisp exterior, but there was a vinegar tartness that didn't seem to fit. Ta Bom definitely fries their food with lard, which adds nice flavor, but may freak some people out. But, chill out, folks! Lard won't kill you ... right away, at least.
Ta Bom is da bomb!
GRILL 'EM ALL: We somehow still had room in our bellies. But barely enough for the gargantuan "Behemoth" that we split. We saw this thing on "The Great Food Truck Race" and it was the one item we were dead set on trying. The patty itself is huge, I'm guessing a half pound. It was cooked "well done" with not a hint of pink -- I like my burgers medium well, but they didn't give the option. Amazingly, it was still very juicy! It is sandwiched between two full grilled cheese sandwiches (buns can be soooooo boring), and topped with smoked cheddar and bacon. We agreed, an excellent burger, but not quite worthy of another hour plus wait. But I would definitely try to get to the festival earlier to beat the crowds and try some of their other burgers.
The Behemoth! Such a fitting name.
Speed Zone and festival organizers, thank you so much for bringing some of L.A.'s very best food trucks closer to our stomping grounds! We'll see you again soon!