For the first time, Tacoma's food carts, trucks and mobile restaurants have found a collective home, if only for a day. About 30 South Sound and Seattle-area food trucks, carts and mobile restaurants are assembled right now at Cheney Stadium, home to Moveable Feast, Tacoma's first-ever food cart meetup. Vendors will serve until 7 p.m. today.
Our neighbors to the north and south have food cart lots – places where mobile restaurants flock so that diners can mingle and graze, but Tacoma has yet to produce a home for Pierce County's far-flung mobile restaurant community. Even a city-supported plan to attract food carts to Tollefson Plaza has has had few takers. The idea of creating a food cart pod is one of the reasons Alyson Jones, director of media and events for the Tacoma Rainiers, and Odette D'Aniello, owner of Tacoma's Celebrity Cake Studios, started the event - they wanted to provide a gathering place for mobile restaurants, if only for a single day. If the event is a success, it could become a regular meetup. Read more here about the background of the festival.
The layout of the event is just as Jones promised - all the carts are arranged as a giant circle, segregated into savory and sweet, with seating in the middle. You can turn a circle and see the front of just about every cart. Lines are already forming, but vendors seem to be moving quickly. Here's what I've eaten so far.
The truck: Fleischkuechle
Fleischkuechle in meat or fruity varieties and a few other items.Sampled:
Fleischkuechle, $4. This is a German-Russian dish that's a flat, fried turnover filled with a patty of seasoned ground beef. It's almost like a flattened piroshky, just less yeasty. It's pronounced fleisch-KOOSH-lay or fleisch-KEESH-lay, depending on your European address.About the truck:
This is the truck of Puyallup Fair fame. For 17 years, sisters-in-law Pat Jorgensen and Pat Tuthill sold fried meat and fruit pies every September outside the Puyallup fairgrounds on Fairview Drive. Last year, family friend Virginia "Ginny" Vrieze and her son Ben Vrieze, took over the meat pie truck.
The truck: Lumpia WorldThe menu:
Lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), pancit noodles and more.
: We went with the lumpia combo with rice. You can pick four lumpia - we stayed mostly with savory and one sweet. Steak was meaty and moist, ground pork had a light hint of ginger and chicken came with lemongrass. Banana was my favorite - a crisp wrapper with a mushy-sweet banana filling and a generous drizzle of chocolate syrup. Bonus: The lumpia is fried to order, which means it's hot and crispy when you get it.About the truck:
The mobile truck serving Filipino eats from Seattle to Tacoma (every Thursday at the Broadway Farmers Market
) is owned by Derrick and Eleanor Ellis, who started their business in 2006 and expanded to mobile food in 2009.
The truck: ChoripanThe menu:
Chicken or chorizo sandwiches.Sampled:
A chorizo sandwich, $6. The sandwiches were just like the ones served at Choripan, the cafe at the Museum of Glass. A grilled baguette with a chewy tug of resistance, which is the perfect foundation for a messy sandwich, came topped with sliced chorizo sausage, lots of red and yellow peppers and a drippy chimichurri sauce. This was probably the best thing I ate all day - and well priced for the massive size.About the truck:
You'll recognize Choripan as the cafe in the Museum of Glass. It's owned and operated by X Group Restaurants, which also owns Asado, Masa and Engine House No. 9 on Tacoma's Sixth Avenue.
The truck: Jay DogsThe menu:
Hot dogs and chips.Sampled:
A plain ol' small beef hot dog ($3) and a quarter-pound beef dog with a slice of bacon ($4). This place knows how to make hot dogs right. They butter the bun and griddle it, then top it with a griddled dog. I watched as they griddled the bacon, too. I was offered cream cheese, but having just eaten a giant sandwich from Choripan, I wasn't sure I could take much more without screaming, "Uncle." Here's a bonus - every dog came with a free bag of chips.Toppings were broad at a serve yourself bar - six or seven kinds of mustard, two kinds of relish, mayo, ketchup, a few kinds of peppers, salsa, onions, kraut and cream cheese if you wanted it.About the truck:
This truck is owned by food vendor Jay Gallinatti, who lives in University Place. He does not yet have a permanent home for his hot dog cart, but he can be found at fairs and festivals. He started his career 30 years ago atH.D. Hotspurs in Kent
and then worked in the computer business, selling computers to restaurants. He transports his hot dog cart with his 1962 VW pickup truck. His helpers are his wife, his 11-year-old son and his father.
The truck: Maximus MinimusThe menu:
Pulled pork sandwiches, slaw, mac and cheese and more.Sampled:
MAXimus, the pulled pork sandwich ($6.36) with a kick of heat, although the kick was quite mild. What I appreciated was a sturdy glossy topped bun that held the juicy pork together without disintegrating into a messy pork pile. Slaw on the side ($1.50) was snappy and dressed with a tart vinaigrette with cranberries. I'm still not sure if I liked that twist on a slaw - cranberries seem weird in slaw.About the truck:
This could be one of the most recognizable food trucks in the region - it's a metal truck in the shape of a big, giant, metal pig. Yup. A pig. Think of it as a shrine for pulled pork sandwiches with flavor bending in two directions - flavor teased high with zip and sting (maximus) and flavor mellowed down to tame and sweet (minimus).
The truck: Skillet Street FoodThe menu:
Poutine, burgers and sandwiches.Sampled:
A big, messy box of fries ($8) were coated in a salty, beefy flavored gravy. Instead of cheese curds - like our friendly neighbors to the north serve it - this poutine came with shredded parmesan and cheddar incorporated into the gravy. It was a big, fat, cheesy-gooey mess and aside from the sandwich at Choripan, it was my favorite thing sampled. Unless you're a champion-level food glutton, I'd say stick with the small order for $5. The $8 order was perfect for a small group, though. Get extra napkins.About the truck:
Chef Josh Henderson created Skillet Street Food in Seattle in 2007. He was among the first to bring gourmet eats on wheels to the region in his renovated Airstream trailer. The mobile truck has gone brick and mortar - this spring it opened a bistro in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.
The truck: Celebrity Cake Studio Cake MobileThe menu:
Cake! Big slices for $5 each (easily feeds two). There was lemon tea, citrus tea, marble mousse, carrot and mocha mousse.Mom tip:
Near the cake stand and Cake Mobile was a cake decorating area. Nearby for kids also are two bounce houses, just behind the Cake Mobile, and a Forza stand serving free root beer floats (all donations go to Mary Bridge).Sampled:
Citrus tea cake. It was soft, light and citrus punched. It's a little tricky to eat standing up, so grab a slice if you've got a table, or ask a friend to help you juggle the cake box. It's a really big slice of cake. Not that I'm complaining.About the truck:
Odette D’Aniello expanded her popular cake bakery to a mobile cake truck late last year. She's owned Celebrity Cake Studio since 2004 when she bought the bakery located at Freighthouse Square. Earlier this year, she moved to a new location at 602 E. 25th Street, not far from Freighthouse Square.
The truck: Ice Cream SocialThe menu:
Ice cream, of course. Prices were $3-$6Sampled:
A double scoop ($6) with peach ice cream on top, salted caramel on the bottom. I think it was geniusAbout the truck:
This is actually a stand, not a truck. I've been spotting them around town lately. My first encounter was the Sixth Avenue Tuesday Farmers Market. The ice cream is extremely creamy and sweet, but not cloying. I'm a fan. It was creamy enough to remind me ofOld School Custard
, the Bonney Lake ice cream shop. Find Ice Cream Social on Facebookhere
The truck: Hilltop Pop ShopThe menu:
All ice pops are $3 each. They come in lots of flavors - strawberry lemon, raspberry cream, lavender orange, minty melon, lemon-berry ginger, strawberry rhubarb.Sampled:
A raspberry cream pop hit the perfect balance between tart and sweet with just a touch of creaminess. I wonder how they keep them so cold because my pop didn't melt at all despite the blazing sun.About the truck:
This is a stand that has been appearing all over town at farmers market. I've seen them at the Sixth Avenue Tuesday Farmers Market and they also serve at the Sunday South Tacoma Farmers Market. I'm keeping my eye on this stand - they make great frozen popsicles. The business is owned by two Tacomans and it's a Hilltop-based company.
Here's who is serving at the feast:South Sound mobile trucks, catering stands and local restaurants: Barriga Llena (Mexican), Burrito Boy (Mexican, owned by Josefina's), Celebrity Cake Studio's Cakemobile (desserts), Choripan (Argentina), Firehouse Grill's Extreme Burgers (burgers), Fleischkuechle (fried meat pies, of Puyallup Fair fame), Hello Cupcake (dessert), Hilltop Pop Shop (frozen treats), Ice Cream Social (dessert), Island Comfort Food (Island style barbecue), Jamaican Sensation, Jay Dogs (hot dogs), Kinetic Kitchens (American food), Lumpia World (Filipino), Pampeana Empanadas (turnovers/empanadas), Pull My Ear, Ricardo's Wood Fired Pizza, Rico's Tacos.
Seattle area vendors: Skillet Street Food (upscale American), Maximus Minimus (the kitschy truck shaped like a pig serving pulled pork sandwiches), Where Ya At, Matt (Cajun and soul food), Athena's (Mediterranean), Big Food Mobile (flatbread sandwiches), The Jerk Station (Caribbean), Street Treats (desserts), Off the Rez (fry bread), Contigo (modern Mexican), Fusion on the Run (island food/banh mi), I Want Curry Now (Indian), The Box on Wheels (Asian fusion), Raney Brothers BBQ and Kaosamai Thai.
Tacoma Moveable FeastWhen: noon-7 p.m. TODAY ONLY, Sunday July 29, 2012Cost: Free, other than the cost of food at the trucks. Free parking.Details: tacomafoodtruck.comEntertainment: Live music, a skate demo, bouncy houses provided by Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital (the beneficiary of the event), Forza coffee and Pepsi will provide root beer floats and Celebrity Cake Studio will sponsor a children’s area for cupcake decorating.Beer garden: South Sound breweries Harmon, 7 Seas and Silver City will serve in a beer garden.
In case you missed my story last month, here's my guide to 14 South Sound taco trucks.