TNT Diner

Prepare your stretchy pants for these Tacoma-area food truck festivals

Chuck Maul and Holly Millie tear into a chicken sandwich from Mobile Food Command Center at the 2014 Food Truck Fest in Tacoma's Wright Park.
Chuck Maul and Holly Millie tear into a chicken sandwich from Mobile Food Command Center at the 2014 Food Truck Fest in Tacoma's Wright Park. Staff file, 2014

A complaint I hear from readers: Pierce County is short on food trucks.

But we’ve got more than 40 licensed trucks roaming the county.

That should mean a diner could roll up to any one of those trucks any given day and have lunch, right?

Wrong.

Our trucks are more elusive than that.

That’s because many trucks and mobile restaurants serve only at farmers markets, festivals or private events. Or they roam around, without a stationary home, which means you’ve got to be a social media maven to decode their schedules.

That’s why you should put these six food truck festivals and gatherings on your dining to-do list. They’re your best shot at sampling Pierce County’s often hidden trucks — all in one convenient setting. These festivals also are a worthy opportunity fill your gullet with some of Seattle’s most celebrated mobile cuisine. Just be sure to bring friends to share the food because food trucks usually don’t pare down portion sizes, even for festivals. All events listed here are free, except for the cost of food.

Lakewood Summer Anniversary Party

Details: 1-6 p.m. Saturday Lakewood City Hall, 6000 Main St. SW, Lakewood; cityoflakewood.us.

The lowdown: A celebration of the city’s 20th anniversary, with live music, lots of kids activities, car displays and other attractions, plus a food truck gathering.

Trucks: Eight trucks booked. Budha Bear Bagels; Fleischkuechle; The Frying Dutchman; Hometown Dogs; House of Donuts; Lumpia World; Smokin’ Zees BBQ; VietNom Nom.

Also serving: Lakewood’s Carr’s Restaurant will serve barbecue burgers, chips and onion rings.

Seating: Provided by organizers.

Tacoma Musical Playhouse Food Truck Festival

Details: Noon-8 p.m., June 11, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; tmp.org, 253-565-6867.

The lowdown: In conjunction with the theater’s production of “The Wiz,” a day-long celebration of mobile food will be held.

Wiz showtimes: 2 and 8 p.m. Theater tickets can be purchased separately at tmp.org.

Trucks: Four trucks booked. Hamhock Jones; P&J’s Waffle Delight; The Ram; Taqueria 3 Hermanos. More expected to serve.

Also serving: Chef Bette Anne Curry, from The Gourmet Niche inside the same building, will serve salads and soft drinks. Rhonda Hartle and Cecchi Hamlin will serve desserts.

Extras: Wildside Wines will serve wine. A coloring contest for kids 12 and younger will be held. Actors from “The Wiz” will roam the festival.

Seating: Tables and chairs available.

Food Truck Feast

Details: Noon-5 p.m. June 18, Sehmel Homestead Park, 10123 78th Ave. NW Gig Harbor; penmetparks.org, 253-858-3400.

The lowdown: A community gathering and festival hosted by the Peninsula Metropolitan Park District. The event features children’s activities, grown-up lawn games, craft beverage garden (21 plus, identification for everyone required).

Trucks: Twelve trucks booked. Arnold’s Happy Days; Burrito Boy; Curbside Urban Cuisine; Frying Dutchman; Hometown Dogs; Jemil’s Big Easy (Seattle); Kama’Aine Grill (Bremerton); On the Grind Espresso; P&J’s Waffle Delight; Smokin Zee’s BBQ; Stacks Burgers; VietNom Nom. More trucks may serve.

Also serving: Gelato from Harbor General Store.

Extras: Live music by Budapest West from noon-1:30 p.m. and Radio 80 from 2-5 p.m.

Tip: Off-site parking lots will provide shuttle service.

Seating: Bring your own blankets and chairs.

Food Truck Frenzy

Details: Noon-6 p.m. June 25, Bradley Lake Park, 531 31st Ave. SE, Puyallup; puyallupparksandrec.com, 253-841-5457.

The lowdown: Sponsored by Puyallup’s Parks and Recreation Department. The event features live music throughout the day.

Trucks: Thirteen trucks booked. Arnold’s Happy Days; Budha Bear Bagels & Cafe; Butt Naked Organics (Olympia); Charlie’s Buns N’ Stuff (Seattle); Chick’n Fix Food Truck (Seattle); Frying Dutchman; Hot Revolution Donuts (Seattle); Lumpia World; Peasant Food Manifesto (Seattle); P&J’s Waffle Delight; Tummy Yummy Thai (Seattle); Urban Timber Coffee Co., VietNom Nom.

Seating: Some picnic bench seating available, but bring your own lawn chairs or blankets.

Food Truck Fest

Details: 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. July 24, Wright Park, 501 S. I St., Tacoma; metroparkstacoma.org/foodtruckfest, 253-592-8019.

The lowdown: This annual festival sponsored by Metro Parks Tacoma features the largest gathering of local and regional food trucks, with live music throughout the event from Steve Stefanowicz and Co. MixxedFit performances, as well.

Trucks: Twenty-five trucks booked. Auntie Anne's Pretzels (Seattle); Ben and Jerry's/ Hula Girl Ice Cream; Burrito Boy; Celebrity Cake Studio; Elemental Pizza; Europa Bistro; Finnwick’s Kitchen/It's Greek to Me; Fish Basket (Seattle); Hometown Dogs; It's Espresso On the Go; Kama' aina Grill; Hot Revolution Donuts (Seattle); Lumpia World; Mobile Food Command Center; Original House of Donuts; Plum Burger (Seattle); The Ram; Sam Choy's Poke to the Max (Seattle); Spicy Papaya (Seattle); Stacks Burgers; The Frying Dutchman; Tokyo Dog (Seattle); Tornado Potato (California): Uncle Lyman's BBQ Pit; VietNom Nom. More trucks are expected to be booked.

Seating: Limited picnic table seating, unlimited lawn seating. Bring your own chair or blanket.

Mobile Food Fest

Details: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 27, Sprinker Recreation Center, 14824 C St. S., Tacoma; piercecountywa.org/mobilefoodfest.

The lowdown: This event sponsored by the Pierce County Parks and Recreation Department features DJ music; a kids zone with activities; dance performances.

Trucks: Seventeen trucks booked. Arnold’s Happy Days; Bean Fish (Seattle); Budha Bear Bagels; Crisp Creperie (Seattle); Curbside Urban Cuisine; Fish Basket (Seattle); The Frying Dutchman; The Grilled Cheese Experience (Seattle); Hometown Dogs; Lumpia World; On The Grind; P&J’s Waffle Delight; Peasant Food Manifesto (Seattle); Spicy Papaya (Seattle); Stacks Burgers; Tummy Yummy Thai; VietNom Nom. More trucks are expected to be booked.

Also serving: The Thirst Responder beer garden.

Seating: Some chairs and tables available, but bringing chairs or blankets is encouraged. Grass outfields at Sprinker will be open for seating.

Tip: It’s the same weekend as the Joint Base Lewis-McChord air show, which will be viewable from Sprinker.

Critic’s Picks

These five Pierce County trucks should be at the top of your list to try.

VietNom Nom: This is the second season for the Tacoma based truck from Andy and Paul Huynh, whose mother previously owned a Vietnamese sandwich shop in the Lincoln District. Banh mi sandwiches, rice bowls, street tacos. facebook.com/VietNOMNOMfood.

Lumpia World: Derrick and Eleanor Ellis have grown their Filipino fusion truck to two mobile restaurants and a brick-and-mortar location. Lumpia, pancit, katsu, chicken adobo, rice, mac salad. lumpiaworld.com.

Curbside Urban Cuisine: This food truck is run by culinary arts students from Bates Technical College. Students help make the food and design the menu. Burgers, wraps, sandwiches, fries. facebook.com/curbsideurbancuisine.

Fleischkuechle: The Vrieze family previously only served fleischkuechle, which are German-Russian fried pies, at the Washington State Fair, but the family has been venturing out to fairs and festivals the past few years. Fried meat pies and fried sweet treats. bit.ly/1P26OEI.

Hometown Dogs: This truck is the project of nonprofit organization Centerforce. Executive Director Debby Graham, a Chicago transplant, couldn’t find a Chicago-style hot dog in the area, so she started a truck that serves them. The truck also provides important job-training skills for Centerforce’s clients. Chicago-style dogs, bratwurst, vegetarian dogs, chips. hometowndogs.com.

Prepare yourself: Food trucks frequently serve full-size menu options, so bring friends to share. Arrive early, food truck festivals run out of food early. Bring hand wipes, a chair and bottled water. You’ll need all three.

Newcomers to watch

P&J’s Waffle Delight: This Tacoma-based truck serves at local breweries such as Narrows and Northwest Brewing. Featuring chicken and waffles in a variety of configurations. facebook.com/pandjswaffledelight.

The Ram: This truck comes from the regional burger-and-brew restaurant of the same name. theram.com.

Stacks Burgers: This truck has expanded its footprint from Federal Way to Pierce County. Featuring gourmet burgers made with Double R meat and buns from Essential Baking, plus hand-cut fries. stacksburgers.com.

Local truck menus

Arnold’s Happy Days: Burgers, fries and hot dogs.

Budha Bear: Bagel sandwiches, salads, macaroni and cheese.

Burrito Boy: Burritos, tacos, nachos, enchiladas.

Celebrity Cake Studio: Cake by the slice and other desserts.

Curbside Urban Cuisine: Burgers, wraps, sandwiches, fries.

Finnwick’s Kitchen/It’s Greek To Me: Gyros, Mediterranean sandwiches, pizza, fries.

Fleischkuechle: Fried meat pies and fried sweet treats.

The Frying Dutchman: Fish and chips, prawns and chips, fish tacos.

Hamhock Jones: Pulled pork sandwiches, grilled cheese, chicken wings, fish, fries.

Hometown Dogs: Chicago-style dogs, bratwurst, vegetarian dogs, chips.

Lumpia World: Lumpia, pancit, katsu, chicken adobo, rice, mac salad.

Mobile Food Command Center: Tacos, burritos, Mexican fusion.

Original House of Donuts: An assortment of doughnuts.

P&J’s Waffle Delight: Chicken and waffles.

Smokin’ Zees BBQ: Smoked ribs,pulled pork, brisket, barbecue fixings.

Stacks Burgers: Piled-high burgers, fries and sandwiches.

Taqueria Tres Hermanos: Tacos, burritos, Mexican favorites.

Uncle Lyman's BBQ Pit: Wings, ribs and sides.

VietNom Nom: Banh mi sandwiches, rice bowls, street tacos.

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