Food truck season is here!
The office building where I work is also occupied by three or four other companies. A management recruiter, a medical billing company and a hospitality company, (I think they manage hotels). This means that our building holds hundreds of bored and mostly hunched over cubicle workers. Often at lunch time on nice days many of the workers escape for a spell and venture out into what is known as 'outdoors'. In other words it is a food truck's dream come true. Which begs the question, do food trucks actually dream? I'm no mechanic or metaphysicist but I think that it is more likely that they don't.
There had been little printed signs up in the hallways for several days. Coming soon, one we hadn't been visited by before.
2Girls 4Wheels. The sign promised St. Louis style food. If you don't know what that is, well shame on you. It means exactly:
3. Fried ravioli
4. Gooey Butter cake.
5. Square, thin crust pizza with Provel cheese.
It turns out they didn't offer #5, which was fine with me. They didn't offer #3, the locally ubiquitous appetizer, fried ravioli either. I think I know why, my theory has to do with mobile kitchens on pitted and frequently stop and go trafficked city streets and a huge sloshing vat of 360 degree cooking oil. They don't offer French fries either. I bet I'm right about this.
For meat they offered midwestern favorites, pulled pork, St. Louis style cheese steaks (with provel), chili and Budweiser braised brats. For sides they listed baked beans, 'parmesian brussel sprouts' and Billy Goat Chips.
The chips are a locally made brand, an offshoot product of a thriving downtown restaurant.
As I stepped up to the truck, the only customer there at the early time, I locked into my head what I would order. The truck was not huge as food trucks go, nor terribly new. I got the feeling that this operation was still new, still working their way up the food truck hierarchy.
"Pulled pork and the Billy Goat Chips." I called.
One of the 2Girls wrote down the order and called it back to the other of the 2Girls. The speaker mounted to the exterior of the truck was blasting Simon and Garfunkel. Odd, I thought, I like S&G as much as the next middle aged white guy, I'd just never heard it 'blasted', nor thought it ever needed to be. "Bridge over Troubled Waters" just doesn't improve that much with higher volume.
I told the 2Girls that I had a question about the chips. I was sure it was one that they'd never heard before. They answered before I asked though, like they had heard it before, "Yes they're made from real Billy Goat." They laughed, I wasn't amused that my joke had been predicted. Never one to get cut off at the comic knees like that I spat out: "Organic and free ranged Billy Goat?"
They handed me a tiny brown paper bag with the Billy Goat logo on it. Just to make sure I checked the ingredients. They had lied, billy goat was NOT on the list, just potatoes. I didn't let them see how disappointed I was though.
I was starting to be concerned for them though, after a few minutes I was still the only one at the truck. They asked me if any signs got posted ahead of their visit, I assured them that there were plenty.
I was concerned because I like small businesses to succeed. I felt an unrealistic and irrational sense of responsibility being their only customer at the moment, I mentally urged others to show up. Yeah, that was my contribution, I thought positive thoughts.
Soon enough they handed me the foil-topped paper bowl and I went on my merry way. Fortunately they had parked near my favorite lunch spot, my car. I had my own drink, a bottle of water, a roll of paper towels in the passenger seat, and my book.
I couldn't read while I ate the sandwich, it was bulging with meat and slaw and was definitely a two-handed meal. So I turned up the radio to 107.3 and rocked to the real classics as I chomped into the big sandwich. It was thick and meaty, and topped with a pretty good slaw. The pork was moist and smokey without being sickly sweet. The kaiser roll was soft, but dense enough to keep it all together.
The chips were pretty good, but hardly gourmet. Nothing fancy at all. I had bibbed up with a paper towel hanging from my top shirt button, but didn't ever drip any on myself. Mostly because I kept the back side of the sandwich in the paper bowl, using it like a wrapper. Stuff fell out for sure, but only into the bowl.
There was much more there than I usually have for lunch so I didn't quite finish it. I had plenty though and was quite pleased with the flavors and textures.
Like I said, nothing fancy, nothing exotic, but that's to be expected from a joint that boasts St. Louis style food. It's the midwest, the extreme left edge of the rust belt, a city that served as the gateway to the rugged western frontier. It's not about frilly pastries delicate spices and sliver-thin seafood. It's a meat and potatoes city.
The price wasn't too bad, I paid eight and a half bucks for the sandwich and chips. I've paid more for less. The 2Girls were friendly and efficient and after I left, quite busy. There was a twenty person line standing there as I walked back through the lot. Apparently my positive thinking had paid off for the 2Girls.
I like food trucks, I like the very notion of food trucks. It's a great way to start up in the retail food business. All you need is a couple of solid, portable recipes with limited ingredients and variations, a truck, an attractive paint scheme and a working knowledge of the city. It's a great small business. For a cubicle-bound patron they provide a pleasant relief from the local joints. It's like importing a new restaurant for a day.
Today's trucks are a long step up from the old roach coaches that once hustled bad hotdogs and greasy nachos. This truck is not gourmet, it's not snooty, and there's no 'chef' on board, but it serves up some pretty good food.
* Please forgive the lousy pictures, I forgot to take my Nikon with me and had to use my sucky cellular telephone. It takes pictures about about as well as my toaster plays DVD's.