Los Angeles food trucks might not come with suave, sweet-talking waiters or fancy place settings, but these days they are serving up dishes that rival some of the most reputable restaurants.
This food truck revival began in Los Angeles about three years ago due in part to chef Roy Choi, founder of the original — and massively popular — Kogi truck. Choi eventually got past the rough patch of kickstarting the business and now oversees five food trucks and Chego, his first sit-down restaurant in the Palms area.
The success that Choi continues to have with his food-truck empire has inspired many others to try their own hand at mobile gastronomy. And because food trucks in the city run the gamut in flavors and styles, food trucks offer something for everyone.
For the meat lovers, the Grill ‘Em All truck, the season one winner of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, serves juicy seven-ounce burgers that put Burger King’s Whopper to shame. The truck was created by two self-proclaimed “manly men,” Ryan Harkins and Matthew Chernus, who played together in a band before launching Grill ‘Em All. Harkins, having worked in various professional kitchens over the years, decided to tackle something near and dear to his heart: the hamburger.
Since the birth of Grill ‘Em All, Harkins and Chernus have continued to experiment with various flavors and textures, in the process redefining what a burger can be. From duck confit to peanut butter and even cranberry gastrique, there is no ingredient that the Grill ‘Em All truck cannot incorporate into a savory burger.
The Witte, for instance, combines cream cheese, deep-fried bacon and Sriracha onions to make a surprisingly delightful burger. And Grill ‘Em All’s signature burger, the Behemoth, is not for the faint of heart: Not only is there melted cheddar, bacon, beer-soaked onions, pickles and smoky BBQ sauce, meat is tucked between two grilled-cheese sandwiches — that’s two actual sandwiches as buns in addition to the burger itself. It is undeniably overwhelming, but for those with an appetite, the Behemoth makes for an impressively over-the-top treat.
Not into burgers? The Komodo truck makes healthy Asian-fusion tacos and burritos using fresh, vibrant vegetables and fruits. Erwin Tjahyadi, the head chef of Komodo, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and apprenticed with the legendary Wolfgang Puck. With this rich culinary background, he decided to start up what has now become one of the most popular and talked-about food trucks in Los Angeles.
Komodo’s tacos are known for their wildly inventive and harmonious flavors. Some of their classics include the Komodo 2.0, consisting of seared, tangy top sirloin with mild jalapeno aioli and a refreshing Southwest corn salad. The Asian Marinated Chicken is another favorite, with grilled chicken, faintly sweet stir-fried rice and plump mandarin oranges. And Komodo’s addictive truffle fries — dashed with truffle oil and topped with shaved parmesan — complement any meal from this sleek food truck.
There are also many dessert trucks that really know how to put a sweet end to a meal.
Coolhaus, for example, is a quirky ice cream truck that lets customers customize their own ice cream sandwiches with cookies like Ginger Molasses and ice cream flavors like Candied Bacon and even Peking Duck.
Natasha Case and Freya Estreller, co-founders of Coolhaus, started baking cookies and making ice cream while attending architecture school.
Inspired, they bought a postal truck on Craiglist to distribute their treats and debuted Coolhaus at Coachella in 2009. The truck has attracted a buzz among foodies ever since.
There is no doubting that Coolhaus has a creative concept, but some of it comes off as overly hyped. The difference in some ice cream flavors, for instance, can become hard to differentiate after a while, and the ice cream itself tends to melt quickly. Nonetheless, Coolhaus is worth a try.
Food trucks such as Coolhaus can be found all over Los Angeles, especially in Downtown. Not too far from USC, food trucks meet at the 7th and Figueroa plaza, Monday through Wednesday every week.
If leaving campus is an issue, food trucks can usually be found on Jefferson Blvd. and McClintock Ave. and, as of late, at the United University Church parking lot during weekdays at lunchtime. Various food trucks, including Lee’s Philly, The Grilled Cheese Truck and M.O.E. Eggrolls, rotate frequently around campus.
Many people are still hesitant to try food trucks even though these eateries have come a long way since their notorious “roach coach” days. But take a bite out of a Witte burger or a Komodo 2.0 taco and you will never second-guess a food truck again.