March 1st, 2020

Superb Street Food Snacks

Posted in Food Trends, Trailer/Street Foods

Street Food 2.0 is Cutting Loose on Menus

New Street Food

We’re no strangers to the love of global street foods here. It’s been a popular topic on our blog for quite some time. But it looks like we may be seeing the next evolution of street food taking place right before our eyes.

American street food is becoming an amalgamation of global flavors and influences with one set purpose, to be delicious. Chefs across the country are scorning the standards to create new blends of flavors, textures, and influences into amazing small bites that change the way we perceive street food.

Let’s see how some restaurants are adapting their menus to include new-era street foods.

Street Food Pockets

Street Food Empanadas

One of the most common types of street foods globally are food pockets. They go by lots of names like buns, dumplings, pirozhki, or calzones, but equal essentially the same thing: A flavorful filling enclosed inside a pocket of dough. Hopefully served with a delicious dipping sauce (because who doesn’t love dipping?!). The universality of this item plays directly into the creative nature of street food, and restaurants are taking notice.

Recently, Fogo de Chão has realized how to maximize this trend on their bar menu. Aside from the all-you-can-eat meat style of dining, you can opt for drinks and small bites at the bar, which includes their new empanadas. Made with flaky pastry and Picanha beef, these delicious morsels are served with a side of spicy chimichurri dipping sauce.

Conversely, the fast casual Indian chain Curry Up Now has found a growing market for their mouth-watering Street Food menu, especially the samosas. These are packed with curried potatoes and/or lamb and served with aromatic chutneys for dipping.

For the Love of the Spud

Street Food Tater Tots

Potatoes are back on trend (if they ever really left)! But it looks like we’re moving past French fries and into a whole new world of starchy deliciousness.

The Tot-Chos at the Rabbit Hole in Normal Heights, CA tops this list due to their over-the-top execution. A single order contains a combo of tortilla chips, wonton chips, tater tots, jalapeño cheese, cotija, Pico de Gallo, salsa roja, cilantro crema, and scallions. No words, I need a poet…

Curry Up Now also hit this mark with the launch of their Vada Pav. This is a mashed potato fritter sandwiched between an amul buttered bun with garlic chutney and Bombay dust. Also, the ever-creative Velvet Taco found a place for potatoes on their Picnic Chicken street taco. This features rotisserie chicken, avocado crema, warm honey-Dijon potato salad, crispy chicken skin, and cilantro on a flour tortilla. Oh, and don’t forget they also serve tots.

Tongue Thai’d

Thai Street Food

Atlanta’s Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft is showing the beauty of re-imagined Thai street food to hundreds of guests every day. People line up for the fried chicken drumsticks served with Thai 3-chile sauce. You can also order Thai-style samosas made with flaky rice paper and sweet chile sauce, or an order of Bangkok street noodles made with an assortment of chile sauces and fresh vegetables.

Dee Dee Thai in Austin, TX knows their way around next level street food as well. The Moo Ping is a pair of sweet and savory pork skewers marinated in special sauce for 48 hours and served with a small side of sticky rice and spicy dipping sauce. Or really go experimental with the Som Tom Isaan, a pungent, funky, and very spicy papaya salad made house fermented fish sauce and salted crab shell.

See You on the Streets!

So to speak. At least, with a mouth full of modern street food. These new trends are sure to launch more concepts and ideas. We’ll be here to cover them when they appear. Until then, happy eating!

Tags: , , , , , , ,
December 18th, 2017

Food Truck Series: Regal Ravioli

Posted in Food Trucks, Italian, Organic, Pizza, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods

Regal Ravioli Food Truck Review

Regal Ravioli Austin

I grew up in a middle class family with two working parents. This meant lots of solo time to be adventurous and get into some (good natured) trouble, and it meant more than one microwaved dinner fresh from a can.

My personal favorites at the age of 8 were Hormel Chili with Beans and Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli, each of which I usually finished with a bit of Cheddar cheese (don’t judge me, I was 8). The culinarians reading along are probably shuddering internally, but the truth is at the time, I loved those foods, and they were something my parents could have on hand to ensure I ate dinner.

Now, here I am 25 years later, sitting at Austin’s very own Regal Ravioli, having weird Chef Boyardee flashbacks. Now, don’t misunderstand me here, these are no canned, preformed pasta squares. This is gourmet, handmade shells stuffed with things like beef brisket and winter squash. This is ravioli elevated! But it feels comfortable and reassuring.

Run by Chef/Owner Zach Adams, who hails from Washington D.C., Regal Ravioli proves to be a truly special food truck on the Austin landscape. What makes it special? You mean aside from the fresh pasta made by hand daily, the locally sourced organic ingredients, the unique ravioli twists like roasted beet, or the prevalence of hearty vegetarian options on the menu like mushroom ravioli or sweet potato gnocchi? How about the fact that Regal has been running strong since 2011 and still holds a monopoly on ravioli trucks in Austin.

Their business is so consistent, as it turns out, they’re in the process of working on a pizza truck to fill the vacant space near them in their park. You can rest assured I’ll be stopping by to try that out. But let’s talk about what really matters, the food.

Sausage Ravioli w/ Tomato Marinara and Veloute Sauce

Sausage Ravioli

An instant classic. Pasta on the ravioli is a perfect al dente, nice fennel-y sausage on the inside with touch of pepper, and a bright, fresh tomato sauce made with fresh, aromatic basil.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ Bolognese Sauce

Gnocchi Austin

Good flavor on the gnocchi, however they went past cooked and into mushy, which is a shame. However, the Bolognese sauce is a real treat. Fresh and bright yet still meaty and savory, simply delicious.

Mushroom Ravioli w/ Pecan Pesto

Mushroom Ravioli

This was a real showstopper. So much flavor in such a little pillow. Fantastic mushroom and herb filling with a hint of truffle to really get the nose going. The pecan pesto is creamy and nutty while maintaining a cheesy quality that’s divine. I need more thumbs to put up for this dish.

Roasted Beet Ravioli w/ Caramelized Red Onion and Orange Zest

Italian Restaurants Austin

Let me lead with the fact that I don’t like beets, however, I love culinary risk takers. This dish was definitely a risk taker. While I thought the dish could have benefited from additional sweet/tangy flavors (i.e. Balsamic vinegar), the execution was perfect. Everything was cooked well, fit the profile, and was absolutely unique.

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli w/ Caramelized Onion, Poblano Pepper, and Gouda Veloute

Italian Food Trucks Austin

There’s something decidedly wonderful about the combination of winter squash and smoky peppers. And, apparently, if you take those two items and stuff them in pasta and smother it with Gouda cheese sauce it goes from wonderful to amazing. Great combination, unique twist, all around outstanding.

Handmade Meatball

Italian Food Austin

I’ve long felt a good ruler for quality when it comes to classic Sicilian Italian fare is the meatball. If I use that rule then Regal is doing great. Flavorful meatball, not too dense, not too salty, nice herbs and garlic, and definitely more meat than binder. Cuts with a fork but doesn’t crumble. Nailed it!


Quick Italian Austin

Hey, after all that pasta I needed some fiber, and Regal’s broccolini is a complete win. Charred just enough to compliment the bitter notes, cooked nicely with a bit of crunch left, and served with roasted garlic and a wedge of lemon. I could’ve eaten 3 orders of this easy.

So there you have it friends. Another Austin food truck, another delicious meal. Thanks Regal Ravioli for being the standard bearer of what delicious, home-style Italian cooking should be. I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do with a pizza (don’t sleep on the broccolini).

Until next time,


Regal Ravioli
1502 S 1st St.
Austin, TX 78704

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
October 2nd, 2017

Food Truck Series: Dee Dee Thai Food

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Reviews, Trailer/Street Foods

Food Trucks:
Dee Dee
Northern Thai Food

Thai Food


It’s time for a new Food Truck review and I’ve got a taste for Thai food today, lucky for me, Austin is always there to satisfy my whims. With all of the great Thai in town (seriously, there is some GREAT Thai food here), I wanted to venture somewhere new to me, but popular among the people. That’s what led me to Dee Dee.

Owned and operated by husband and wife team Justin and Lakana, Dee Dee (which translates to Good Good) focuses on serving street-style Thai food from the country’s northern region. Apparently, they’re doing a good job, because only 20 minutes after opening the line was 15 people deep and running a 45-minute wait on food.

So, let’s look at the food.

Moo Ping

Thai Food Austin

These expertly grilled pork skewers were tender, fatty, and full of flavor. As great Thai food does, this dish balances sweet, salty, spicy, and fishy umami flavors wonderfully. Fresh citrus and cilantro cut through all these flavors for a clean finish.

Pad Ka Pow

Thai Food Trucks Austin

Aside from being fun to say, the Pad Ka Pow packs a fragrant punch with ground pork stir fried with Thai basil and homemade chili paste. The perfect flavor comes with a combination of the fishy pik nam pla sauce and the runny fried egg for a bit of rich fattiness in with the pork and rice. This is my kind of comfort food.


Best Thai Restaurant Austin

I truly love complex flavors, especially when you’re not expecting them. The somtom fits that bill perfectly. What looks like a simple vegetable dish is actually packed with sweet, sour, citrusy goodness that’s balanced perfectly with crunchy blanched peanuts. Super fresh and irresistible.

Om Gai

Food Trucks Austin

Ok, to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed when I saw this dish. At first glance, this one is a little bland, but once again, Dee Dee proves to be all about the flavor. The dill and lemongrass bring fragrance and elegance to a hearty, fatty bone broth garnished with zucchini and thinly sliced chicken. The side of sticky rice for dipping in the broth is a great touch.

Mango Sticky Rice

Great Food in Austin

This is a very simple dish, but executed very well. Sweet but not too sweet sticky rice cooked perfectly topped with bright, ripe mango, and finished with a drizzle of sweetened coconut milk. This didn’t disappoint, but I also thought it could use something to make it more unique. A fun spice, a crispy garnish? Maybe both? Room to improve here.

Dee Dee Thai Food: Conclusion

Dee Dee performs even better than its name describes, more like Great Great. Fresh, vibrant ingredients, complex yet well-balanced flavors, and expertly prepared sticky rice make Dee Dee my new go to restaurant for comfort food (don’t worry Ramen Tatsuya, you’re still up there too).

Feel free to comment below on your favorite Thai foods or places in Austin you think I should visit. I’m always looking for my next favorite meal.



Dee Dee
Northern Street Thai Food
1906 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX 78702

Tags: , , , , ,
August 21st, 2017

Food Truck Series: Via 313

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

Via 313 Pizza

Pizza Trends

Pizza is a staple food of life, I think we can all agree on that. No matter your preference or dietary restrictions, someone out there has made a pretty darn good pizza just for you.

One of the true beauties of pizza is its different adaptations. Thin crust, thick crust, white pizza, flatbread, Mexican style, Korean BBQ, New York, Chicago, deconstructed; the list can go on and on.

After seeing a rise in the popularity of Detroit style pizza, we here at Culinary Culture decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what it’s all about. And what better place to find out then the rapidly expanding pizza truck turned brick and mortar restaurant here in Austin, Via 313.

Detroit Style Pizza

The first question to answer was, “what is Detroit style pizza?” Via 313 owner Brandon Hunt was kind enough to answer that question in an interview with Austin Eater. In his description, Detroit style pizza refers to a square pie, cooked in pans that are actually used in automotive plants for spare parts, caramelized cheese crusts, and a generous pour of sauce on top of the pizza when finished.

The second question is, “is it any good?” After tasting the Detroiter, a pie made with smoked pepperoni under the cheese and natural casing pepperoni atop, the Smokey, made with Black’s brisket and tangy BBQ sauce, and the Rocket (my favorite), stacked with hot Sopressatta, arugula, and shaved Parmesan, I can emphatically say yes. Very good.

The caramelized cheese around the crust stands out with both great texture and flavor. The crust is thick and crispy on the outside, but chewy in the middle. It’s very filling but a little oily for my preference. Via 313’s red sauce was a standout though. Vibrant red, fresh tasting, and filled with herbs. It complimented the pies well and something about having it on top cleans the palate between bites.

I’m officially on board with Detroit style pizza.

Detroit Pizza

If your splitting hairs, the location I visited technically isn’t a food truck. But since it began as a food truck, and this location is much closer to me then where the truck resides, I hope you’ll overlook this.

Thanks for reading along, now get out there and eat!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
August 7th, 2017

Flavor Blasts: Jamaican Food

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

foods of Jamaica

Bold, Bright, Beautiful: Jamaican Flavors

When you think of Jamaican flavors you reflexively think of jerk, stews,

Jamaican Cuisine

Courtesy of Island Spice Grill

and curries. What do these dishes have in common? Rich, complex flavors.

The source of these flavors is Jamaica’s abundant use of garlic, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, a variety of chili peppers and citrus fruits, coconut, and soy sauce. You’ll also come across plenty of legumes, sugar cane, plantains, onion, and tamarind offering a plethora of flavor diversity.

This variety is what defines Jamaican cuisine. Influenced by Spanish, African, Indian, and Chinese ancestries, and supported by rich volcanic soil and a damp climate, it’s easy to see how Jamaican cuisine has evolved into such a complex and desirable cuisine. In the U.S., Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines have boomed spanning the market from fast food (Pollo Tropical) to fine dining (Glady’s).


Jamaican foodsWith such progress comes culinary innovation. One example of this comes with Chef Nigel Spence of Ripe Kitchen and Bar in New York, who uses pimento wood chips to slow smoke chicken before seasoning it with jerk. This reaches back to the traditional essence of jerk, where pimento wood was used in fires to grill meats over high heat. Another is the roaming Island Spice Grill food cart in New York. They have combined traditional Jamaican jerk flavors with a masterful social media platform to create a cult following of diners who anxiously await daily posts to find out where they will be positioning their cart.

Time will tell what will come with the future of Jamaican cuisine as it intertwines with American culture and a fusion of other cuisines. Personally, I’m excited to see. But until then, get out there and explore what Jamaican food your city has to offer.


Tags: , , , ,
March 13th, 2017

Food Truck Series: Kebabalicious

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods

Austin Food Truck Consultants


Modeled after the European style Doner Kebab carts, common street food through the U.K. and greater Europe, Kebabalicious successfully brings that savory flavor to Austin.

Listed on Eater as a one of the “20 Essential Food Trucks in Austin,” Kebabalicious maintains similar accolades on Do512 also. For this reason, and the fact that I ate kebab at least twice a week while I lived in London, I knew I had to give this truck a try. 


Restaurant consultants

With a smart, concise menu, ordering was made easy for me. With the “Spoiled Brat” plate, the K-Fries, and a side order of the Ka-baam sauce I was able to taste almost all of the menu items.

Commercial food consultants

The Spoiled Brat plate consists of beef and lamb shawarma, seasoned chicken, crispy falafel, humus, feta, tzatziki, and red sauce on a bed of greens with tomatoes and onion.

The chicken was delicious. Moist and tender with and excellent seasoning. The beef and lamb was underwhelming. The flavor was fairly standard with nothing to denote fine quality or uniqueness. It was also cut so small it was closer to ground sausage than traditional flanks of shawarma. The falafel, however, made up for that fully. Perfect balance of crispy exterior with a soft, rustic center. Great color, aromatics, and seasoning.

Corporate chefs

The K-Fries were a fun addition, but also let me down. While the sauce was excellent and the salty feta worked very well with the fries, the fact that they were soft undercut the dish. I will say though, the zatar spice is the perfect complement to fries. With hot, crisp potatoes this would likely have been a real winner.


Let’s focus on sauce for a minute, particularly the chile sauces. The Ka-baam sauce is a smoky blend of jalapeno and poblano peppers in cool cream cheese with lots of aromatics. Delightful against the strong seasonings and charred meats.

Their spicy red sauce, on the other hand, is closer to a harissa chile blended with red curry sauce. Balance this with some powerful aromatics like coriander and cumin, ramp up with coarsely crushed black pepper, and then tone back down with creamy mayonnaise and you may have something close to this delicious sauce.


To finish out the humus was wonderful, rustic, and delicate. The tzatziki was overly sweet and missed the crucial cucumber flavor, but the pita was wonderfully thin and chewy, a refreshing change from the usually puffy, dense pitas served at many kebab shops.

Final Thoughts

Recipe commercialization

Overall I was pleased with my visit to Kebabalicious. The chicken is well prepared and hearkens directly to the doner kebab shops of Europe. I’d like to see a stronger cut of the beef and lamb, a more balanced tzatziki, and crispy fries, but these I’ll chalk up to a simple miss. I’ll have to eat there 3 or 4 more times before I’m sure of anything. Next time though, I know to start with the falafel.

Until next time, good eating Austin!




Tags: , , , , , , , ,
November 1st, 2016

Food Truck Series: Cazamance

Posted in About Allison, About Christopher, Food Trends, Food Trucks, Healthy, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends



Ubuntu: I am because we are. This is the sign that welcomes you to Cazamance, a West African inspired food truck in South Austin. The word “Ubuntu” literally translates into “human-ness,” which is the African philosophy of universal human connection. It’s this philosophy that inspires the unique and approachable food produced here.

Owned and operated by Chef Iba Thiam, who brings culinary experience from West Africa, France, New York, and, of Course, Austin, Cazamance operates by the ethos that delicious beverages and great-tasting food are the secret to making life better. I certainly can’t argue with that!

So let’s dive in to the 2nd installment of the Dish Bliss Austin food truck series and talk food…

Dakar Lamb Wrap


The fatty earthiness of the lamb is balanced well with a sweet acidic tomato relish to give the wrap a surprisingly light flavor. The melted brie adds a pungent, creaminess that, while unexpected, works well within this scheme. The creamy Sriracha sauce served on the side really took this dish to the next level. The lamb itself could, however, have benefited from additional seasoning and a pinch of salt. Overall quite nice.

Vegan Curry


I truly appreciate when a vegan dish offers bold flavors and heartiness, which are characteristically lacking in this category. That’s exactly what the vegan curry brought. Offered in either a wrap or on a bed of fresh spinach, as many of Chef Iba’s dishes are, the curry was well-rounded with good spiciness. It, like the lamb though, simply lacked that dash of salt to fully bring out all of those complex flavors.

Mafe Vegetables


I went off menu to get this dish, and luckily for me, the Chef had some leftover from a catering event from the night before. A nice medley of vegetables and white beans stewed in a peanut butter sauce made the mafe hearty and satisfying. I would have preferred a little more heat along with, yet again, a pinch of salt, but overall flavorful and filling.

Yassa Chicken


This was by far my favorite item. Tangy and tender pulled chicken with smoky poblano peppers came together ceremoniously under a generous sprinkling of salty feta cheese. I could’ve easily eaten three helpings of this gem. I chose to have this served on a bed of spinach, which was crisp and wonderfully fresh.

Piri Piri


What a treat the Piri Piri was. Aromas of cinnamon and clove emit from the juicy smoked pulled pork. Flavorful and well-seasoned with a slight heat from the serrano sauce and a great textural contrast between the crispy pieces of pork and the soft starchiness of the plantain. This is the type of dish that keeps you coming back for more.

Fresh Young coconut


Just consider this the cherry on top. A fresh, butcher cut coconut served with a straw. The fresh, sweet milk was the perfect palate cleanser for the complex seasonings. And, as an added touch of hospitality, April and Iba will happily split the coconut open for you after you finish the milk so you can eat the meat for dessert. Delightful!



Aside from the under-seasoning of a few of the dishes I found Cazamance innovative, well executed, and crave-worthy. I appreciate the essence of their food and love its healthful qualities. In a landscape of tacos and chicken wings, Cazamance offers a deliciously unique alternative.


4204 Manchaca Rd.
Austin, TX 78704

Located behind Radio Coffee and Beer.


September 26th, 2016

Food Trucks Series: Picnik

Posted in Food Trends, Food Trucks, Gluten Free, Healthy, New Foods and Flavors, Paleo, Product Innovation, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

If there’s one thing we know Austin does great, it’s food trucks. These portable testaments to culinary dedication span the spectrum of culinary adventurism.

You can find everything from fancy Turkish breakfasts, savory fried bananas, and traditional African cuisine via a local food truck. Honestly, it’s a blessing and a curse. With all this amazing food at your fingertips the budget is always in jeopardy.

For this series we are going to explore some of Austin’s unique food truck options. Our first stop will be Picnik, which, admittedly, is more of a “trailer” than a food truck, but let’s not get hung up on the semantics.


About Picnik

Picnik focuses on healthful, gluten-free and paleo food options made with only the highest quality ingredients. They set themselves apart from the traditionally decadent food truck scene with a focus on nutrient dense, flavor packed options.

You’ll find no refined sugars or white flour on this menu, but what you will find are unique dishes that will satiate both your stomach and your spirit.

The Food



Butter is back! Sporting a rich aroma with notes of hazelnut, this coffee offers hearty flavor with luxurious mouthfeel. Even with no sugar, the butter coffee hits sweet notes on the palate. The butter and MCT oil offer creamy texture without overwhelming the drinker.



I took the guidance of the barista on this one and ordered the classic beef bone broth with a hit of ginger and spicy pepper. Glad I did. Great flavor, rich notes of marrow, wonderful herbal notes and a kick at the end. In my opinion the ginger came on too strong but overall the broth was executed wonderfully with a beautiful fatless surface.



I love eggs. Period. I really wanted to love this frittata. Unfortunately, the heavy cornmeal flavor and aroma snuffed out any taste of chorizo and left it flat. Very dense and a bit under seasoned I’d say the heart is in the right place on this one but it could use a revamp.



I was not expecting to enjoy this dish as much as I did. The broccoli was fresh and bright with great crunch and flavor. I loved the pairing of the creamy avocado oil mayonnaise with sweet currants, salty bacon, and tangy red onions. The only knock on this dish was that the chicken, while flavorful, was overcooked by a good 5 minutes. It was so chewy and fibrous that I pitched it in order to get more of that delicious broccoli.



What a winner! Ultra-moist, soft, and bursting with flavor, this gluten-free gem makes you forget flour has purpose. The combination of coconut sugar and almond flour gives off a rich, almost fig-like flavor and texture. Just excellent.


I respect the heck out of Picnik. With an extremely difficult platform they manage to offer good, healthful food choices without skimping on flavor. They’ve got some hurdles to mount but I think they can get there. I would certainly return for a BBB lunch anytime (Bone Broth, Broccoli Crunch, and Blondie).

Where to Picnik

You can visit Picnik online at or at one of their following locations:

1700 S Lamar 400-B
Austin, TX 78704

4801 Burnet Rd.
Austin, TX 78756



July 20th, 2015

Austin Food Trailer Of The Month: Thai-Kun

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

Thai Changthong has worked in some interesting places, among them Uchiko Austin under the tutelage of Paul Qui. After working there he opened a restaurant in North Austin with Ek Timrerk (You may remember him from our piece on Kin and Comfort, a modern Southern-Thai fusion concept in North Austin) called Spin Modern Thai. While the restaurant was short lived, due to issues with the ventilation system, the food there was amazingly well executed and flavorful.

Thai-Kun, Changthong’s next foray into the culinary world, with his partner Paul Qui, opened in April of 2014 and quickly made the top 10 in Bon Appetit Magazine’s Best New Restaurants in America. That’s quite an accomplishment for a humble food trailer that now sits on the back patio at Whisler’s, an ultra-hip, yet unpretentious bar on Austin’s East Side.










Thai-Kun is part of the Qui Empire for sure, but where Qui focuses on predominantly Filipino food, Chef Changthong focuses on what is affectionately referred to as the “O.G. Thai” (Original Gangster Authentic Thai). This is spicy, no sugar added Thai food that will make your mouth water and your lips burn.

Our first taste was waterfall pork, the spiciest dish on the menu. The dish was full of flavor and heat. The grilled pork shoulder was very tender. It was drizzled with Tiger Cry sauce and sprinkled with toasted rice powder. Cilantro and red onions are bright and clean counterpoints to the spice of the pork. It was served with pickled cabbage and sticky rice to cool and temper the heat. This was a truly addicting dish that I just could not stop eating.











Next up were the black noodles, which were rice noodles cooked in soy sauce and garlic oil. They were then mixed with romaine lettuce, croutons, bean sprouts, celery, croutons and green onions. This was the perfect dish to serve with the waterfall pork due to its cooling nature.











The Issan sausage with distinctly fermented notes was  perfectly ground and had a crispy snap. It was served with ginger, fresh herbs and cabbage. While it was tasty, it needed a little more punch besides the fresh herbs and ginger. I can’t help thinking that glazing in a spicy sauce would have done the trick.










After that we sampled the caramelized pork belly served over jasmine rice with cilantro, red onions and cucumber. The pork belly was a little on the sweet side and could have been slightly more tangy with larger pieces of pork belly. Don’t get me wrong, I love pork belly, but going a little easier on the sweetness and cutting the pork belly into larger pieces would have done the trick.










Our last taste at Thai-Kun was the Thai-Kun fried chicken, which was made with soy sauce marinated chicken. From what I can guess, it was a rice flour coating, since the breading was super light and crispy. It was served with chicken fat rice and Boom sauce (a slightly sweet but intensely spicy chili sauce with a touch of fish sauce). This was a very different interpretation of fried chicken compared to what I am used to but I really loved the play among the flavors.











I have to admit, that the food at this trailer was overall some of the best food I have had at a trailer here in Austin in a long time. With the popularity of food trucks here in the ATX, that’s saying something. From the execution of the dishes to the quality of ingredients, it shows in the end product, and I can see why the trailer made Bon Appetit’s list.

And the best part? The trailer is so popular that the owners are currently in the hiring process for the new brick and mortar at the Domain in North Austin. Look for the opening early this fall in addition to a 2nd Thai-Kun trailer slated to open at Steampunk Saloon on West 6th Street next month.

It is only a matter of time before the waterfall pork calls to me again. Try it, you don’t know what you are missing!

August 30th, 2013

Austin Food Truck Trends

Posted in food tours, New Foods and Flavors, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

If you are looking to expand your menu and want to know what trends are relevant, you need look no further than what is cooking up in food trucks in your own backyard.

The menu adoption phase occurs in 4 phases: inception, adoption, ubiquity, proliferation, and ubiquity. In the inception phase, ingredients are introduced that are well ahead of a trend (think Chipotle in the 1990’s, or Pimento Cheese in the 2000’s), and are used in very traditional ways. In the adoption phase, those establishments in the “wait-and-see” mode take the trends from the inception phase and integrate them into a more familiar platform. In the ubiquity phase, a trend has grown to be accepted by most segments. Finally, in the proliferation phase, the trend is widespread and solidly integrated.

According to Data Essential, the inception phase in the menu adoption cycle is most likely to occur in fine dining establishments and food trucks for several reasons. For food truck establishments, portability, affordable risk, and around the clock snacking drive sales. Food trucks have the reputation for being trailblazers. By offering innovative and out-of-the-box menu items, using high-quality ingredients and unique presentation with an approachable price point, food truck establishments target the demographic that likes adventure on a shoestring budget.

So let’s talk about some trends from the food trucks in our back yard here in Austin:

1) Comfort with a Twist

In the spirit of “Keep Austin Weird” a few food trucks are taking classic dishes and breathing in new life. Familiar comfort dishes meet unconventional ingredients.

Take for example, the food at Goldis Sausage Company. Sausage is the focus here, but who would think Mac N’ Cheese sausage (shown below) would be so popular? Creamy Mac N’ Cheese stuffed inside a sausage casing is smoked then grilled. As your teeth snap through the charred crust, you are rewarded with creamy cheesy macaroni.

Other interesting flavors include Blue sausage (pork, blueberry, maple, and mint), Honey-Orange-Mango, Thanksgiving Sausage (turkey, pork, stuffing, pumpkin, cranberries, pecans), and Apple Pie Sausage (pork, apples, spices, and pie crust).

How about the biscuits at Biscuits N’ Groovy? The Biscuits + Groovy features house made biscuits with Bootlegger Brown Ale Gravy, sausage and chives. The Johnny Hash has gravy, cheese potatoes, sausage, bacon, and chives. Both dishes are a new riff on a familiar recipe, comforting yet unique. And while you are at it, bring in your old mix tapes to trade for others for a fun music exploration!

At Fried and True, everything is deep-fried. That includes your favorite comfort food, grilled cheese. Light and airy homemade batter surrounds plain thin sliced white bread and a generous helping of real American cheese. Drizzled with Sriracha, and served with house-made Ranch dressing, it’s a delicious childhood memory brought to life with a dash of spice.

You can also try the deep-fried brownies and cinnamon roll bites, or the deep-fried fluffer nutter sandwich.

I think we can all agree, that when it comes to dessert, there is nothing more classic than chocolate chip cookies.

Torchy’s Tacos takes that classic and turns it on its head. Little Nookies are balls of chocolate chip cookie dough, battered in corn flake batter, then deep-fried. They are served with powdered sugar and maraschino cherries, and are one of those desserts that evoke ‘the moment’: you know, when something is so good, that you are quiet, focused, and in a flavor swoon?

For Austinites, the Texas heat can only be combatted with ice cream. The best place in Austin for great ice cream is Lick. They use local and seasonal ingredients to create unique flavors such as beet ice cream (roasted beets and fresh mint), and Candied Tomato, Basil, and Balsamic (fresh Texas tomatoes and balsamic vinegar swirled with fresh basil ice cream).

2) Shrinking World

We cannot ignore the pull of ethnic tradition. The foods of distant lands have never been more approachable and popular than they are now. Milennials in particular, crave foods from other countries. Emerging cuisines such as Korean, Japanese, and Peruvian delight the palates of well-travelled consumers who yearn for that food at home.

Austin’s own Fresh Off The Truck offers Asian-inspired Musubi hand rolls and gourmet-shaved ice. One of the most popular rolls on the menu is the S.S. Musubi roll (Spam, shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, Shoyu, and spicy Asian sauce). F.O.T Macaroni salad is made with cucumber, pineapple, and pickled carrots. While you are there, don’t forget to try the Mr. Miyagi: house-made shaved ice with mango syrup, mango, vanilla ice cream, chili sauce, and chili powder.

At the Texas Cuban, the focus is on pressed sandwiches with a Mexican flair as well as plantains done three ways: mariquitas (thin-sliced deep-fried plantains), tostones (smashed and double-fried thick-cut plantains), and maduros (deep-fried sweet plantains).

Frank’s has some of the best house made and local artisan sausage and smoked meats. The Notorious P.I.G. consists of tender smoked pork, bacon, jalapeno, sage sausage topped with mac n’ cheese, and Dr. Doppelganger BBQ Sauce. For a side, try the Reuben fries (waffle fries topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, corned beef, and Thousand Island dressing).

With savory pancakes “so good they broke up the Beatles”, the food at Yoko Ono Miyaki is Japanese with a strong Southern influence. Try the Texas Style Okonomiyaki, with brisket and BBQ sauce, or the Cajun style with Boudin and creamy Sriracha lime sauce. For dessert, the melon, sesame peanut butter, or lychees milk shake.

3) Focus on Health

For more and more consumers, health is the focus of the daily diet. As the obesity rates consistently increase, vendors at food trucks are offering more healthful, yet flavorful options.

East Side Kings is one the premiere trucks in Austin, brought to you by Top Chef Texas, Paul Qui. “So good, it make your eye roll back”, yes, indeed. The items on the menu are craveable, yet unique. For starters, the Beet fries are a sure hit: roasted beets are dusted in cornstarch then fried until crispy. They are served sprinkled with Togarashi spice and green onions with Kewpie mayo for dipping. The ESK grilled cheese is a whole new twist on grilled cheese, with Brie on Hawaiian roll; it’s layered with green apple kimchee, Nori, green onion, gochujang, and sesame oil. The perfect summer refreshment is the Watermelon Kale salad (grilled kale, pickled watermelon, miso Kewpie dressing, crispy chicken skin). Broccoli pops served with sweet chili miso are a simple snackable finger food.

For healthy sandwich options, nothing beats the Edamame Fritter at Austin Daily Press. Creamy edamame is prepared falafel-like and topped with ginger-peanut chutney, cilantro, mint, and onion. The house falafel sandwich with hummus, roasted red pepper, yogurt, and pickled cucumber salad with Feta. With some of the best house-made pickles in the city, including cauliflower mix, Asian spice pickles, and sweet & hot mix.

The food truck, Mister Fruitcup, run by Justin Avalos, centers its cuisine on healthy fruit cups in a multitude of flavors. The food truck even employs a nutritionist, one of the only ones in Austin to do so. Ranging from classic sweet offerings to more savory options, the menu has something for everyone. Try the Vermont for apples, cranberries, pecans, Vermont Cheddar, and maple-balsamic glaze. The Napa, with cherry tomatoes, watermelon, fresh Mozzarella, basil, balsamic glaze takes a whole savory slant on the fruitcup. My favorite, Mr. Natural, includes vegan chocolate donuts, strawberries, blackberries, oranges, chocolate sauce, yogurt, and granola, is so good you may want to get your own.

We all know Austin is a vegan friendly town, and Rockin’ Vegan Tacos offers a wide range of healthy vegan, and tasty tacos. The Grilled Avocado Reale features grilled avocado, grilled onions, refried black beans, vegan pepper Jack cheese, cilantro, and creamy Verde sauce. The Rockin’ Vegan Brisket BBQ Taco is all vegan, but very tasty. Veggie tacos with mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onion, and corn are approachable, even for a carnivore:

4) Local/Artisan/Regional

The slow food movement is still going strong, and farm-to-trailer cuisine has never been hotter.

Torchy’s Tacos is the king of the local food movement. The Crossroads Brisket Taco with smoked beef, jalapeno, cilantro, Jack cheese, avocado, and grilled onions is a classic Texas combination. The Democrat features barbacoa, avocado, Queso Fresco, cilantro, onion, wedge of lime, and tomatillo salsa. The Republican with grilled jalapeno sausage, Pico de Gallo, and poblano sauce is a spicy answer to your hot dog craving. For the vegan, the Independent is a sure bet, with fried portabella, refried black beans, roast corn, escabeche carrots, Queso Fresco, cilantro, avocado, and Ancho aioli.

The Noble Pig is nationally known for its handcrafted meats, such as duck pastrami. While it’s not a food truck, it deserves a nod on the list. With house-made pickles and 1000 Island dressing, the duck pastrami is the standout on the menu. The pressed cauliflower and cheese is also a unique grilled cheese experience. Pimento cheese with smoked green onions, romaine, and olive oil pickles is a wonderful homage to the classic pimento cheese sandwich.

For the best Pork Confit sandwich in Austin, look no further that Melvin’s Deli Comfort. On chewy bread with Brie, house mustard, and greens, it is fall apart tender. The Hot Beef with roasted beef, grilled onions, hatch chiles, Jack cheese and green chile aioli is a decidely Texas twist on the deli sandwich. The Corned Beef, piled high with mustard and melted Swiss on rye has some of the best corned beef on the planet, not overly spiced, tender and fall apart.

5) Indulgence

One trend that will not go away is indulgence. While there is an upswing in health-conscious eating, there will always be consumers that crave the indulgent bite, and they are willing to overlook the calorie count of a dish to fulfill that craving.

Austin Daily Press, which we touched on earlier, also has a talent for the indulgent. The Fat Albert, made with breaded deep-fried Mortadella, sweet red pepper relish, house-made whole grain mustard, and Monterey Jack is a decadent, delicious sandwich to eat with two hands. It’s hearty and filling and a perfect blend of flavors. The Pineapple Express with roast chicken, ham, pineapple, ginger chutney, and Monterey Jack is sweet and spicy. For dessert, the Blue Balls, made with deep-fried blueberry banana bread, and vanilla glaze are a memorable ending.

At Hey! You Gonna Eat or What?, the Shiner Monte Cristo is the star of the show. Layers of smoked ham, Mesquite turkey, Cheddar and Provolone are sandwiched, and then battered in Shiner Beer batter. The house-made cherry-fig jam is the perfect counterpoint to the crispy, breaded, gooey sandwich. For a South American flair, try the Chilean Chacarero, with hickory smoked brisket, Beefsteak tomatoes, fried green beans, and chipotle chimichurri. Simple goodness comes in the form of the Lonestar BLT, with thick cut apple wood bacon, fried green tomatoes, lettuce, and poblano aioli.

Anthony Bourdain has featured Gourdough’s, the “Home of the Big Fat Donut” on his show. The truck is now so popular that the owner’s have now opened a brick and mortar with the name Gourdough’s Public House. With donuts the likes of the Squealing Pig (bacon, strawberry jalapeno jelly, cream cheese icing, and candied jalapenos); and donut burgers such as the Ron Burgundy (grilled angus burger, bacon, fried egg, American cheese, cilantro, guacamole, tomato, and mayo, all served on Gourdough’s famous donuts), Gourdough’s Public House is a one of a kind establishment. Finish off with The Big Cheez, fresh Mozzarella wrapped in donut dough and then deep-fried.

So one last question….you hungry???