I have become infatuated with the food truck trend. I’ve watched the shows – The Great Food Truck Race, Food Truck Revolution, etc. I’ve even brainstormed opening my own. These aren’t the food trucks that we grew up knowing. The ones we begged our parents to buy us deep fried elephant ears from at the county fair. They aren’t the late night grease tanks from which we gorged after a long night of drinking in college only to feel guilty about the next morning like that one night stand you wouldn’t have brought home if it weren’t for that last beer. These are serious gourmet restaurants…only on wheels! The freshness and quality that comes out of their limited space amazes me.
Like in most cities, the food truck scene in Charlotte has exploded in the past few years. In almost any business sector in town, you have multiple offerings for your lunch break. The same goes for the area nightlife scene. Looking to grab a quick bite before heading to the concert or movie? A truck is standing by to serve your needs. Unfortunately for me, I work from home or travel during the day leaving no food truck options for lunch. That’s why I was so pumped when I learned about the Food Truck Rally held on Friday evenings in the lot behind the Common Market in South End. Each Friday, various food trucks gather to feed the masses with Common Market in the background to serve libations.
I finally hit up the Food Truck Rally the Friday before the DNC. My experience can be summed up with one word – awesome. About eight trucks were gathered in a giant U. In the middle were picnic tables that were pretty much filled the entire evening. Lines and crowds formed around the food trucks as hungry patrons milled about reading the menus before standing in line at the truck of their choice.
With a Southern Tier Unearthy in hand from the Common Market, I decided on TIN Kitchen, and my wife stood in line at The Herban Legend. I’d say it was a tough decision with all the variety, but I had actually stumbled across the TIN Kitchen the week before at Triple C Brewery’s grand opening. I had been thinking about the Pork Belly Tacos ever since. The Tin Kitchen serves up pairs of tacos with a side. I was fine with two pork bellies since I love pork belly (I mean love), but when the cashier learned that I had a food blog, he suggested I try a daily special as well: sweet and sour shrimp with a pineapple salsa. I sided my tacos with green rice. A confession that I didn’t tell the truck operator – I don’t like sweet and sour shrimp that much. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the tacos. The fresh pineapple made the dish. But it wasn’t pork belly which was even better than I had imagined. A hoisin glaze, crisp outside, moist inside, crunchy homemade kim chi. I’m slipping into a food fantasy just recanting the meal. A confession that I did share with the operator when he said the rice was his best side – I don’t like rice (correction – hate). I loved this rice. It was bursting with fresh cilantro flavor. I really can’t say much about my wife’s Chicken Shawarma from Herban Legend. But that’s only because it was so good she wouldn’t share.
For dessert, I was planning to eat a homemade meatball sub from Clover Joe’s (for dessert what?), but they were sold out. Here’s a tip, these trucks don’t hold much inventory, so if you want something, I mean really want something, make a bee line for it. Instead, I settled for an orange soda and vanilla ice cream float from Cones Ice Cream Truck. Settled is such a negative word. I mean relived childhood memories. It was soft serve at its finest.
If you don’t have plans tonight, head Food Truck Fridays in South End tonight. Bring a chair, come early, grab a six pack from Common Market, and enjoy a night in the fresh air with good food and good company. And report back. What’d you eat and how awesome was it?