Top 10 San Diego Food Trucks

It's no secret that I'm a legitimately crazy person- just most notably when food trucks are involved. If I could eat at a food truck for every meal every day, I would without hesitation. I'm not quite sure what my fascination with the mobile revolution is, but maybe I'm just enthusiastic about any major trend in American dining and I happen to live in a place where it's nice outside constantly. Maybe.

Anyhoo, this list has been a long time coming for me personally. I'm sure that many, many people would disagree my list below or want to throw me off a cliff for not mentioning their absolute favorite San Diego food truck, but no matter. I've done the research (a.k.a. stuffing my face) as much as I can, and with my (limited) knowledge and (unlimited) enthusiasm, I've come up with what I think are the best San Diego food trucks around.

My somewhat loose criteria are things like a mix of menu options (creativity, number of dishes, rotation, etc.), locations (more mobility is a good thing), cost (over the top gourmet food trucks really might just be missing the point), taste (duh, but also very arbitrary), friendliness (you can tell the legit people who are stoked on what they're doing vs. those cashing in on a trend who carry the shit kitchen attitude to the streets), and marketing (some have got it and some don't. Not a dealbreaker, but everyone likes a fun truck gimmick). I didn't make an actual grading scale or anything. I just know what I like and have no qualms about telling you what you SHOULD like.

I'll also note that I personally tend to gravitate towards the more gratuitous trucks (sorry MIHO - I tend to dig cheeseburgers more than beet salads) and more savory than sweet, so even though there are some BOMB dessert trucks on there, I'm gonna lean towards the lunch/dinner ones and leave the dessert trucks to another post. Last disclaimer: I haven't eaten at EVERY SINGLE food truck in San Diego. If there's one that I absolutely MUST TRY and I really should kill myself for writing this without trying them, then let me know (minus the death threats, please). There's always time for Round 2!

Without further ado... the top 10 San Diego food trucks.  

10. Asian Persuasion
This truck is solid. Their pork sliders are seriously amazing, their sauces are great, and even their complimentary won ton chips with sweet and sour dipping sauce aren't your run of the mill stale chip shards so often served at shitty Chinese restaurants. There's certainly a time and place for cheap Chinese food (you know the kind- the farty, bloat-inducing, MSG-laden limp beef with soggy broccoli that you really shouldn't enjoy as much as you do), but Asian Persuasion hits it right every time. They really could work on changing up their menu a bit, and I've heard a few horror stories about working with them to arrange an event, but overall, top notch stuff. Definitely the best Asian food truck in San Diego.  

9. Mangia Mangia
Italian staple of San Diego. They're at every food truck gathering and their staff always has big smiles on their faces. There's no real surprises (ever) on the menu, but what you get it always stationary-restaurant quality fresh ingredients from friendly people. Two thumbs up.  

8. MIHO Gastrotruck
O.G. S.D. food truck. Everyone knows 'em, everyone loves 'em. As far as I'm concerned, MIHO speared the food truck revolution in San Diego. They are to San Diego what Kogi is to LA. They're all over the place, they give a crap about sustainability and local sourcing, and they are creative as hell on their ever-changing menu. A little pricier than run-of-the-mill trucks, and this isn't the place for gluttons (woe is me), but their marketing hits it spot on. Not to be missed.  

7. Operacaffe
Their meatball sandwich made me want to cry. Placing them over MIHO will be sacrilege for some (despite their excellent cuisine), but what can I say. I'm a sucker for them. I also tend to run into them more than other trucks, which makes me pretty brand loyal. Seriously. Get the meatball sandwich.  

6. New York on Rye
Most legit Jewish deli style sandwiches in San Diego since the German deli on 30th in North Park closed. They don't toast their bread (legit!), they have big ass pickles (legit!), and they pile their thinly sliced meat to the sky. LEGIT. Pastrami on rye and Ruebens are NOT to be passed up. Dammit. I'm salivating.  

5. Devilicious
Another San Diego fave! They're nationally known and adored, plus babes man the truck. My only qualm with them is they steer a little too far over into the crass gratuitousness with their signature butter poached lobster grilled cheese sandwich, but I mean, seriously? What's not to like? I'm SUPER bummed that their kimchi dog didn't stay long on the menu because OMIGOD, but you will never, ever, EVER be disappointed with ANYTHING you get off this truck. Plus, their logo of a baby devil eating a sandwich is rad.  

4. Mariscos on Texas
Yup. I gave a "roach coach" the #4 spot. Wanna know why? EVERYTHING HERE IS BETTER THAN ANYTHING YOU'VE EVER EATEN. What they lack in marketing or even menu rotation is 100% made up with their food, plain and simple. Do yourself a favor. Drop what you're doing and drive to the liquor store on Texas and Meade. Park. Get ceviche. Also everything else on the menu. Do not trust the white man with your ceviche. Only trust Mariscos with your ceviche. Eat it. Order more. You'll thank me.  

3. Super Q
BBQ fans from the South, rejoice! Your time has come to SoCal on 4 wheels with Southern hospitality to boot. Best BBQ truck in San Diego. Everything is slow cooked and an extra bonus is they don't take forever to make it for you. It's not fussy and it's not rocket science. It's just damn fine eatin'.  

2. Hoangies
Banh mi sandwiches are maaaaaaaaaaaaybe my favorite food ever, so I'm perhaps a little biased on Hoangies. Nah, it's just that good. The menu is straightforward, and even though I have to admit that it's not the most unbelievably authentic banh mi in the entire universe, it does the trick and then some. It's family owned, they roll all over town, and it legitimately makes me weep when I see them. I'm ALL about Hoangies. I want everyone and their mom to patronize it. The people rock and are always super appreciative, plus they remember you! I may or may not have freaked out with ecstasy in front of them more than once (which tends to make an impression), but I think I bankroll them pretty hard so whatever. Fun fact: I almost wrecked my car when I drove by them one time, started screaming, pulled an illegal U-Turn, and then hopped my way across the street in glee. I. Fucking. Love. Hoangies. They ALMOST made it to my #1 absolute favorite food truck in San Diego spot, but there's only one other place that is higher in my heart.  

1. Tabe BBQ
Korean BBQ. Are there any sweeter words in the English culinary language? I'm honestly having a hard time not jumping in front of a car because I don't have a plate of sweet pork in front of me. Tabe's marketing sucks, they're hard to find, and their menu never changes. WHO CARES. It's absolutely, unequivocally, the best truck in San Diego, I'd wager it would give any truck in the country a run for its money. It gets overlooked because their branding is garbage and it honestly could pass for a roach coach, but it's so, so, so much more than that. I honestly pity you if you've never experienced the glory of Tabe. I VIVIDLY remember eating it for the first time and after my first bite I had a revelation. I've eaten some damn fine food in my life, but there are very few things that come close to Tabe. Tabe, I love you.

PLEASE feel free to recommend your favorite food trucks and dishes to me! I can always use a good excuse to check out a new place.

Flavors of Yeast

White-Labs from Dennis Stein on Vimeo.



San Diego Beer Week is coming up fast, and November 4-13 can't get here soon enough! Events are still being added to the calendar, and the one that we're most excited about is the "Flavors of Yeast" presentation by the Head of Laboratory Operations at White Labs, Neva Parker. It's certainly not going to be the run-of-the-mill drinkfest (NOT that there's anything wrong with that!) that will be taking place all over the county, rather a more science-y panel for serious beer lovers, home brewers, and just general nerds alike.

On Wednesday, November 9th from 6-9pm at Sea Rocket Bistro, $20 gets you into the talk (plus hors d’oeuvres) that will cover topics like cultivating yeast and the different properties that strains provide to beer styles. As a bonus (and learning experience of course), attendees will slosh down side-by-side a 'base beer' that was created identically in every way except yeast strains, so the individual flavor profiles can be explored and discussed as a group. Yeasts include:

WLP530 Abbey Ale Yeast
Used to produce Trappist style beers, distinct for their clovey, estery profile. Fruity and alcohol tolerant (up to 15% ABV). Excellent yeast for high gravity beers, Belgian ales, dubbels and trippels.

WLP810 San Francisco Lager Yeast
This yeast is used to produce the “California Common” style beer. A unique lager strain which has the ability to ferment up to 65 degrees while retaining lager characteristics. Can also be fermented down to 50 degrees for production of marzens, pilsners and other style lagers.

WLP655 Belgian Sour Mix 1
A unique blend perfect for Belgian style beers. Includes Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, and the bacterial strains Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.
(info from the Sea Rocket event page)

So if you're a beer lover, science geek, or just someone who wants to know more about the weird little creatures that help the more popular hops + barley become beer, head on down! I'll be there with pocket protector and pint!

Fleet of Eats: 57 Degrees 3rd Friday Food Truck Gathering

Food truck fever has hit San Diego HARD, and this is in no way depressing. Besides the individual truck schedules, there's plenty of "gatherings" where an assortment of trucks get together and create a mobile food court to the delight of locals. One of the ones that I kept missing was the 3rd Friday Gathering at 57 Degrees in Little Italy, but NOT THIS TIME! Parking was a challenge, especially since the closest trolley stop is out of commission for awhile, but we managed to hoof it, fork over the $2 entrance fee, and beeline it through the wine bar to their back parking lot filled from end to end with mobile yumminess!

I knew that I wanted to see what every truck had to offer before committing to anything, so we started with the Eat at Recess Truck, Operacaffe, CurioCity, Tabe BBQ, MangiaMangia, Food Farm, the Gathering Spot, etc. etc. etc. (one immediate complaint is that the list on the 57 Degrees website wasn't really accurate). However, that didn't REALLY matter since there was plenty to choose from and to kick things off we got the Fried Pizza Dough stuffed with cheese from Operacaffe Mobile.

It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect- doughy balls of fried goodness with bubbling cheese spewing from the tops like tiny volcanoes with a side of marinara for dipping. Hot, cheesy balls. What's not to like? We munched on these as we studied the rest of the boards for our entrees. One noteworthy trend is that almost every single truck had some version of sliders and/or parmesan fries (some with, some without truffles). I guess it makes sense since sliders are a little more manageable on the go, but come on people! A little variety would be nice!

Next up was the Spicy Brat from The Gathering Spot Bistrotruck. It seemed to be the recommended dog, and it sounded pretty unusual/great with cream cheese spread and a jalapeno/onion mix. When we got it, I was pretty disappointed with the grayness of the brat, generic cream cheese, and limp, leech-like jalapenos that looked more like sad kelp than spicy pepper. It wasn't spicy in ANY respect, and was just pretty bland. Disappointing. (HOWEVER - we did run into this truck the next day at Green Flash Brewery and decided to give it another go. Their Slidertini with angus beef, dill aioli, sauteed mushrooms & onions with a block of cheddar toothpicked on top was GREAT. Shockingly tender and the perfect amount of dill - which I find can be easily overdone. Not to be missed!)

By now Ashton-the-sweet-tooth was itching for some dessert, so he headed over to The Chubby Truck for their fried cheesecake with either strawberry compote or chocolate dip. He brought back what appeared to be two egg rolls with a cup of fudge, and I felt like I was back at the gluttonous state fair in Del Mar all over again! Things like this are fine in their own way, I suppose... I mean, yes, it was fried cheesecake. Great. Nothing surprising, and honestly just a little gratuitous. The rest of their menu looked pretty amazing, so I'm anxious to give this new truck another go and get one of their tasty-looking burgers next time!

Last on the list was Tabe Korean BBQ, which I'd had once before and LOVED. To wrap things up we got their Tabe Asada Fries with the sweet pork, and let me just tell you that I give it the rating of "Die, die, must try!" Perfectly tender, sweet and just a little spicy, their pork is drippingly fantastic in everything they offer. It's going to be difficult for me to get any other their other meats because their pork is stellar! The little side cups of hot sauce, chili garlic spread, and spicy aioli were all delightful in their own right, so just do yourself a favor and get some Tabe. Korean BBQ, my new favorite food group?

Ramblin' on with SD Food Trucks

There's just something about the fast-paced food slingin' and militant compactness of food trucks that completely appeals to me. With a smaller menu, I feel like creativity, seasonality, and just plain fun come into play more than stationary eateries. I've already raved about San Diego's Devilicious truck (and I think I'm just one voice in a crowd on that one), but at this year's La Mesa Oktoberfest I noticed that the Asian Persuasion truck was parked next to Devilicious. Being the indecisive fatty that I am, I decided to get something from both trucks just to piss my muffin top off just a LITTLE more.

After a few of my friends embarrassed themselves by being totally unoriginal and getting the Butter Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese from Devilicious (I'm just being a bitch- it's #&(*@&ing amazing), I got an order of the Parmesan Truffle Fries to share with the group and the Shrimp PoBoy for me. It was the pickles that really sealed the deal for me on that one, and I was NOT disappointed. HUGE breaded shrimp were falling out of the baguette, which was smeared with a delicious aioli and red onion with a dark green salad on the side. Seriously. Really, really good. The fries had more of a truffle flavor than I was expecting, but believe me that's not a complaint. Utter bliss.

The $6 Bankok pork sliders from Asian Persuasion came dolloped with spicy mayo and daikon, and with their hint of ginger and side of wonton chips + sweet & sour dipping sauce I was SOLD. Hands down the best dish of the night. I was BLOWN AWAY with how tender the pork was, how wonderful the Hawaiian buns were, how perfectly seasoned everything was, and even how fresh the wonton chips were! Seriously! Home run! I can't WAIT to try that truck again, and maybe get the FOB tacos or the burrito. I don't know, I just can't decide. I just love how San Diego food trucks keep delivering.

Yet-To-Be-Named-Beer Club Meeting #1



Ever taken a brewery tour alone? Do you drink $20 bottles of craft beer in your living room and describe its subtle nuances to your only companion- your cat? Ever be "that guy" sitting at the bar and drown your lonely sorrows into a tulip glass of a perfectly poured aromatic IPA? We have! Be lonely no more, the Yet-To-Be-Named-Beer Club was created for that very purpose- bringing together craft beer lovers who just want more friends to share it with. The inaugural meeting was held in our living room last night, and 12 beer enthusiasts from all walks of craft beerdom joined us with bottles of weird, wacky, and interesting bottles to share and discuss.

5 hours, 3 cheeses, 2 salsas, and 20 different beers later, the meeting was called to a close and the last attendees stumbled from our apartment into the night. The meeting had kicked off with a blind IPA tasting, and it proved to be more challenging than expected. However, member Stephanie took home the top prize with 3 out of 5 correct and brought home her prize bottle of the 2nd generation Life & Limb collaboration by Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head- well done Stephanie!

By the end of the meeting most of us found ourselves too deep in the cups to properly set the schedule for the next meeting, but future plans include group brewery tours, blind tastings, homebrew collabs, bar outings, group BBQs, and more! Below is the list of the beers enjoyed (and completely drained) by all, including the IPA contestants:

1) Aecht Ochleaterla Rauchbier
2) Rogue: Hazelnut Brown Nectar
3) Russian River: Redemption blonde ale
4) Russian River: Damnation golden ale
5) Avery: The Reverend belgian-style quadrupel ale
6) Great Divide: 17th anniv. Wood Aged Double IPA
7) Bootlegger's: Black Phoenix ale with coffee and chipotle peppers
8) Lindemans: Cuvee Rene gueuze lambic
9) Hitachino Nest: White Ale
10) Ballast Point: Black Marlin porter
11) Magic Hat: #9
12) Lagunitas Hop Stoopid IPA
13) Sam Adams: Black Lager
14) Sierra Nevada: Torpedo Extra IPA
15) Brew Dog: Hardcore IPA
16) New Belgium: Ranger IPA
17) Russian River: Blind Pig
18) Wells: Banana Bread Beer
19) Wade and Dan's homebrew (honey wheat ale)
20) Ashton and Beth's homebrew (summer wheat)

Beers from all walks of life were represented, and with autumn quickly approaching the tentative theme for next meeting is Harvest/Oktoberfest beers. There's plenty of wiggle room and all beers are welcomed with open arms! Membership is open to all who
1) love beer and want to learn as much as you can about it
2) want more friends to drink it with
3) are willing to meet around once a month
4) occasionally host meetings (this means providing snacks and arranging games/events/prizes)
5) bring at least a bottle to share each meeting

That's it! Join us today- bonus points if you think of a good group name!

Suzie's Organic Farm Pedal, Pick & Grin



If you didn't make it to Suzie's Organic Farm in Imperial Beach yesterday for $2/lb tomatoes and $3/lb peppers (both of endless varieties) then you TOTALLY MISSED OUT. Bike parade? Check. Bluegrass band? Check. Tromping through rows upon rows of completely organic produce just picking whatever looks delectable? Check. I've been a lazy slob about signing up for their CSA, but laze no more, after yesterday I am a believer. There's just something about eating something that you pick, and I'm sure if you grow it the feeling is intensified by a bajillion. It was a glorious day as horses trotted by, kids created dirt tornadoes with their bikes, people of all ages gripped their straw hats and knelt to gently twist and remove a fat and hearty jalapeno, bell pepper, heirloom tomato, or fresh okra bite to take home and enjoy however they saw fit.



For us, a pizza was our ultimate creation. We snagged a garlic and herb pizza dough from Trader Joe's and after letting it rest for 20 minutes, we divided it into 4 mini pizzas and started the grill on medium high. While the grill heated up, we sliced and diced some of the amazing deep red tomatoes and a variety of yellow, orange, and green peppers for toppings. After laying the rolled out dough onto tin foil on the grill, we let them sit for about 3 minutes and flipped them, revealing a golden brown crisp crust. We immediately spread some fresh pesto on the crisped side, liberally sprinkled some feta, and then laid the tomatoes and peppers across the whole shebang. After another 3 minutes of toasting, we removed them from the grill and crowned each one with some torn fresh basil leaves and feasted.



As the first of many dishes this week that will feature our bounty, it was a success! I can't wait to keep nomin' on our stash, and I definitely look forward to continuing to patronize Suzie's. All hail San Diego local organic farms!

San Diego Fair 2011

While last year's food-themed county fair raised the bar for all things artery clogging yet tantalizingly irresistible, this year's San Diego County Fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds continued the American tradition of crowds, grease, and obesity with some classics like the deep fried Klondike bar, deep fried pickles, deep fried twinkies, and the much-anticipated deep fried Kool Aid! Personally, I don't find even the liquid version very appetizing, so despite heavy hype I passed in favor of some alternate fried goods:

My first instinct proved to be a fulfilling one: deep fried cheese curds! These squeaky delights are delightful fresh AND fried, and for $6 I was rewarded with a generous portion leaving me literally choking for more.


We indulged in a few standbys like fried pickles with ranch dipping sauce, funnel cake, but the one that took that cake was the Baby Ruth stuffed fried jalapeno served over a bed of sugared churros. Holy crap. Honestly, I really thought it had a fighting shot of being sinfully delicious based on the fact that I like jalapenos, sugar, churros, fried, and Baby Ruth bars, but although my jaw chewed and chewed, my brain just flat out refused to let that sloshy mass pass through my rapidly shrinking throat, and as you can see after one bite, my hand was shaking so much from the sugar I couldn't take a clear picture.

All in all the fair was a success as usual, and I'm anticipating another binge next year. Hail America!

Eleven


Image from San Diego Beer Blog

If you're searching for a bar that really takes that extra push over the cliff, Eleven at 3519 El Cajon Blvd is the place you'll find it. The location has been home to more than a few bars in its day, but it seems that happy patrons have found a permanent home with Eleven's gritty feel and pleasantly surprising beer list, many nights with live music as well.

In my ripe old age of 26, I consider my self a bit beyond the dive-bar-excursion-for-dive-bars-sake, but Eleven is a bright anomaly in the dive bar beer business. I'm a huge fan of their 25 oz. Eleven Lager Big Beer Mug for $4 during Happy Hour ($5 regularly)- it's a standard lager brewed nearby and for the amount of suds you get it's by far the best deal in the place. Not to say that their beer list is anything but appropriately priced- for the selection it's well within range of really-cheap-to-still-pretty-cheap for anything available.

The thing that really gets my blood boiling (merrily) is their food truck parked outside. It's not so much of a food truck as just a mobile kitchen that I've never actually seen anywhere but outside the bar (I could be wrong, just my observation), but for the late-nite patron who craves something more than just the regular fried bar fare, in this foodie's humble opinion, the Eleven Food Truck boasts a small but solid menu. You can choose from two cheesesteaks or three burgers, and either regular or sweet potato fries (that's it), but once you've had the Fuego you'll realize you don't need anything else.

The Fuego is a stomach churning conglomeration of jalapenos, serranos, and Anaheim chiles on a slimy mess of steak (or chicken if you fly that way) topped with a heaping amount of pepperjack cheese and chipotle aioli crowned with toasted jalapeno bread and served with a side of their surprisingly tasty shoestring fries. I understand that the mere minion might not be able to handle this gut-wrenching, brain-puckering sandwich of ballsy greatness, but if you fancy yourself a crazed spice addict then this is most certainly the sandwich for you. Wash it down with one of the Eleven lagers and I fail to see how you are headed for anything but bliss (and maybe the shitter).

For $9.50, this sandwich easily feeds two late-nite munchers or one hungry daredevil, but my advice to you is don't forget the beer for a tsunami of relief. Eleven has a cheap and abundant selection, so when your eyes start to tear and your nose drips with sweat from the fiery goodness that is Fuego, point to the nearest tap and enjoy the ride.

MIHO Gastrotuck @ Ballast Point Home Brew Mart

I could make excuses as to my abysmal lack of updates, but I won't. I could tell you about the insanity of going live with a new system at work, plus planning a wedding on the opposite coast, along with inexcusable preoccupation, but it won't do any good. I'll just avoid the whole thing.

The perfect thing to take my mind off of my lack of foodshare was of course to eat and drink. Citybeat always alerts me to the choicest tidbits of activities around San Diego, and my eye was caught by the ad containing both the phrases "MIHO gastrotruck" and "Ballast Point & the Home Brew Mart". As regulars to the Home Brew Mart off Morena for Ashton's alcoholic adventures and as wannabe food truck groupies, we, along with about a hundred other people with the same idea, flocked to the quickly-overrun space to sample specially brewed editions of some of Ballast Point's finest paired with the culinary stylings of the celebrated gastrotruck.

The food menu was small (3 entree options, a salad, and fries were the only advertised items), but with hellish concoctions like Serrano Yellowtail Pale Ale and Dried Habanero Piper Down Scottish Ale to wash down the trashy-chic fusion, we were game. My selection was the Short Rib Sandwich, braised with the Chipotle-Cocoa New Black Marlin Porter, all natural Brandt beef short rib, local arugula, organic firehouse cheddar, and balsamic red onion. The meat was wonderfully tender and lent itself more to a savory, buttery mouthfeel than anything you'd expect from the back of a vehicle. I washed it down with the Chipotle Cocoa and Coriander Tongue Buckler Imperial Red Ale, which I found to be much too aggressive for anything beyond shock value and a mouthful to boot. Unless you like the smell and lingering taste of an overaddition of liquid smoke and an unrecognizable allusion to "hot cocoa beer", stay away. Second up was the Chipotle-Cocoa New Black Marlin Porter, which despite a danger of repetition actually revealed itself to move past the kitschy small batch collaboration of heat for heat rather than flavors' sake. Still very much a sipping beer, I found this of all the beers created for the evening to be the most creative and well balanced.

Ashton enjoyed the Burger of the night, made with grass fed beef, all natural cheddar, grilled balsamic, red onion (far superior to the limply half-cooked onion on the short rib sandwich), hand made French dressing, and local brioche. I felt that the brioche stood out as the simplest yet masterful ingredient of the entire plate (paper as it was), but all in all the burger could stand proudly next to any stationary restaurant's with pride. We split the side of Belgian-style fries with chipotle ketchup, which at the low price of $3.25 established itself as a crowd favorite. These certainly weren't bargains with the sandwich weighing in at $8.25 and the burger at $7.75, but the quality, experience, and fresh air appropriately complimented the cost.



The beers ultimately enjoyed with the burger were the Dried Habanero Piper Down Scottish Ale, which I found to be unexpectedly smooth for such an intensely flavored pepper. Ditto for his next beer, the Serrano Yelllowtail Pale Ale, in which the heat completely dominated the hop for a complete blindside upset. The beers would have paired better with a much higher Asian cuisine influence, but the Americana feel reminiscent of a Fourth of July cookout (despite being January) washed over the crowd and spun the night air into a raucous feeling of friendly camaraderie and most certainly a desire to judiciously follow the Gastrotruck's weekly revolving exploits and menu. I most certainly plan to stop more often at its normal service stop near the Whistle Stop on Friday evenings. Recommended for those who care about what they eat, and don't mind paying a bit more to eat curbside!