I like all things portable. It’s why I work from a laptop, why I ride a bicycle, and why I have fun with a GoPro camera. And it’s why I like food trucks. I like the idea of a chef being able to build and stock a mobile kitchen, and bring a whole truck’s worth of kickass street food to my neighborhood. We have some good trucks here in Chicago, who I visit regularly in downtown during the work week.
But so does Austin. I had heard quite a bit about the mobile vending scene there and wanted to check it out. I booked a few days at the Firehouse Hostel and spent the weekend running around town trying out one truck after another. Three days and thousands of calories later, I narrowed my favorites down to five.
A Korean and Mexican fusion truck a block away from the madness on 6th Street. I heard good things about its chicken kimchi fries, but was already full from a days worth of eating elsewhere. I ordered a pair of pork bulgogi tacos and sat down at a picnic table.
They were full of delicious, savory barbecue flavors, topped with soy vinaigrette, Korean salad, cilantro, onion, and Chi’lantro salsa. Fantastic party food that coats the stomach well for at least two more hours of drinking.
#4: Torchy’s Tacos
A wildly popular trailer on South 1st St, Torchy’s Tacos has, since its inception, spawned restaurants elsewhere in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston. They are the perfect street food to brick and mortar success story, and after checking them out on Sunday morning, I can see why.
They had a menu of 15 different tacos, each with its own base ingredients of marinated beef, pork, chicken, fish, or something vegetarian, followed by toppings that all varied widely. I narrowed my choices down to three.
The Mr. Pink taco, a tortilla full of seared ahi tuna, cabbage, cilantro, and queso fresco, was okay but not worth getting again. The Mr. Orange taco outshined it, with a savory combination of grilled salmon and corn and bean relish.
The Brush Fire fucking destroyed. With a great combination of spicy jerk chicken, mango, and sour cream, it is likely combustible and should not be eaten near a fire. You really can’t go wrong with jerk sauce. It is the bacon of marinades.
#3: Biscuits and Groovy
A little trailer in Hyde Park with a menu focused on meaty gravy and biscuits. If you get shit housed on 6th Street, this is a great place to crawl to the next morning for some badly needed pork grease off the grill. I ordered the Aretha Franklin, and they served me a mess of hot biscuits, sausage gravy, bacon, cheese, and chives. I’m getting hung over and hungry just thinking about it.
#2: The Peached Tortilla
One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, Smoque BBQ, serves some great brisket, and their peach cobbler is so good that it’s obscene. Austin’s Peached Tortilla truck brought all those same flavors together and put them on a brisket taco. The southern dry rubbed brisket was savory throughout, and the apple slaw and peach barbecue sauce was sweet enough to tame a cowgirl.
I also tried their Bahn Mi Taco and Bacon Jam Fries, also amazing for their own unique combinations and reasons.
But the best street food I had in Austin by FAR was the Flying Pig Donut from Gourdough’s, a trailer with 24 different types of gourmet donuts on their menu. With a pile of hot maple syrup icing and fresh bacon off the grill, from the hog farm to my mouth, the Flying Pig is to this day the best donut I’ve ever had. I couldn’t believe what I was eating. Not even the famous Maple Bacon Bar from Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts could outdo this legendary hog. Food can be this good when pigs can fly, and now I’m a believer.
I was so impressed that I went back on Monday right before I left town and ordered their Mother Clucker, a donut topped with a fried chicken strip and honey butter drizzle. Fucking unbelievable.
Austin, you guys have a good thing going. Thanks to our share of assholes (yet another reason to respect Kuma’s), we’re nowhere close to where you are yet, although I think Chicago will catch up eventually. And we may even come out ahead. For now though, I gotta say, when it comes to kickass mobile vending, you guys rule the streets.