by Monica Hruby
Growing up, we’d willingly run through the street at a dead sprint for the ice cream truck and its memorable melody. Even today, seeing a food truck makes us nostalgic and super hungry. We love them because they have no constraints, they’re open late and you can bring your dog.
We’ve compiled a list of food trucks making sweet things into savory entrees and vice versa. All in honor of the ice cream truck from our childhood. Let’s hail down one of these roving kitchens and have a little meal.
The Waffle Roost
The Waffle Roost schooled me in something I thought I knew best. Start with their slow-rising made-from-scratch dough that bakes into a fluffy-but-firm waffle with the right amount of crunch on the outside. The chicken is hand-breaded, fresh and juicy. We ordered The Stack ($10, with sweet potato chips): A waffle sandwich with chicken, bacon, egg and syrup. The over hard (ish) egg coated the chicken and really just worked with the syrup. Layers of surprisingly complementary flavors working together to appease our appetite. These guys make tire tracks all over the Peninsula fairly regularly, including Off The Grid events, so keep an eye out. They’re in Redwood City on June 6.
In a truck appropriately decorated with sunset houses, two classics: hot dogs with a Hawaiian twist and Hawaiian shave ice done right. Let’s start with the Oahu Dog ($8): An Armour Polish sausage in a toasted bacon-taro bun and packed with garlic lemon sauce and mango relish. The bun is littered with little pieces of bacon, the passion fruit mustard’s sweet tang complements the savoriness of the dog and bun. The garlic lemon sauce is bright yellow, but adds flavor in a subtle, not overpowering, way. The hot dog is cooked perfectly, with the desired crunch on the outside; completely hearty.
If you already love Hawaiian shave ice, Hula Dog will make you happy. If you’re new, know that this is anything but a Sno-Cone: no crunch, no soupy syrup, just ultra-fine powder ice that melts in your mouth like cotton candy. We had orange and pineapple with condensed milk ($4) on top, making it a tad richer and with a smoother texture.
Rocko’s ice cream tacos
Rocko’s greets customers with a fog of liquid nitrogen. Pick your ice cream filling and choose chocolate or peanut butter to dip it in. Then watch it submerge in said nitrogen and solidify into a sweet memory in the making. Rocko’s is junk food without the junk: fresh local ingredients, hand-pressed waffle taco shells, vegan and gluten-free options. And, yes, treats for dogs (Rocko was a puppy). We opted for the cookies-and-cream dipped in both milk and dark chocolate and then covered in pretzels. A good bite of ice cream can be the short-lived best part of your day and Rocko’s was top-notch delicious. The whole treat will bring you back to your childhood when eating cold ice cream and getting it all over your hands was totally okay. Maybe it still is. Tacos are $5 plus $.50 for toppings.
San Franciscans know The Chairman for its Tenderloin shopfront and high-end approach to street-style Asian food, especially steamed buns called bao filled with all manner of (usually carnivorous) filling. The brainchild of Charlie Trotter alum Hiroo Nagahara, The Chairman now has a truck (and an LA location) and we wanted to go beyond the bao. We ordered the Coca Cola-braised pork sandwich ($7.75) on a toasted dinner roll with a light sugar glaze (you can also get it on bao, you stickler). Dressed with cabbage, mustard seeds and garlic mayo we were pleasantly surprised that the soda braise added just a touch of sweetness and vanilla and that the toppings cut right through that with a crisp, acidity.
In all honestly, it’s just a really satisfying bite. It’s never too overwhelming, and always gone too quick. Pair it with a guava or black currant soda ($4) and you have a satisfyingly sophisticated meal based for 12 bucks. The Chairman meanders down the Peninsula at least once a week.