Sunday Philly Funday: Food Truck Street


A quick Sunday post to satiate all you folks who gave up deliciousness for Lent:

Though this might be a trend nationwide/in Philly that already reached its saturation point (thanks a lot for the overexposure, Tyler Florence), I do love me a good food truck.

I stayed away from them for a long time; in my parents’ time, food trucks were dubbed “roach coaches” and only people who needed to lose a lot of weight via food poisoning to fit into their wedding dress ever dared to eat from one.

Some socio-foodologist could probably trace the history of gourmet food trucks better than I can, but it’s my understanding that the trend started in Los Angeles with the Kogi BBQ truck, which tweeted out its location every day; the thrill of the hunt, probably as much as the food itself, created a massive following.

The first time I became aware of gourmet food trucks in Philly was with the Buttercream Philadelphia truck, owned and operated by “the Cupcake Lady,” Kate Carrara. Kate was right on the crest of the cupcake wave, and was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the craze to Philly.

Probably about two years ago now, more and more gourmet trucks began popping up: Vernalicious, Chewy’s, Pitruco (with a brick oven in the back of the truck!), Guapos Tacos (by Iron Chef Jorge Garces, now more or less defunct), Foo Truck, Say Cheese, among dozens of others (some great, some not).

Thankfully, there’s a great line-up of trucks just down the street from where I work at the intersection of 33rd and Arch Streets here in Philadelphia. ย Spot Burger makes what might be the best bang-for-your-buck burger I’ve ever had. ย Mac Mart is one of the newest of the bunch, but serves some deliciously satisfying spins on classic mac n’ cheese.

And, of course, my favorite has to be Rival Bros. Besides the super-dreaminess of its owners/operators [Get ahold of yourself, Jeff!], they make what is by far the best latte I’ve ever had…and their hand-drip ain’t too bad either.

This crop of food trucks is great because you’re getting some really high-quality goods at solid–though not dirt-cheap–prices. ย However, if you consider the food to be of the same quality (or better) than that of a sit-down restaurant, you’re saving money and time.

If the rumors of a food truck area in the new Disney Springs section of the Walt Disney World Resort turn out to be true, they could do a lot worse than emulating these guys.


The Year Without French Fries

Regular fries from 500 Degrees, Philadelphia

I’m a big fan of personal challenges. I don’t always stick to them, but I like the idea of exercising some self-control, to push yourself, etc.

That’s why, for all of 2012, I gave up french fries, like one super-sized Lent sacrifice. Of all of the foods in my diet, fries were by far the worst for me…well, except for all the carbs I regularly consume, but at least most of those aren’t doused in oil.

My problem with fries was two-fold:

  1. They’re everywhere! Whenever we went out to eat, fries were the automatic side, and it was getting to the point where I was eating fries a half-dozen times a week. Granted, this could be a product of the types of restaurants we eat at and the meals I order (mostly sandwiches), but still, a non-fried vegetable option would be appreciated.
  2. I can’t control myself. If you’re ever seen me at a buffet, or even at a party with a decent spread, you know I just keep stuffing my face until I pass out. I have no discipline to eat “just enough”; if it’s in front of me, I’m going to eat it…and your leftovers, too.
Fries from Whole Foods Market, Plymouth Meeting, PA

So that’s why fries had to go, or at least why I had to try. By excising an unhealthy food from my diet, I hoped to be healthier, and maybe lose a little bit of my starch-pudge in the process (this unfortunately did not happen.)

2012 came and went, and I didn’t have a single french fry all year…I even spit one out onto our kitchen floor when I realized I’d starting munching on one absentmindedly (classy, that’s me). Home fries and hash browns, at least mentally, were not included in this ban since I rarely eat a breakfast more complicated than a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.

Regular order of fries at Spot Burger, Philadelphia

As of midnight on January 1, however, the fry ban was lifted, and I vowed to be more selective in my fry consumption. No more Burger King fries “just ’cause”! If I was going to blow the calories on them, I might as well get the best possible.

My first dip back into the world of fries came from 500 Degrees, a burger joint here in Philly that is really quite good, and fries are made to order. These were cooked until they were all shades of gold and brown, but…they weren’t that satisfying. After the quick sense-memory overload after my first bite, I was left a little wanting.

The second fry trial of 2013 came from the burger and fries bar at the Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting. This is by far the nicest Whole Foods I’ve ever been in, mostly due to the fact that they rock their own bar and several different prepared food sections, including a brick-oven pizza, a barbecue station, a “world foods” station, and so on. These fries, whenever Lance ordered them, always smelled so temptingly delicious, so I couldn’t wait to try them.

…And yet again, while aesthetically pleasing, after the first handful or so, I was already kind of bored. What was wrong with these fries?

Then came my last foray into fries (so far) for 2013: the Spot Burger stand in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia. Don’t get me wrong: I love Spot Burger and think they rock what is by far the best burger I’ve ever had, and whenever my co-workers added a side of made-to-order fries in the past, I got so jealous. And it’s not to say that these fries aren’t good–they’re nicely seasoned with a perfect amount of salt, and fried just enough to be crispy without being soggy, but…

…I think I’ve lost my appetite for french fries.

They used to satisfy some deeper, fatty craving. But after going cold turkey on them for a year, these fries–not just any old Ore Ida fries, but good fries–just don’t meet that “yum yum fried starchy goodness” need in the same way.

And maybe that’s because that need’s no longer there.