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The Fine Art of Food Trucks

Enjoy an edible gallery stroll with 11 of our most esteemed mobile dispensaries.
By Alex Springer

ENRIQUE LIMÓN
  • Enrique Limón

In America's culinary history, there's been no gastronomic medium so controversial as the food truck. Some scholars argue that they're the natural evolution of mobile eateries found in ancient Chinese and Roman civilizations, but contemporary critics believe they're a novelty, and that their popularity will inevitably fade. Regardless of which camp modern restaurant connoisseurs tend to find themselves, the continued presence of food trucks in our community is worth further contemplation. To truly assess their cultural value, you must evaluate the fruits—be they deep fried, caramelized or dipped in chocolate—of their labor.

In an effort to better conduct this important artistic study, City Weekly has invited several local culinary artisans to demonstrate their contributions at this year's Utah Beer Festival. Based on my preliminary observations, these are the entrées that will please the palates of local food truck aficionados.

Fuego Mexican Grill
The burrito is an achievement in aesthetic and engineering perfection, so adopting this method is a paradox—burrito artisans are simultaneously wise and foolhardy. The wisdom comes from the burrito's natural ability to achieve the holy triumvirate of flavor, texture and convenience, but dallying in such perfection often requires more effort for the artisan's soul to truly shine. The Beehive Burrito ($6) from Fuego Mexican Grill masterfully treads the knife's edge between these two poles. The artisan paints brisk strokes of crisp bacon, velvety cheese and fresh pico de gallo across a canvas of carne asada and wraps the masterwork in a warm tapestry of tortilla. Pure symmetry between form and function. tacosfuego.com

Miso Yum
While it's easy to write off a rice bowl as an unimaginative attempt to combine protein and starch, the combo cup ($8) at Miso Yum is fertile with possibilities. Red pepper pork and honey glazed chicken offer corresponding spicy and sweet notes as a foundation, but the consumer can choose to enhance one flavor over the other by selecting sweet, mild, medium or hot sauces. Romaine lettuce and steamed veggies add a complementary crunch to the whole piece, creating a textural foil to soft rice and glass noodles. A balanced work through and through. misoyum.com

Umani
Pizza has been interpreted by several masters for hundreds of years, yet the medium continues to evolve. The artisans at Umani have composed a pie called the Amber ($10) that combines the universal appeal of bacon and the acquired taste of Roquefort cheese by including a measured dose of cranberries. Bacon and Roquefort are often present on the palettes of renowned burger artisans, but including them on pizza offers an interesting contrast that the cranberries delineate for the consumer. The tart sweetness of the cranberries creates a catalyst for the salty, smoky flavors imparted by the bacon and the creamy sharpness of the Roquefort cheese to converge into something altogether unfamiliar and exciting. umani.us

Fatty Tuna
Any soup ordered from a mobile dispensary should only be considered if the experience is worth the risk of spilling boiling hot liquid on you or those around you. The tonkotsu ramen ($8) at Fatty Tuna is worth such a risk. Their pork bone broth ruminates for at least 24 hours before it is poured over a delicious blend of chashu pork and noodles, spiked with bean sprouts, corn and seaweed. It's a full-bodied dish comprised of rich flavors. facebook.com/fattytunafood

The Corn Dog Co.
There's a certain Warholian tendency surrounding the corn dogs from The Corn Dog Co. Often considered childish or pedestrian, corn dogs might never reach the upper echelons of "high art," but that doesn't mean they should be overlooked entirely. For example, the artisans at The Corn Dog Co. have added complexity to the contemporary corn dog by infusing the cornbread-style batter with hints of honey. It's quite disarming on its own, but their traditional corn dogs ($4-$6, pictured) can also be topped with a drizzle of raw honey for an added element of sweet-meets-savory—or perhaps it's more accurate to say nostalgia-meets-sophistication. thecorndogco.com

The Local Greek
Like many of the cuisines featured on this list, Greek food has benefited from centuries of practice and evolution. The gyro itself represents a milestone in meat delivery that can only be challenged by the previously mentioned burrito. Gyros served from within food trucks like The Local Greek are unique in that gyro meat somehow tastes better when it has been shaved into thin slices by wandering professionals. Their gyro ($8.99) stands among the best because of its customizable options and traditional Greek flavor. thelocalgreek.com

Dough Gods
Also hailing from the Mediterranean—at least in concept—comes the cookie dough vendors known as Dough Gods. Boasting a Herculean menu of cookie dough flavors named for the deities of Olympus, Dough Gods has made a name for itself with its celestial compositions. While each flavor evokes the god or goddess for which it was named, the Hades Milkshake ($6.99) is among the most decadent. Hades cookie dough is comprised of cinnamon chocolate cheesecake and chocolate chips, which is dark and rich as the god of the underworld himself. In a shake, this dough blends with locally-made vanilla ice cream that is worth the six months you have to spend in Hades' kingdom for a taste. doughgods.com

Jamaica's Kitchen
Caribbean cuisine is known for being cooked long and slow in order to get the most flavor. The beef oxtail ($13) at Jamaica's Kitchen is a master class in such preparation. Meat that has been stewed or braised on the bone develops a heightened flavor profile and can easily be pulled from its attached osseous matter. It can be a daunting task for those unfamiliar with oxtail, but this should be undertaken nonetheless. Such comforting flavors are uncharacteristic in the summer months, but this is something that can be enjoyed regardless of the season. jamaicaskitchenslc.com

Lucky Slice
It's common practice for pizza artisans to adopt a less-is-more approach to their pies, and many do so with great success. The renegades at Lucky Slice, however, have become masters of excess. The Fire Island pie ($3.49 per slice) is an unlikely combination of several geographical flavor profiles that don't typically show up in the same space. The garlicky cream sauce, mozzarella and capicola ham ground the pie in its Italian roots, but the addition of caramelized onions, sliced jalapeño peppers and pineapple hearken to the more tropical areas of Central America. Regardless, this pie is replete with strokes of heat and tantalizing sweet acidity. theluckyslice.com

Balabé
Those connoisseurs that prefer a plant-based experience should definitely sample the Senegalese cuisine at Balabé. Their finest piece is a dish known as mafé ($10). It's a savory stew made with peanut butter, and Balabé makes theirs with vegetables. Served over rice, the taste buds tingle with the familiarity of perhaps a massaman curry or even something along the lines of tikka masala. As close as these flavors are, however, mafé provides flavors just beyond the boundaries of familiarity. facebook.com/balabeslc

Fry Me to the Moon
What food truck stroll would be complete without a stop to appreciate something deep fried to a golden brown? Fry Me to the Moon specializes in this technique, and the fish and fries ($11.50) is their magnum opus. Thick slices of cod, deep fried in a crispy batter and served alongside piping hot fries is summery and satisfying. Those interested in a sweet conclusion to their food truck experience can also experience gourmet doughnuts ($6 for 10) three ways—traditional glaze, cinnamon sugar and Nutella. Regardless of what your appetite longs for, a priceless piece of deep-fried wonder awaits you here. frymetothemoonslc.com

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