Probably the biggest Las Vegas culinary scene story in 2010 is the arrival of the gourmet food truck. We’re far from the first city to hop on the mobile-dining bandwagon, but Vegas now has an army of trucks roaming the Valley and providing a variety of tasty eats to people who stalk Twitter feeds, drive across town and line up in parking lots for the delicacies delivered through truck windows. From the best dishes to what’s behind those metal walls, our food truck guide might just have you swearing off stationary restaurants forever.
Food Truck Tweets
Ricardo Guerrero’s Slidin’ Thru is arguably Las Vegas’ most popular gourmet food truck (just check out the lines at the parking lots where it lurks if you think otherwise), and it has recently evolved to establish a stationary location with an expanded menu at 955 Grier. Start with either the Pep Pep or the Pulled Porky ($3 for 1; $5 for 2; $7 for 3). The former is an Angus burger topped with BLT, sautéed onions, cheddar and super sauce, while the latter, consisting of pork, caramelized jalapeño and BBQ sauce, is just the right amount of messy. For the adventurous, a different mystery slider (price varies with ingredients) is offered each day. A recent hit was turkey pastrami with chipotle mustard and pepper jack cheese. Only one specialty slider per customer, please, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.
Flow Rider Truck
Gladys Ramos is no newcomer to the food truck scene, having directed a more conventional taco truck for years with her husband Juan and brother-in-law George prior to opening the Flow Rider Truck. This vehicle is best described as Adam Richman’s worst nightmare with portions intended to test your best effort. The Extreme Hydrolic ($22) comes with eight patties topped with BLT, grilled onion, avocado and cheese on grilled sourdough. If that’s too much for you, the two-patty Da Hydrolic ($8) might be your style, or perhaps a Mini Loco Dog (think a bacon-wrapped Tijuana dog with jalapeño and other fixin’s). It may not be health food, but it’s delicious.
Philly’s Famous Italian Ices
A little-known fact—Jim Morris is the elder statesman of our local gourmet food truck scene, having peddled his wares for three years in the Philly’s Famous Italian Ices truck. The ices, imported from the East Coast for authenticity, are similar to sorbets and are a favorite of East Coast transplants. The most popular, and my favorite, is the mango (all flavors $2/$3/$4 for small/medium/large), though the Tropical Rainbow—a mixture of mango, piña colada and pineapple—harks back to a summer spent poolside. And because man cannot live on Italian ice alone, the truck will soon offer authentic Philly cheesesteaks.
Colin Fukunaga and Robert “Mags” Magsalin met while working front-of-house at Tao, and many late-night brainstorming sessions resulted in Fukuburger, a truck that adds Asian flair to traditional American dishes and often roosts surrounded by a throng of fans near Chinatown. One popular dish is the tamago (egg) burger ($5)—a regular-size patty layered with a perfectly fried egg, onion strings, teriyaki and furikake (a traditional Japanese condiment of dried fish, sesame seeds and other seasonings). My favorite, however, is the Naga Dog ($6)—a spicy link topped with homemade pickled daikon relish and grilled kim chee then doused with wasabi mayo, habanero kabayaki (eel sauce) and hari nori (dried seaweed).
Are you a local, brah? Whether or not you hail from the 50th state, you can still enjoy the Hawaiian offerings of Island Breeze. Healthy wraps ($3) are served with your choice of meat (including poke) and a sharp island slaw on the Island Wrap. Plate lunch offerings of kalua pig, teriyaki chicken or beef are served with brown or white rice ($5 for mini or $7.50 large) or fried noodles ($7.50). An accompanying option, the mac salad is simple and satisfying alongside the traditional island meats, but make sure you leave room before you’re pau (done for you haoles) for the fresh malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts) that are way ono (delicious)! -Jim Begley
SnOw ONO Shave Ice
What do you do if your husband wins $35,000 from Pat Sajak? If you’re Marianne Yoffee, you open up SnOw ONO Shave Ice (yes, that’s how it’s written), an authentic Hawaiian shaved-ice truck. For beginners, shaved ice is paper-thin ice doused with flavored syrups—SnOw ONO’s are housemade—that melts in your mouth like cotton candy. Marianne carries traditional mainland flavors such as cherry and lemon (all flavors $3/$4/$5 for small/medium/large), but I suggest the unique island flavors—li hing mui (salty dried plum) with some li hing powder for added tartness or melona, a South Korean honeydew creamsicle flavor. Add-ons such as vanilla ice cream ($1) or mocha bits (50 cents) provide a welcome textural contrast, while condensed milk or sour spray toppings (free) provide extra sweet or sour, depending on your taste.
Doug Porter became an early victim of the economic downturn when he had to close his longtime Westside seafood restaurant, Joey’s. That allowed him to morph into Curbside Café, a food truck that puts a twist on traditional street food. Try the Baja Burger ($6), with pepper jack cheese, salsa blanca and pico de gallo, or the tasty Sonoron Dog ($5), a grilled kosher hot dog topped similarly to the Baja, but with the addition of bacon and caramelized onions. Equally outstanding are his tacos ($3 apiece; $5 for 2; $7 for 3), available with deep-fried calamari or blackened mahi-mahi. Both highlight the skill expected from a former brick-and-mortar restaurateur turned street food savant. -JB
LBS Patty Wagon
The LBS Patty Wagon is the roving offshoot of the successful burger operation at Red Rock Resort. As might be expected, its offerings are primarily a selection of sliders (2 for $5 or 3 for $7), but a surprising must-try is the meat-free Urth Burger. This is probably the best veggie burger I’ve ever had, with spot-on texture and a fulfilling savory flavor. As a fervent carnivore, I’d happily order it again. Another fresh, healthy option is the Chopped Salad ($7), the Wagon’s take on a Cobb salad. For a more classic, meaty meal, try the Perfect Slider—a beef patty topped with gruyere, bacon, red onion marmalade and LBS sauce (housemade ketchup with a touch of honey and spices)—which has a nice flavor balance.
You’ll normally find Ron Principio doling out his Asian-inspired fare in the Lee’s Liquor parking lot on Lake Mead. His Korean flavors originate not from a desire to mimic the world-famous Kogi trucks in LA, but rather from his friendship with Kenny of the aforementioned Lee family. For a healthy start, pick a taco ($3, or $5 for two) with your choice of protein amid a homemade Asian slaw—the pork comes with a traditional Korean marinade with fruity hints, while the tofu and egg (think omelet) is accompanied by a chipotle sauce. On the not-so-healthy side are the robust seasoned fries ($2) and sinfully addictive Crazy’s Sweet Dough ($2)—mini sugar-covered zeppole, or Italian doughnut holes. You’ve been warned. –JB