Who said food trucks are over? Las Vegas may not be buzzing about mobile deliciousness the way we were three years ago, but street food is not a fad. It’s here to stay, evidenced by the transition of trucks into brick-and-mortar restaurants, the growth and popularity of parking lot festivals and continued support and interest from the local dining industry.
A lot has happened in a short time. We’ve seen grassroots gatherings like Vegas StrEATs, Saturday Night Truck Stop and Foodie Fest turn into big-time events. We’ve seen food trucks battle each other and traditional restaurants in light-hearted competitions and cutthroat business squabbles. Local governments have adapted to accommodate food trucks, including the City of Las Vegas, which recently launched a Downtown parking spot lottery, and vendors have tried to unite through a loosely organized association.
Through it all, there’s been one constant: New food trucks continue to roll out across the Valley. Here are eight examples of the latest generation, offering everything from Sonoran dogs to Venezuelan arepas. Start your appetites.
Coast 2 Coast Deli
As its name suggests, Coast 2 Coast serves myriad sandwiches inspired by locations across the nation. The Memphis is a Southern melting pot of ingredients, including pulled pork and fried pickles, while the Ill-A-Delph “Loaded Philly” substitutes Calico Brown Ale beer cheese for the traditional Whiz and adds bacon for an amped-up take on the East Coast staple. The Brooklyn is a nod to the New York deli classic Reuben, while the Sante Fe steak sandwich uses green chiles and chipotle aioli. Coast 2 Coast also offers waffle fries with a variety of seasonings, including chili and lime, cayenne and cocoa, and lavender and sea salt. Even better, top your fries with Buffalo sauce and blue cheese or load them up with beer cheese, bacon, ranch and scallions. God bless America! c2cdeli.com –JB
Rika Arepa Express
If you miss the freedom of outdoor arepa dining since Viva Las Arepas moved indoors, then this is the food truck for you. Rika serves its own Venezuelan cornmeal patties stuffed with chicken, pork or beef. Arepas may be unfamiliar to you, but their fillings are not; the reina pepiada is a riff on chicken salad, while the jamon y queso is a play on the ham and cheese sandwich. Rika’s best arepa may be its most exotic. When you visit, hope they’re serving the pabellón, a combination of black beans, shredded beef, cheese and plantains, a hint of sweetness that provides culinary insight into the tastes of Venezuela. Wash it down with parchita (passion fruit) and mora (blackberry) juices to round out the experience. Look for Rika at farmer’s markets across the Valley, including Friday’s Downtown 3rd Farmers Market. rikaarepaexpress.com –JB
Sin City Dogs
This customized hot dog truck arrived on the scene during Memorial Day Weekend on the strength of a beloved regional treat that’s been hard to find in Las Vegas: the Sonoran dog. It’s called the BLVD on the Sin City Dogs menu, stacked with pinto beans, crispy bacon, tomatoes, onions, salsa, shredded cheese and mayo, and it’s served on a perfect bun recruited from great local bakery Bon Breads. Sin City’s all-beef quarter-pound dogs come with thoughtful combinations of toppings—try the Bangkok (onions, carrots, peanuts, cilantro and spicy-sweet Thai-ish sauce)—and the truck’s own line of hot sauces, like the garlic-habañero. Just the thing to kick your simple truck lunch into flavor overdrive. sincitydogs.com –BR
Assembling the perfect grilled cheese is easy as pie. You grab your Texas toast, layer it with mozzarella and Muenster, toss in lobster, avocado and tomato, and you’re all set. What, you don’t make it that way? The Melteez truck does, or any other way you want your grilled cheese. The add-ins are endless, from crushed Cheez-Its to barbecued pork, or you can choose from the menu of specialty creations. I recommend the Melty Mouse Club, provolone with turkey, ham, bacon and tomato, or the Jalisco, spiced up with jalapeños, pepper jack and grilled onions. Splurge with Big Andy’s creamy tomato dip on the side if you need to relive those grilled cheese-tomato soup childhood memories. melteezmobile.com –BR
It should come as no surprise that a food truck named Sauced highlights a selection of house-made sauces practically good enough to eat straight. The 7-0-blue (get it?) is a smoked blue cheese you’ll want to dip everything—and I mean everything—in, while the sriracha ranch has just the right amount of bite to spice up any dish. And the drunken cheddar, grilled pineapple and tarragon ketchup? You just have to try it. But man cannot live on sauce alone, so it’s good that Sauced serves food comparable to its dips. Their Great Balls of Fire are chunked chicken doused in Frank’s Hot Sauce and deep-fried with pepper jack cheese, a take on the boneless chicken wing for which 7-0-blue is the perfect foil. The Big Easy Balls are a Cajun arancini of sorts, with chicken and Andouille sausage mixed with risotto and garlic herb cream cheese; go for sriracha ranch with these. Sauced has sandwiches, too, but they’re not as easy to dip. Where’s the fun in that? saucedvegas.com –JB
Slow Cal BBQ
Though it specializes in traditional barbecued meats like pulled pork, smoky brisket and St. Louis-style ribs, this truck is born and bred in Southern California—San Diego, to be exact. That might not be a ’cue capital, but these slow-smoked meats are too tasty to quibble about their origins. Slow Cal BBQ made its Las Vegas debut at this year’s spring Foodie Fest and has been roaming the desert ever since, slinging succulent sandwiches like the Oinker (pulled pork and tangy coleslaw) and the Mooer (brisket with barbecue au jus and blue cheese slaw), as well as a crispy fried pork loin schnitzel. What sets Slow Cal apart? Inventive side dishes like those slaws and the Cajun potato salad, and five different house, er, truck-made barbecue sauces, culminating in the ultra-spicy option known as “Damn Bro!” slowcalbbq.com –BR
The Spot To Eat
The Spot To Eat has a flat-screen and speakers, but there’s no cartoon mascot like on most of the Valley’s nouveau food trucks. Instead, the truck sticks to what it does best, solid riffs on classic dishes such as burgers (loco moco, anyone?) and chicken sandwiches (Buffalo and chicken parmesan, for instance). One option is the Italian Burger. I’m not certain why it’s served on an English muffin—I believe international law forbids this—but it’s damn good. The burger is topped with grilled salami, roasted red peppers, provolone and pesto, creating a fantastically gooey mess you shouldn’t miss. Equally intriguing is the Ernie Corn, the Spot’s take on elote en vaso, combining corn, mayo, cotija cheese and chili powder. Can’t decide between corn and addictive crack fries? You don’t have to. Just order Ernie Corn Fries instead! Problem solved. facebook.com/thespottoeat –JB
Wa Da Pho
Why traipse about town to multiple restaurants when you can have all your flavors in just one spot? That’s the concept behind Wa Da Pho, the phonetically amusing truck (remember pho is pronounced “fuh”) serving the United Nations of Asian cuisines. The menu draws upon Vietnamese, Korean, Taiwanese and Hawaiian influences, resulting in options ranging from pho to banh mi and poke to bao. Da Poke 808 Nachos are a clean presentation of Hawaiian poke served with fresh wonton chips, a perfect summer snack. The Pho-licious “Q” is Korean kalbi on Vietnamese banh mi bread. Even better might be the Pho-licious “Q” Nachos, which combine those sandwich fillings on chips for an effective and hearty food truck snack. A big bowl of pho might not be the easiest roadside slurp, so instead try the easy-to-handle Lobsta Ballz—just make sure to let them cool a bit before diving in. wadapho.com –JB