Lunch Truckin'

Last week, our friend and LAist.com writer, Caleb, took Bryan and me on our first Los Angeles lunch truck excursion. Caleb wrote the LAist.com story on Bryan and I, as well as the story about Bryan's benefit. It may be hard to believe that two foodies have not have branched out to locally famed food trucks, but suffice it to say we've been a bit preoccupied for the past few months.

For anyone not familiar with the lunch truck phenomenon, gone are the days of the "Roach Coach" and rampant food poisoning. Rather, today's resurgence of lunch trucks includes everything from a gourmet GastroBus to a Grilled Cheese truck to the long-awaited Buttermilk truck, serving red velvet pancakes and Hawaiian bread cinnamon french toast sticks. That's right, these are farmer's market-supporting, organic produce-buying, legitimate permit-holding food trucks ready to improve the lunch hours of Los Angeleno's everywhere.

While some may say the lunch truck trend resembles more of an epidemic, Bryan and I had yet to partake in this cheap and delicious outing. And really, trucks that serve nothing but some of our foodie faves is a can't miss for us. Especially when we had a guide like Caleb, also author of a "Recession Obsession" article series that highlights some of L.A.'s best cheap eats.

Caleb came over promptly at noon and immediately loaded up the Google Maps equivalent to finding L.A. food trucks. FindLAFoodTrucks.com revealed the locations and tweets (oh yes, the trucks tweet) of each of food truck. We narrowed it down to two trucks – GastroBus and Marked 5 – hunkering down near Maple and Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills.

Marked 5 is a really interesting, Japanese burger truck. While the beef, pork, tofu and curry chicken burger options were fairly traditional, the Japanese twist on the bun was certainly not. The burger "buns" were made from pressed and grilled sushi rice patties. Bryan got the beef burger, Caleb got the pork and I got the curry chicken. The rice "buns" surprisingly held their structural integrity and the lightly toasted outside made for a really nice, subtle crunch. The chicken cutlet itself was nothing special, but the curry and the cool coleslaw added a great hot/cold contrast with the chicken and the rice patty. Bryan thought his beef burger was great but generally too messy. He lost the fight against the crumbling beef and rice combo about 3/4 of the way through, and pretty much threw in the paper napkin. Caleb enjoyed his pork burger, but I don't remember him raving about it. All in all, the burgers were really interesting and we were happy we branched out and tried something new. Caleb paid for the burgers so I don't know how much they cost, but I believe they were in the $5 range.

After Marked 5, we walked, oh, 30 feet down the block to the GastroBus. Now, this truck really looked like it had some potential. All of the GastroBus's produce is from the Los Feliz farmers market and their handwritten, chalkboard menu changes daily. There was originally a really long line, which is why we chose to hit Marked 5 first. Once it was our turn in order, we went for the big guns. We treated Caleb to a smoked bacon sandwich, Bryan got a skirt steak sandwich, I got a pulled pork sandwich and we got sweet potato fries and corn cakes for the group.

Yeah, it was a lot of food. But hey, it was our first time there and it cost less than $10 per person. Not bad.

We parked ourselves at a chest-high, concrete slab and went to town. The bacon sandwich was essentially a BLT but it was on lightly toasted potato bread, which added a warm, pillowy element to the crunchy bacon and crisp lettuce and tomato. Bryan's skirt steak sandwich was on ciabatta, and it was fantastic. One thing we really appreciated about the sandwich was that biting through the skirt steak was easily manageable. Because, honestly, there's nothing worse than eating a steak sandwich and having the entire piece of steak sliding out on your first bite. You shouldn't have to attack your sandwich like a pit bull might a large piece of meat; rather, you want a well-seasoned, yet tender piece of beef in each bite. And that's exactly what we got from GastroBus's skirt steak sandwich. It was great.

Finally, my pork sandwich was excellent and surprisingly light. It was on a crusty yet soft roll and had a great crisp, crunch from the lettuce and pickled onions. It may have been our favorite sandwich of the bunch. As for the sides, the sweet potato fries were well, sweet potato fries. Solid but nothing special. But speaking of special, the corn cakes were wow-wow-wow good. They were essentially light and fluffy pancakes with a heavy sprinkling of fresh, sweet white corn. Ohmygosh they were so good. They came with a big scoop of fresh ricotta cheese and shaved scallions. Even after the boys were done eating, I had resorted to eating the corn cakes with my fingers. I'm definitely going to try and replicate them at home.

Overall, our lunch truck outing was a huge success. I've since bookmarked FindLAFoodTrucks.com and Bryan and I are going to look for some other interesting ones soon. If you can handle eating standing up, cleaning up after yourself and enjoying some fun (and nontraditional) food on a limited budget, it's a great option.

Next time, Buttermilk Truck, here we come...

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