I’ve always enjoyed street food and taco trucks, despite the bad rep they had for many years. Now, thanks to the Kogi BBQ truck, it seems it’s cool to enjoy lunch or dinner from a food truck.
I’ve honestly been very interested to go try some of the new food truck varieties that are popping up everywhere, but obviously not enough to follow them all over Los Angeles County. Then came the “festivals” where armies of food trucks get together.
I hadn’t had a chance to make it to one of these until Tuesday. I finally made a date with my best friend and we headed to the Street Feast at the Americana at Brand.
It was my first time at the Americana, the indoor/outdoor mall adjacent to the Glendale Galleria. I liked the open space in the middle of this retail/residential community. There’s a fountain, grass you can relax on, and plenty of casual and fine dining around.
On this Tuesday night, there was a good crowd that were settled on the grass. I thought they were either taking a retail break or just enjoying some of the food they had picked up at one of the nine food trucks at the feast, and then I spotted a flat screen that drew their full attention – game 6 of the Lakers/Celtics basketball playoffs – Ah! I guess there was no need to decide between the Street Feast and playoffs.
I checked the score early in the game and then went back to business. There was no map, so my feast partner and I walked around the perimeter of the inside of the Americana to scope out what each of the food trucks had to offer and spot the ones we were most interested in – The Grilled Cheese Truck and The Flying Pig.
The other food trucks were Coolhaus, mainly dessert; The Buttermilk Truck, breakfast-time and dessert; Mandoline Grill, curry and noodles; Worldfare; Patty Wagon; Comfort Truck; and Vizzi.
Almost every truck already had a good long line of people eager for service. The Grilled Cheese Truck seemed to be the winner though. It looked like there was about 15 to 20 people in line, relatively short, but when I tried to step into the back of the line, an Americana “ambassador” politely asked if I was looking for the Grilled Cheese truck line, which I was so he patiently pointed to a line that wrapped around one of the stores to the actual end of the line with about 40 more people waiting. I apparently tried to step in at a traffic break and cut the line. Oops.
Knowing we would not be able to wait in line patiently, and our stomachs already grumbling, we decided to find a smaller line to grab something quicker and smaller while we take our chances waiting at the Flying Pig line, which also looked like it would be a good wait.
Some local restaurants were serving up mac and cheese and salad plates and sliders. We each grabbed a quick slider and headed to the Flying Pig line. Again an ambassador approached us and asked if we had ordered yet, we hadn’t so he directed us to the front to order.
The Flying Pig menu on a small stand outside had a selection of tacos and drinks, we found out later the menu directly on the truck had more of a selection.
The pork belly taco and spiced pork taco piqued my interest but alas the attendant regrettably informed me they were out of spiced pork, so I went with the tamarind duck taco instead.
There was no line to order but then we had to head back to the end of the 20-something-people-long line, which was not much compared to others.
Fifteen minutes and one slider later, we had barely moved one person up in the line. After almost 30 minutes and only one more move up, we overheard the ambassador was beginning to tell people wishing to get in line or to order, that the Flying Pig had stopped taking orders since they were having problems with one of their “ovens” (maybe he meant grills, I hoped those ordering carne asada tacos were not getting oven-cooked asada – weird.)
Seeing the occasional plate of tacos being served, we remained hopeful we would get the tacos we paid for - eventually.
According to their website, “The Flying Pig truck has hit the streets featuring the perfect blend of Asian & Pacific Rim flavors with French technique.” The tamarind duck was a great example of that combination. It featured duck confit with pickled red beets, toasted almonds, radish sprouts, mandarin orange, and tamarind gravy.
The pork belly taco features braised pork belly with red onion escabeche, pickled sesame cucumber, and death sauce.
After learning of the “oven” trouble, I decided to take a chance on the Mandoline Grill which seemed to have many people coming away with food pretty quickly, and some tasty smells were coming from that direction. I went ahead and waited in the grill line to order while my friend stayed in line at the pig truck.
In 15 minutes, I had one 12″ grilled pork and one 12″ grilled beef banh mi, a Vietnamese baguette sandwich ($6 each). I headed back to the taco line and had a few nibbles of the sandwich as we were quickly approaching the end of the line.
After over an hour wait, we finally got our tacos - priced between $2.75 and $3.25 each – and although I wasn’t as hungry as before, these definitely were worth the wait. I was only sorry I hadn’t ordered the limit of five items to begin with.
The pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth awesome, soft but not greasy. The sesame cucumber and sauce complemented it well without overwhelming the natural taste of this little piggy. The sauce was a kind of chili sauce with a bit of a kick but I still have no clue why it’s called the “death” sauce. It wasn’t that hot. There was Sriracha, or rooster, sauce available to add. I passed.
This would be my first time tasting duck, in any way, but my friend was excited about it so I imagined it wasn’t as odd as it sounded to me. The beets and small orange slices were a nice start. When I finally bit into the duck, it was moist and tender. Surprisingly, it reminded me of shredded beef and not like its cousin, the chicken, but not as fatty either.
Yes, these tacos were worth the wait but I don’t know if I’ll do it again. I will be more prepared next time, arriving a lot earlier, getting a large group together and planning out a strategy of who to send out to wait at different trucks, all mission-impossible style.
A mission I could definitely practice at the next L.A. Street Food Fest to be featured at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on July 24. But sadly, I will be out on other adventures that weekend and will have to hold off on that rescue plan. Next time Gadget, next time.
Check out details for the L.A. Street Food Fest at their website or here on our Rose magazine blog.