Food trucks and festival

If you were at the first ever Food Truck Festival at Santa Anita Park as I was last month, you know how crazy busy they can get and how long one might have to wait just for a nibble of what is to be gourmet food truck fare.

I’ll admit, I was expecting some wait, having been to a food truck festival a while back in Glendale. But this was different. First, the Santa Anita event was a weekend, unlike the festival I’d been to at the Americana was a weekday. A weekend event seems to draw more of a crowd. Second, there was a separate entrance fee to the festival area within the park unlike in Glendale, where it was all open and no extra fee aside from the food.


Web comments after the Santa Anita festival showed how frustrated event attendees were as they waited hours at just one food truck. I arrived with my friends about an hour after the festival began and already could see at least 50 people at each line. Some trucks were already shut down by that time. Lines were intertwining with other lines making it confusing to find an end to one.

A friend and I found the shortest line at the Knockout Tacos Truck, which serves tacos inspired by various global cuisines.

Our other group of friends waited about 30 minutes at the beer garden as well, where the selections weren’t much to be desired but still better than the typical domestic or imports you find at the local dive.

Luckily for me, the KO Taco truck was next to the soundstage and I was entertained by the Spazmatics as I waited, mostly alone. My friends gave up and went to get hot dogs and popcorn from the park concession stands and place a few bets on some races. I hung in, even though there were a few times I also gave up. Every once in a while, the girl taking taco orders would come out and cover up another item on the menu that is sold out. I wondered if it would even be worth waiting all that time – almost three hours – for a few tacos or maybe none at all, if they ran out before I got up to the front of the line.

I hung in considering I hadn’t ever heard of this food truck before and didn’t know if these tacos were any good. I got three behind and I could still see four kinds of tacos on the menu – taco dorado con carne (shredded beef taco in a fried, crunchy tortilla shell); jalapeno teriyaki chicken taco with marinated cucumber and roasted jalapenos; bbq pork burnt ends taco with baked beans and southern style cole slaw; and the taco de papas, or spiced yukon gold mashed potatoes with lettuce, salsa, pico de gallo, cheese and crema mexicana, a Mexican-style cream.


Finally, I reached the end and these taco items were still available – “two of each please,” I said with a slight hesitation. I wasn’t sure if there would be enough to order two of each or if something changed last minute and nothing was available. They were and at $2.50 to $3.50 each, and hours later – I was holding a lot of expectations for these tacos.

As hungry as I was by the time I got the tacos – 10 minutes later – I did share them with friends who still had room after hot dogs.
We all agreed the jalapeno teriyaki had moist pieces of chicken and a great cucumber topping, almost like a slaw, with a nice cool spiciness to it. No one else seemed to share the same love and enthusiasm I had for the potato tacos though but they were my favorite. The potatoes were creamy and had a great spicy salsa flavor mashed right in. It was also topped with lots of grated cheese, I can never have enough cheese.


The bbq burnt end taco was also tasty but I was expecting a little more burnt end pieces with a crunchiness where it was more of cubed pork pieces.

The Lobster Truck still had a line as the festival winded down, though smaller, and I was tempted to give it a try. That was one of the trucks we wanted to try first.
Instead I settled for some dessert at Tapa Boy, a Filipino food truck. I had the fried flan pieces. My friend visited the Chunk N’ Chip truck for a warm chocolate chip cookie and cool mint ice cream sandwich.


After our experience at two different truck festivals, we decided to just stick to following certain food trucks as they come to the area, one truck at a time. But with the city of Rosemead’s Munch for the Memorial food truck festival this weekend – Saturday and Sunday – and the appearance of the Grill ‘Em All truck, the winners of the Food Network’s first The Great Food Truck Race, I can’t say never just yet.

Even after hearing of the Grill ‘Em All truck coming to the San Gabriel Valley, I couldn’t help but take advantage of their recent President’s Day lunch stop in Echo Park. I happened to be off as well and my husband and I decided for some burger lunch.

We watched the Food Network reality competition show so we’re already aware of some of the burgers the truck featured including the Behemoth – a nice grilled burger patty, cheddar, bacon, beer soaked onions, pickles, Grandma’s mosh pit bbq, sandwiched between two grilled cheese sandwich buns. I think the name says it all.

My husband decided to take on the Behemoth while I wanted to Waste ’em All – burger with green chilies, beer soaked onions and pepper jack. Fries are nice and crunchy and come with your choice of sauce – garlic aioli, Grandma’s mosh pit bbq, malt vinegar aioli, chipotle ketchup, ketchup or blue cheese.


We tried the bbq and chipotle ketchup. Both pretty delicious. My favorite thing about the burgers were we could tell it was quality ground beef, very tasty, and the patties were not small by any means. Mine was even a little medium rare – I love medium rare!

If you don’t mind the festival crowd, check out Grill ‘Em All and more than 15 more food trucks including Tapa Boy, Sweets Truck, Dosa Truck, Jose O’Malleys and more from 12:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 and from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the UFC Gym parking lot, 8920 Glendon Way, Rosemead.


The festival is being held to benefit the city’s September 11 Memorial. Admission is free and a limited number of ‘Cut to the Front’ passes will be sold at $20 for each truck on each day. For more information, visit, or .


Street Feast at the American at Brand in Glendale

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.

Shrimp tacos at Taco Bell

I love Mexican food and I love shrimp. Now, one wouldn’t consider Taco Bell to have authentic Mexican food, and I agree, but it sure does the trick when all you have time for is the drive-thru, or it’s all that’s nearby on a late night.

So when the taco chain announced their new Pacific Shrimp taco offerings, I had to try. Their site describes them as: “A warm, soft flour tortilla filled with six succulent shrimp marinated in a mix of spices, then topped with crisp shredded lettuce, Fiesta Salsa, and Avocado Ranch Sauce.”

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They were the size of any other soft tacos but still not much filling. There were six shrimp (I had to check), decent size, not huge but also not cup o’noodles-soup-size either.

The sauce absorbed the spices, probably from the shrimp, and it did have a little kick. All in all, it was a tasty shrimp taco, tasted as fresh as possible, considering it was from Taco Bell.

At 180 calories, these tacos aren’t bad, but I don’t know if I would have priced them at $2.49 each, (you can get a combo of two shrimp tacos with a very large drink for $5.99). I mean it is Taco Bell. But seafood isn’t the cheapest thing on any other menu either.

I would get the tacos again, whenever I’m craving shrimp and don’t have much time for a sit-down seafood joint. Or I could make a stop to Baja Fresh for their Diablo Shrimp Burrito – spicy and filling.  

Weekday special in West L.A.

I humbly admit this food blog may not always be the ultimate source for diners seeking somewhere new to eat or something new to try, but still I receive plenty of emails from restaurants near and far, offering me to come in and enjoy their new offerings so I can include them in the blog.

And although I am all for trying something new, most of the time I am not able to make it to these places for various reasons – the restaurant’s in New York, they are not in my price range or such as the recent one I was tempted by, their specials are midweek and are located farther than my 20-mile radius of cities I frequent. 

I don’t always have the time or energy to drive far for dinner after work, let alone in traffic to go to West Los Angeles. So even though I may not be heading here any time soon, maybe some of you out there are more adventurous than I, and are willing to go try Taco Tuesday at The Spanish Kitchen.

The special taco menu on Tuesdays sounds amazing, with tacos such as the Mexican BBQ Pork with chipotle cabbage and cotija cheese, or the Beer Battered Halibut with corn avocado salsa – YUM! There’s also some vegetarian selections. 

Let me know if you go and if the tacos are as tasty as they sound.