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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 www.cityofrosemead.org, www.facebook.com/rosemeadca or www.grillemalltruck.com .