WALKING THE WRONG WAY? The food truck’s over there...
The coming summer looks to be the busiest in memory, food-wise. We are in the midst of a flurry of restaurant openings, and thanks to recent regulatory adjustments food-trucks are beginning to proliferate in our city. But are summers really meant for business, in the sense of busy-ness? It is tempting to sit on our patios and let the tourists serve as guinea pigs. They can sort the whole thing out for us on Yelp, and we can pick up with the good ones in September when it gets cold.
But we probably won’t, and it’s the food trucks that are most to blame. The original food truck sold ice cream, and Italian political philosopher Antonio Negri remarks somewhere how similar their business plan is to that of the crack cocaine market. An army of small dealers purchase their cheap and destructive product from a mysterious wholesaler, and then fan out to track down customers who are desperate for a quick fix. Like drug addicts, overheated children are helpless to resist, and though basically moneyless, they somehow are always able to scrape up enough for another hit. In either case, their inarticulate joy when the chemical finally hits their brain is both weirdly beautiful and deeply sad.
How different will we be in the face of the new wave of recently legalized hot-food trucks proliferating in Portland this summer? Sure, it is good when we eliminate arbitrary barriers to good food business. But this also means the marketplace is about to start chasing us down, (or tweeting us flirtatiously, luring us to chase it). I climbed off my patio the other day when the bright green Wicked Good Street Kitchen truck parked a block away.
Approaching it I did feel like a kid again. The youngsters sucking on just-purchased organic popsicles helped, as did the cute angel/devil characters painted on the side of the truck. Instead of blaring Joplin’s “The Entertainer” out at the world, the hot-food truck plays its music inside, drawing us closer. The menu’s centerpiece seems to be a chicken and waffles dish that keeps things sweet in the tradition of summer-truck fare thanks to a generous drizzle of Maine maple syrup. The chicken breast had a flat, schnitzel-like quality, and a good dark crunchy breading made from cornflakes. The texture stands up to the syrup pretty well, but the sweet is a touch cloying. It could have used a bit more saltiness or spice. The waffle is nice looking, but gets syrup-soggy pretty quickly.
Their version of the BLT was more sophisticated — with terrific Iraqi flatbread and lots of crunchy and bitter arugula. The thin bread let you really taste the thick salty bacon, the sweet tomato, and the tangy-sour mayo. A falafel sandwich was very similar, but a bit less rewarding since the chickpeas obscured the other flavors a bit. A “raw pad Thai” is actually more like a really nice salad in the French tradition of diced root veggies. The noodles are actually crunchy radish, and the sauce is more tahini-creamy than nutty. There is plenty of crunchy kale, carrot, and sweet red pepper.