Food truck review: That Food Truck

  • Photos by Jodi Miller
From the August 16, 2012 edition

I have seen the future of food trucks — I hope!

Since my enlightening vision — a fiercely local-sourcing, scratch-cooking wheeled restaurant with “How do they do it?” low prices (a mobile-vendor rarity) — came on the cusp of Local Foods and Farm to Plate Week, I’d say this inspiring sight might’ve been a case of kismet — or at least terrific dumb luck (more likely the latter as that’s one of my specialties).

Cheeky in name, impressive in skill set and clever in personality, That Food Truck procures ultra-fresh meats (including grass-fed beef) from a single farm in Newark, performs its own butchering, uses Eleni-Christina (Rigsby’s superior bakery) buns, grows some of its own produce and yet manages to sell killer sandwiches for just $7 apiece, while letting sides go for a buck. Now that’s a food-truck future we can all line up for, right?

I caught up with TFT’s charismatic three-man crew at their current home base of Grant and Gay and, after marveling at their outrageously Murakami-esque graffiti-artist-painted vehicle (which they built and customized themselves), I settled in at a convenient little picnic table strategically situated under a protective awning. There I placed my order with a personable guy waving an iPad with a handle he said was “also locally made.”

I liked every damn delicious, generously sized and seductively priced thing I tried. Was everything from this month-old rookie perfect? Not quite, so I’ll offer some nitpicking observations and advice along with descriptions.

• Squash Fritters ($3): Two winningly crunchy, panko-crusted, greaseless, expertly dark golden brown fried hush puppy-sized orbs with distinctly compelling creamy and tangy shredded veggie interiors. They’re served with zingy and addictive carrot chip corkscrews ($1 a la carte) plus a creamy, cuminy and spicy sauce I liked that was misleadingly called “harissa.” It was far more Southwestern or Mexican-fusion than North African.

• Chicken Schnitz ($3): These terrific snacks — super crispy panko-crusted chicken fingers shaped like puffy jigsaw puzzle pieces ate even better dunked into TFT’s harissa or its lighter-than-usual, herby/chivey homemade ranch dressing.

• Diner Burger ($7): You want this. A lean, mean and clean-tasting grass-fed biggie (marginally overcooked from the requested temperature) with enlivening Cajun-type accents (from “Truck Dust,” a proprietary blend created with wonderful North Market Spices), black pepper blasts, melted sharp cheddar, a superlative glossy sesame-seeded bun plus richness foils of arugula and a grainy mustard sauce; eat it with TFT’s dark kettle chips ($1).

• Chicken Confit ($7): Alluringly pork-like and impossible to share; caressed by a beautifully chewy hoagie-type roll dressed with grainy mustard-sauced-arugula

• Big Bad Wolf ($7): Intoxicatingly crisped-up pig meat, thick bacon, deeply caramelized onions plus the same great richness-cutting mustard/arugula/bun treatment as above but unfortunately overdressed with harissa and sadly missing one of its three little pigs — some menu-promised homemade ham I was anticipating with relish.