Independents’ Day will be rocking this weekend with street art, artisan shopping and great, high-energy bands like the New Bomb Turks, Nervosas, Nick Tolford, Connections and The Girls! Know what else will be rocking? I do — it’s ID’s stellar lineup of food trucks. Here are a few must-eats.
Mashita Noodle Bar
I’m super-impressed by this smart, pick-your-noodle-and-broth-and-toppings ramen bowl cart (with vegan options). Skillful uses of modernist and hot-topic techniques are used to produce pickles, homemade rice noodles, sous vide chicken and eggs, David Chang-influenced bacon dashi and so forth. Two fantastic combinations are 1) “traditional” noodles with BBQ-esque bacon broth and “Korean” chicken and 2) spicy noodles with green tea pulled pork and un-soupy, kewpie mayo-based mazeman sauce.
When this real-deal-chef’s-chops-flaunting, poultry-focused truck first appeared, it immediately raised the bar on the local mobile vendor scene. It’s justifiably famous for its yak burger, but lately The Coop has been featuring an equally alluring “meat and potato” (local) bison burger loaded with a scalloped spud casserole, pickled egg and porcini mushroom sauce. Vegans might target an Indian-riffing plantain curry with basmati rice and coriander chutney.
Korean food in all its spicy, pickly, sweet and comforting guises has finally broken through to the masses, and this high-achieving truck delivers those goods admirably. Jeons — frittata-ish Korean pancakes — are Ajumama mainstays, but you also gotta try the bulgogi cheezesteak (winner of the Best Sandwich award at the 2013 Food Truck Festival), and no visit here is complete without an order of its wonderful hodduk — cinnamon bun-flavored pocket pastries.
The wheeled version of this terrific Merion Village restaurant is, like its brick-and-mortar father, Latin-leaning. But that sunny multinational cuisine is by no means EC’s entire story. In other words, if you see EC’s Puerto Rican-inspired mofongo sandwich on the menu, snap that smoked pork bad boy up (it’s dressed with lime, cilantro, garlicky plantains and jalapeno slaw), but don’t ignore the smoked brisket, jerk chicken, collard greens or soothing Pumpkin Delight.
Freedom a la Cart
Bold Latin flavors — and locally grown goodies — also brighten the intriguing menu of this activist business (it employs survivors of human trafficking). Like everyone else on this recommended short list, Freedom’s offerings vary, but keep an eye out for signature sandwiches like the gaucho (chimichurri and pot-roasty meat) and the vegan papa (fried potatoes, white beans and onions plus a spicy sauce.)