Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Local Loves: Five fabulous food trucks you don't want to miss

Fast food has a new set of wheels and it's not afraid to use them. The humble hot dog and Cuban sandwich stands of our fair city have been joined a new generation of entrepreneurial, social media savvy gourmets, dishing out everything from tacos and coconut curry to bourbon-mango pork.

Tampa's food truck scene is burgeoning.

Consequently, the bay area's first food truck rally will roll into town on September 24th at the Presbyterian Church in Hyde Park with a second event to be scheduled in Seminole Heights shortly thereafter.

Sponsored by Tasting Tampa, the event will feature the gastronomical delights of Wicked 'Wiches, the now famous deviled crabs and Cubans of Michelle Faedo and many more DIY dining vendors. You can also expect plenty of homemade desserts, live music and FREE (yes, free) childcare.

In the lead up to the event, I wanted to share five of my very favorite food truck entrepreneurs. Ditch your dollar sandwiches friends, gourmet fast food is the way to go.

Located on the northwest corner of Florida and Hillsborough Avenue in an original airstream trailer, Freshley's Cafe is my favorite go-to lunch spot in Tampa. Not only is it super close to where I live and work but its plethora and fresh, healthy offerings and incredibly budget-friendly pricing make it pretty irresistible. At breakfast, I simply can't resist the banana pancakes (I'm salivating at the thought of them) with their sweetly sticky banana and cinnamon spice wheat base topped with walnuts, maple syrup and creamy brie cheese. At just six dollars, it's enough to keep me going until my evening meal but I have been known to stop by for a smoked salmon BLT or Thai grilled chicken salad at lunch. Naughty naughty.

Instantly recognizable in parking lots around South Tampa, Wicked 'Wiches dishes up a delectable feast of giant open faced sandwiches practically overflowing with fillings. My sandwich of choice is the coconut curry kota, which hails from South Africa and usually features some kind of curry in the middle of hollowed bread. Superbly delicious. As an added extra, fresh potato chips to accompany your sandwich are made on the spot while you wait. The truck's Facebook page usually gives a good indication of forthcoming locales. 

Warm, perfectly crumbly pies served in tiny glass jars? Yes please! This is just one of the specialties thoughtfully concocted by Stephanie Barr, the owner of 3 Ballers Traveling Bistro. While the menu changes frequently, the quality of the food and attentive preparation does not. Usually found touring local farmers markets and outdoor events, my heart skips a beat every time I run my eyes over the perfectly sumptuous baked goods, the hot, cascading pitas and beautifully presented, chilled gazpacho. 

I doubt there will ever be a shortage of Cuban sandwiches in Tampa. Lord knows we have enough vendors. Take a Cuban sandwich however - piled with juicy cuts of roast pork, salami and thinly sliced ham - and rub a good helping of garlic and herb paste on the outside before lighting toasting, and you have a winner. This is just one of the delectable treats offered by Michelle Faedo's On the Go. If this isn't enough for your rumbling belly, try the crackling croquettes, which guard a gooey ham salad interior, or Michelle's famous deviled crab.

For a heavenly sweet treat of the chilled variety, you might want to hit up my favorite yellow food truck Gone Bananas. This organic concession trailer has made a name for itself by serving up vegan and gluten-free frozen whipped bananas. Delicious and healthy - it's a guilt-free dessert, which always gets a thumbs up from me!

What is your favorite fast food truck stop in Tampa? Or are you yet to try one?

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