FOOD TRUCKS ARE THE HOTTEST THING TO HIT THE FOOD INDUSTRY SINCE, well, sliced bread. Once the domain of a dirty hot dog, today’s food trucks are gourmet kitchens on wheels. Food truck festivals, such as the Winter Blast held in Secaucus prior to Super Bowl XLVIII, draw huge crowds of hungry fans seeking to sample everything from classic American comfort food and Asian street food to sugary confections. Now that summer is here, save a spot in your parking lot or on a grassy patch and have your next event roll right in.
Oink and Moo BBQ
A self-described barbecue fanatic, Josh Sacks has traveled from Austin and Memphis to Kansas City and the Carolinas sampling the distinctive flavors of each region’s famous barbecue. New Jersey had “a need for good barbecue,” says Sacks, so he started the Oink and Moo BBQ truck to bring his favorite flavors to the people. While many items, including sides, are prepped ahead of time, Sacks’ truck is outfitted with a smoker. He is based in Somerset but travels across the state for parties that serve 40 to 600 people. “We do everything from handling orders right out of the truck to having servers walk around at events,” says Sacks. Oink and Moo also does traditional catering and drop-off, but the truck always makes an impression. “People are always in a good mood,” says Sacks of food truck events and parties. “It’s a rewarding job.”
The restaurant business, where weekends and holidays are spent on the job, can be difficult for families. Bob Leahy was finally convinced by his wife to hang up his apron. Leahy was used to the frenetic pace of a professional kitchen, though, and he soon grew bored. During the winter of 2013, he began researching the idea of a food truck. He bought an old recreational vehicle and converted it to a food truck, doing “95 percent of the work myself,” he says. His idea? Backyard barbecues where he can just “pull up, put up my awning, put some music on and start barbecuing.” Sliders are his specialty, but it’s not just hamburgers. He offers 30 or 40 different sliders, including crab cake sliders—“really, anything on a bun.” He can turn more than 600-700 sliders in four hours. “We take pride in what we’re serving,” says Leahy of his truck and fellow food truck owners. Leahy also relishes the customer interaction, saying, “I used to be in the back of the kitchen, but now I get to talk to people.”
ahh! la cart
Michael Curran and Cynthia Church, owners of ahh! la cart, mean business with their food truck. This vehicle is outfitted with an open grill, two burners, a flat grill and four sinks. The cart serves lunch primarily during the week in South Brunswick (available weekends and weeknights only for catering and events) and offers what Curran describes as an “American-international grill” with a focus on Mexican, Italian, Spanish and Middle Eastern cuisine. “We cater to what customers are looking for,” says Curran. Like Bob Leahy, ahh! la cart also participated in last summer’s Food Truck Wars, which drew 31,000 people, so they’re used to the hustle and bustle of a big event. It’s not just their flavor that is memorable; this food truck’s lower half is all chalkboard, and they let customers draw all over it. “It definitely brings the kids over and keeps them entertained,” says Church.
Whether it’s a birthday or just the ending to a great meal, nothing conveys a celebration quite like a sweet and delicious cupcake. Cupcake Carnivale, selected in 2013 as one of Zagat’s 10 Must-Try Food Trucks for Spring Around the U.S., bakes some of the best around. There are the classics (chocolate or vanilla with buttercream frosting), the seasonal selections (summer brings a coconut with piña colada frosting) and then the unusual flavors (maple cheddar bacon cupcake with maple cream cheese frosting and candied bacon).
Empanada Guy’s owner Carlos Serrano is a busy guy. With three food trucks and a brandnew brick and-mortar restaurant, Serrano even manages to fit in filming a web series, Food Truck Heroes, featured on YouTube. Book one of the trucks to come to your next event, and you’ll be rewarded with melt-in-your-mouth empanadas. Serrano’s come stuffed with beef, chicken, cheese, chorizo, lobster, crab and even apple cinnamon.
Aroy-D, The Thai Elephant Truck
You can’t miss this truck. It’s the one with the giant elephant painted on its side. Aroy-D, or “very yummy,” is a perfect description for this truck’s Thai street food menu, which boasts crispy spring rolls, pad thai, curry soups and more. The truck rolls into Montclair and Hoboken (follow on Facebook and Twitter), but is also available for events.