Although they're nothing new in big cities, food trucks are just catching on here (surprise, surprise).
Don't be confused: Food trucks are not fast food or junk food. Think of them more as purveyors of specialized cuisine. They usually park their trucks in centralized locations, such as downtown or at an office park, where people can buy food at lunchtime and eat it outside or take it back to work.
Some local trucks set up late at night outside bars to catch late-night revelers hungry from an evening of partying.
Businesses also invite food trucks to set up in their parking lot as a convenience to employees. Food trucks make heavy use of social media to tell their fans where they'll be and when they'll be there.
I tried two food trucks last week with two different companions. Here are our observations:
Ragin' Cajun food truck
Laissez les bon temps roulez.
This phrase, which appears on the front of Big John's Ragin' Cajun food truck, means “Let the good times roll.”
What a fun, fitting slogan for a truck that serves New Orleans-style Cajun and Creole food.
Big John Maxwell is the chef and founder of the Ragin' Cajun food truck. Born and raised in New Orleans, he was managing Mother's restaurant near the French Quarter when Katrina swept through in 2005. He and his wife relocated to the Fort Wayne area. In addition to running the food truck, he is in charge of catering at the Shiloh reception hall.
The truck can be booked for specific events, or you can find out where it is by following Ragin' Cajun on Facebook.
On Thursday, the day we sampled Ragin' Cajun's food, that truck and another one, JumBy's JoiNt, were parked at an office complex near the corner of Illinois and Hadley roads. Rather than try to sample from both, we ordered from Ragin' Cajun and visited JumBy's JoiNt the next day.
I ordered a muffaletta, a sandwich that's popular in New Orleans. “Half or quarter?” they asked me.
“How big are they?” I asked.
Somebody in the truck held up a loaf of bread about as big as my head.
“Quarter,” I replied.
It was still a massive sandwich. Layers of ham, salami, mortadella (sort of like bologna) and provolone cheese were stacked, oh, maybe 1 1/2-inches thick. It was topped with an olive salad and served on Italian bread.
The oil from the olive salad soaked through parts of the bread. It was way too much sandwich for me, and messy to eat. Good thing I'd asked for more napkins. I sliced off a portion and ate it, but it's not something I'd order again. Live and learn.
The jambalaya was more to my liking. The tender chicken and mildly spicy andouille and smoked sausage flavored with tomato and fresh herbs had a kick but wasn't too spicy for my tender taste buds.
We topped off lunch with yummy bread pudding drizzled with a lot of white chocolate sauce. I was tempted to lick the Styrofoam container clean.
Both meals totaled up to $22.
On the day we sampled Ragin' Cajun's food, the skies were blue and we found a lovely shady spot where we could enjoy our meals outside.
Such was not the case the next day when we rendezvoused with the JumBy's JoiNt truck.
JumBy's JoiNt food truck
Ever since it's opened, I've wanted to try JumBy's Ugly Granny sandwich, a toasted cheese sandwich with Granny Smith apples and smoked Gouda cheese.
They didn't have them on the menu Thursday, but JumBy (Jim Garigen) promised to have one on Friday, so I agreed to meet the truck (and a friend) at Hoosier Metal Recycling, which was where they were set up.
With a storm threatening, it wasn't the ideal situation; we were going to have to eat our lunches in the car.
I was pleased that when I walked up, JumBy recognized me and remembered I wanted the Ugly Granny.
My friend and I got our orders and took pictures of the food on the hood of my car, then got in and started eating before rain fell.
The highlight was the truffle fries, a big order of hand-cut fries drizzled with truffle oil and aged balsamic vinegar and topped with shredded Parmesan. They were the best fries I've ever eaten. I didn't want to put them down to eat the sandwich.
They were something I could get a craving for and would be willing to stalk the truck to find — and as far as I know, they aren't available anywhere else.
My friend ordered a fried fish sandwich. It was some kind of Vietnamese fish, breaded, on a bun topped with greens and a spicy Cajun-style sauce. She ordered Buffalo fries to go with it — more of those hand-cut fries topped with hot sauce and a white sauce — ranch dressing, maybe?
Both the sandwich and the fries were spicy — she broke out in a sweat and had to fan herself. It didn't help we were eating in the car with the windows rolled up, watching it rain. I started the car and turned on the air conditioning.
She said her fries were nothing special — she could probably create something similar at home. She loved the fish sandwich, however, which was not something she would attempt to make on her own.
As for that Ugly Granny sandwich, that was the disappointment of the day. I know from reading online reviews others love it. I didn't. Something about the toasted bread and the tart apples and the cheese didn't work for me. It's not something I'd order again. But those truffle fries — that's another story. Our bill for both was $23.50.
Every other Tuesday, Larson describes a one-time dining experience at an area restaurant. The News-Sentinel pays for meals. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. You can reach her at 461-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read other columns, go to www.news-sentinel.com/section/LARSON.