A fairly new phenomenon for foodies—food trucks—makes it possible to savor gourmet cuisine from the sidewalk.
By Debbie Miller | Photos by Jody Tiongco
The food truck scene in Orange County has evolved rapidly over the past five years, and it’s proven that this is more than just a passing fad. In addition to regular food truck stops, the region has held several truck-driven events over the past few years, including the OC Foodie Fest in 2010 and 2011, the Munchathon 5K and food truck festival in 2011, and the Laguna Beach Food Truck Festival in 2012 and 2013. Plus, this past season of Breakers football at Laguna Beach High School featured Food Truck Fridays, where the top food trucks in OC (including ones featured here) set up shop outside the Friday night games.
As food trucks have now become more commonplace, with designated weekly stops as well as rolling (no pun intended) events, the OC region has certainly embraced the eclectic trend of dining on wheels. Best of all, whether it serves gourmet waffles or comfort food classics, there’s a truck to please every taste bud.
Longtime Laguna resident Brian Fast debuted his popular truck, Waff-N-Roll, early last year. The concept is built around waffle sandwiches and features selections like pulled pork, tandoori chicken, smoked turkey and, for the vegetarians, rosemary balsamic mushroom.
“Waff-N-Roll bakes our oil-free—yet decadent—thin and crispy waffles and fills them with foodie-inspired goodness,” Brian says. While we don’t usually think of waffles as being healthy, most of the savory options aren’t as bad as you’d think. Granted, there are also sweet sandwiches with fillings like dulce de leche, tangy lemon curd and berries, and Nutella.
“I got involved in the food truck business for two reasons,” Brian says. “First, I needed a challenge. I developed an amazing waffle baking and sandwich process and needed a launch pad. Second, as a restaurant owner of 30 years, I was somewhat terrified by the thought of a kitchen with tires and a transmission. … Maybe I was just looking for an environment where more stuff breaks.”
The OC waffle truck has seen great success over the past year and is still enjoying a busy schedule. In addition to participating in a variety of festivals, the Waff-N-Roll truck can regularly be found at various schools around south Orange County.
These days, it’s more than evident that Brian loves what he does: “Every day, we introduce the curious masses to the growing worldwide trend of waffle sandwiches and convert them into happy, waffle-sandwich-craving fanatics.” (waffnroll.com; Twitter: @waffnroll)
Husband-and-wife team Jay and Karen DiEugenio launched BACON MANia in 2010, making it one of the oldest trucks in OC. They figured that with their experience as “professional tailgaters,” they’d be the perfect people to jump into an industry that was just beginning to boom. Soon enough, their menu was garnering enough attention that the business was able to expand to the LA area.
The truck, which takes American comfort food classics and makes them better with bacon, has seen a variety of successes, including being featured on the Cooking Channel’s “Eat Street” in an episode titled “Bacon Mania Baby” and on the Discovery Channel’s “United States of Bacon” in an episode named for its signature dish, the Jack Back Sammie. The duo has also appeared on Carson Daly’s AMP 97.1 radio show and the KTLA 5 Morning News, among other outlets.
When it’s not busy being in the spotlight, BACON MANia’s team is active in the local area, and every week embraces the opportunity to work with members of the community to raise funds for schools, churches and other causes. In fact, you can find Jay and Karen’s two sons, Nick and Luc, working hard aboard the truck as well.
“Many people don’t realize it, but most of the time when you see food trucks at community events, they are donating a percentage of their sales back to a charitable organization,” Karen says. “It is an unexpected perk to this business—the feeling that you are helping to make your community a better place.”
Karen describes BACON MANia’s menu as “unabashedly American,” “unapologetic man food” and “food like you wish your mom used to make.” The menu includes grilled cheeses, pulled pork, chili, sliders and sandwiches.
And then there are unconventional dishes that really push the envelope. “Mostly these dishes involve wrapping something unexpected in bacon—a little trick we picked up during our tailgating days. Brownies, PB and J, mac and cheese, chicken wings … we’ll wrap it and fry it, and our fans love it.” (baconmaniatruck.com; Twitter: @baconmania)
If you have a sweet tooth, you have to try Chunk-n-Chip. One of the original OC dessert trucks, Chunk-n-Chip offers artisanal ice cream sandwiches that combine warm and soft Chunk-n-Chip cookies with one of the truck’s many flavors of ice cream.
Chunk-n-Chip takes pride in being “experts” in crafting the most delectable ice cream sandwich in town. In addition to cruising around in their popular truck, the dessert brand’s staffers are also available for catering (they do a lot of weddings), either with the food truck or just an ice cream “sammich” station.
CEO and owner Claudia Gonzalez had been selling craft ice cream “sammiches” seasonally at festivals since 2007, and saw the food truck scene as a great opportunity to expand. The Chunk-n-Chip truck debuted in August 2010 at the OC Foodie Fest at the Honda Center in Anaheim, where it was named the second most popular truck at the festival by Yelp. Since then, it’s been a full-time operation for Claudia.
“We hand-make our treats with oven-warm, ooey-gooey cookies and honest-to-goodness ice cream. We are a family-run, small batch business, so we make both cookies and ice cream from scratch with premium yet simple, nural ingredients,” Claudia explains. “No artificial whatchamacallits or mass production—just old school craftsmanship and a ton of love.”
While they do carry the classics (like chocolate chip cookie with vanilla bean ice cream), they’re all about taking food to the next level with adventurous flavors like lemon zest cookies with
lavender-blueberry ice cream or their Champagne cookie with strawberry-balsamic vinegar and cracked pepper ice cream.
It’s clear that Claudia couldn’t be happier to be in this business. “What I love the most are the smiles and excitement we create from delivering the ultimate, hands-down ice cream sandwich experience. In particular, seeing a newbie’s reaction to their first bite … the smile of a kid having a new toy, with chocolate and ice cream smeared on their face. Now that’s priceless for us.” (chunknchip.com; Twitter: @chunknchip)
Piaggio on Wheels
Piaggio on Wheels is Orange County’s original Argentine food truck. After owning a restaurant in downtown Brea for seven years, the truck’s founder, Jose Ignacio Piaggio, decided to start a food truck. The truck launched in 2009 amid the economic downturn.
“With a truck, there’s less overhead than there is at an actual restaurant,” Jose says. “Because we can move around, there are a lot more opportunities for where food service is needed.”
The Piaggio truck serves skirt steak tacos, chimichurri, sausage and milanesa sandwiches, skirt steak and chimi fries, and dulce de leche. Piaggio on Wheels is most known, however, for its signature Argentine empanadas, which Jose has been making for almost 30 years. His savory recipe has traveled from his native Argentina to his restaurants in Brazil and California, and it’s now the trademark item of his food truck.
The entire menu has an Argentine twist. Popular options include taco, burrito and quesadilla creations, as well as a famous lomito sandwich made with slow-braised pork, a choripan made with traditional Argentine sausage, the chicken milanesa sandwich and Piaggio’s popular version of pulled pork paired with its addictive chimichurri sauce.
For Jose, mobility is one of the most enticing aspects of the food truck business. “It gives me the freedom to move around and go to different events, meet different people, be in different situations versus just being in one location.”
The truck has a few regular stops, participating in the OC DinDin-a-GoGo event every Tuesday at Irvine Lanes bowling center as well as the Food Truck Fare on Wednesdays and Thursdays at the OC Fair & Event Center. (piaggioonwheels.com; Twitter: @piaggioonwheels)
Who doesn’t want fresh Mexican food on the go? That’s where Tamarindo Truck, which serves up authentic Mexican cuisine across Orange County, comes in. Its concept is simple: Bring the best that traditional Mexican street food has to offer to the curbs of Southern California.
The truck is a family business, with husband Pedro Resendiz helming the kitchen and wife Sarah overseeing the logistical aspects of the operation. The couple had always wanted to open a restaurant, and after living out of the country and returning home, they decided it was as good a time as ever to pursue their dream.
“Pedro had always cooked in other chefs’ kitchens, and I was a behavior therapist working with children with autism. We thought a food truck would be a nice start to get our feet wet,” Sarah says.
Tamarindo Truck offers truly original Mexican cuisine. No crazy foams, no unrecognizable ingredients or cinchy menu items. The No. 1 thing that makes Tamarindo unique, though, is that everything served is made from scratch.
“We use only the best high-quality ingredients and source local and organic whenever possible,” Sarah says. “We don’t serve anything from a can, and buy fresh ingredients to roast off all of our salsas, marinades, sauces and spreads each morning. We are serious supporters of the local slow food scene and eating real food—real food for real people.”
One thing Sarah loves the most about the business is when people eat the food and just “get it”—they can taste the love that goes into it, or it transports them back to something their mother or grandmother used to make.
“There is such a hype around food these days: calories, carbs, eating on the run, et cetera. Food is meant to be shared and enjoyed with those who are near and dear to you. Food is meant to bring people together. We love when our food does that; it’s such a great feeling.” (tamarindotruck.com; Twitter: @tamarindotruck)
These well-known food trucks have been spotted around Orange County as well as around Laguna, especially during the high school football season. So keep your eyes open and your stomachs empty, because you never know when you might run into your next favorite food truck. LBM