Trailer Food Tuesdays kicked off this past Tuesday as a new series of events meant to promote and provide exposure for Austin’s somewhat saturated food truck market. The idea is to bring the fun and promise of the Gypsy Picnic back to Austin each month without the long lines, sold-out food, and general chaos of the big annual event. Instead, Trailer Food Tuesdays invited out nine of the city’s favorite trucks to create something of a centrally located pop-up food trailer park for all to enjoy. Without further ado, here are my thoughts.
Set up in a semi circle, some facing “in”, some facing “out”, the trucks lined up along the back of the Palmer Events Center facing the river and downtown. It was a great spot with lots of room to spread out so that lines didn’t criss cross, but without feeling like you had to trek miles to go from truck to truck. Inside the semi circle (in the semi shade) were some tables, a DJ, and two cash bars. Not a bad setup really. If only they could turn the thermostat down about 20 degrees… even still it wasn’t unbearable and as summer turns into fall, the upcoming TFT events will definitely benefit from the cooler weather.
As for the actually eating, there were some high points and some low points. On the positive side, there was a solid selection of food, rather than all tacos and sliders. See below for the full list of trucks who participated. The trucks also did a good job of modifying their menus and pricing to make it more “sample friendly”. My biggest gripe, even more than the long lines, was the price-gouging $3 bottles of water at the cash bar with no alternative. I honestly thought an event like this would be required to have free water, even if it’s BYO bottle, especially in the middle of summer in Texas. The rest of the bar prices seemed fine for an event like this, including the beer bottles, jumbo lemonades, and glasses of wine. But please, next time, free water (like this).
Our group of three did a pretty good job sampling and sharing from four of the nine trucks. Unfortunately a few trucks had some pretty crazy lines that had people waiting 30+ minutes just to order, so we divided and conquered the best we could.
Dock and Roll Diner had a limited, but quick-to-serve menu. I got a lobster slider, which was a little steep at $4 but tasty, and considering it only took about 15 seconds from ordering to receiving the food, it may have been a good price. From the customer standpoint, I MUCH preferred the places that took your order and then handed you your food before taking the next order. The Seedling Truck handled orders like this too where we got the Duck Torta. Tasty duck on top of a crispy frybread with pickled onions and cilantro sour cream. I thought it was a little tough to eat on the flatbread, but all the flavors were great.
The other trucks we sampled were The Peached Tortilla and Yumé Burger. These guys are heavy hitters (along with Chi’Lantro BBQ, who we didn’t try) and had the longest lines from start to finish. From The Peached Tortilla we got the marquee Banh Mi taco loaded with
pork belly goodness, and the Pad Thai taco filled with tofu and topped with peanut sauce. The Banh Mi taco was outstanding while the Pad Thai taco just couldn’t compete. The fries from TPT were killer, and served with four dipping sauces.
From Yumé Burger we ended up waiting about 30 minutes from getting in line to getting our food. And! We also got the last burger, in the form of the Japajam. Along with the burger we got the Rappongi Dog, which is all kinds of crazy flavor. On top of the dog is pork belly, daikon, carrots, Sriracha mayo, and wasabi seeds. I was skeptical before my first bite and a total convert by the time it was gone. The Japajam was my friend’s favorite thing we ate all night, even going so far to say it was one of the best burgers he’s ever had. Big words. I won’t disagree.
So the food was good, the crowd wasn’t too big, and the cash bar was a nice touch. But the $3 bottles of water, 30+ minute long lines, and occasional food shortage left more to be desired. I overheard some people say “they should’ve had more trucks to help cut down the lines”. I disagree. More trucks would have drawn more people, and the event would have been approaching Gypsy Picnic size. I think 10 trucks is the magic number, and as the event becomes more common, people won’t feel the urgent need to be there or miss out. My last bit of advice is to offer menus that allow for extremely fast turn-around times. Waiting 7 minutes for a burger is fine for a normal lunch 5-person line, but not for a 50-person line.
For me it was a great first run of the event considering there were a lot of unknowns the organizers likely dealt with. I’m looking forward to August’s event and the improvements that come with it.
Be More Pacific
The Seedling Truck