Monday, July 9, 2012

Salt Lake City's Food Truck Scene Blossoming

The food truck trend is blossoming in Salt Lake City. So says John T. Edge, who writes about culinary trends around the country. 

When Edge roamed the country researching a cookbook on food trucks a few years ago, SuAn Chow hadn't yet opened her Chow Truck in Salt Lake City.
But when he visited Salt Lake City a couple of weeks ago, the Chow Truck and Steve Helfenbein's Better Burger food truck made a nice backdrop  to promote Edge's "The Truck Food Cookbook: 150 Recipes and Ramblings from America's Best Restaurants on Wheels."  
Parked across the street from Weller's Books at Trolley Square, the food trucks lured in hungry diners who also had a chance to get a signed copy of Edge's new book. It illustrated the point that Salt Lake City is getting into the gourmet meals-on-wheels trend that has swept the rest of the country and spawned TV shows such as Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race." 
"The scene here has blossomed," said Edge. "The city is well-suited for food trucks. You have the broad avenues and the opportunities for street-side vending seem rich here. At the same time, the downtown area is quite dense. The opportunities in a dense area is good, it means more potential customers."

 Years ago, I worked at a company in Ogden where a sandwich/snack truck showed up during our lunch and break times; we called it the "gut wagon." No, that's NOT what today's food trucks are all about.  
Edge's book includes recipes for imaginative dishes that creative chefs serve curbside across the country, such as Breakfast Waffle Tacos, Salmon and Chipotle Fried Pies and Taiwanese Fried Chicken. 
The newest Salt Lake food truck, Waki Paki, started serving its "Pakistani street fusion" cuisine July 2. To find out where it will serving next, check the website
I met Edge some years ago when both of us won writing awards from the Association of Food Journalists, and we were seated at the same table during the awards banquet. Since then, he's won many more awards, written several books on American food culture, and has been included in the Best American Food Writing every year since 2001. Edge writes the “United Tastes” column for the New York Times and has been a judge on Iron Chef America.  While researching the food truck book, Edge discovered that mobile food offers passage to other cultures.
Here in Salt Lake City, Chow said she's seen the trend building since she opened her truck in 2009. Now there's a "food truck fest" every Thursday at the Gallivan Center, where up to seven trucks are permitted to park. 
"It's been nice, it brings other people out, and it offers variety," said Chow. 
She schedules her truck's locations a week in advance, and gets the word out through her website at, her 2,800 Twitter followers and 1,350 Facebook friends. Stephen Helfenbein, owner of Better Burger, got into the business "by way of access to the product," he said, explaining that his father owns Ken's Beef in Moab. His food truck offers burgers made from 100 percent grass-fed beef. You can also get a Cali's Veggie Rice Burger or a turkey burger from Wight's Farm Fresh Turkey in Ogden. 
To find where Better Burger will be serving up its food, check its weekly schedule at
This will be Helfenbein's first full season in business, and so far it's been encouraging. "It's building something out of nothing since there's no food truck culture in Salt Lake City. It's getting the consumer trained on how to find us and what the experience is like. Food trucks are definitely different than the food carts." 
Edge acknowledged that parts of the food cart fad will fade away, such as the Food Network's .
"I don't think the world needs 10 cupcake trucks or 10 Korean taco trucks in every city," he said. "But the idea that food trucks can deliver good food fast — this style of eating will endure."
This recipe comes from the Jamerica Restaurant cart is Madison, Wisconsin.
1 habanero pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 pork tenderloins (about 1pound each)
1/2 cup store-bought Jamaican barbecue sauce
6 fresh-baked dinner rolls
Combine the habanero, scallions, garlic, allspice, nutmeg, thyme, salt and black pepper in a small mixing bowl with enough lime juice to make about 2 tablespoons of paste. Rub the habanero paste all over the pork tenderloins, then refrigerate the pork, covered, overnight. 
Preheat a charcoal grill to high.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the pork tenderloins on the hot grate and grill until cooked through, but slightly pink, about 10 minutes. Use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness; the internal temperature of the pork should be 145 F.
Transfer pork to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes. The final temperature should be 155 F. Chop the pork into bite-size pieces, toss in the barbecue sauce, and pile it on the rolls to serve.
— The Truck Food Cookbook," by John T. Edge

No comments: