The food truck revolution was late rolling up to the Tampa Bay area, but here in Austin, Texas, it has its roots firmly planted and is one of the city's main attractions — besides the amazing music scene, of course. Like most things in Texas, the food truck community is big here — one of the biggest in the country, actually, right up there with Chicago and San Diego as the top spots to find mobile eateries. Having moved to Austin from the Bay area almost a year ago, I've missed out on the great new food trailers I keep reading about that have been popping up in Tampa and St. Pete, but luckily I can get a taste of trailer food here — and plenty of it.
Like their compatriots in Tampa Bay, Austin's food trucks aren't just serving up hot dogs and hamburgers. Fusion food, ethnic eats, American diner classics, gourmet ice cream sandwiches and doughnuts and so much more are available at the "around 1,350" food trucks and trailers in and around Austin as of today. (That's according to MSNBC.com, which based its count on the number of permits given out by the Austin/Travis County Department of Health.)
Since there are way too many rolling restaurants to sample during the South By Southwest (SXSW) music/film/interactive festival going on in downtown Austin this week, I've compiled a list of a few of my many top spots that had either fantastic fare or free munchies (which are not mutually exclusive in all cases). So read on and pay some of these trailers a visit the next time you're deep in the heart of Texas.
Austin Daily Press (900 Red River St.): An Austin staple made famous by its appearance on the first season of the Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race, ADP has mastered the art of the pressed sandwich. A little pricey at $7 a pop, but totally worth it once you've had a taste.
The Peached Tortilla (Fifth Street & Colorado; @thepeachedtortilla): Serving "Southern/Asian influenced tacos and sliders", Peached Tortilla has been giving out free happy hour eats daily. Their banh mi sliders are the bomb.
East Side King (Three locations on the East side; eskaustin.com): Three Asian fusion food trailers headed by Paul Qui, the winner of the most recent season of Top Chef and a nominee for Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chef in the Southwest. Different menus were served at all three locations — like beef tongue buns, Korean pork belly and a mouthwatering fried Brussels sprouts salad.
The Today Show's Munchie Mobile: Serving free hangover breakfast and late-night munchies, the NBC Today Show's own food truck offered everything from french toast sticks and tater tots to egg sandwiches and grits. The featured dishes were created by Today's Home Chef Challenge winners. While it wasn't the most inventive or tastiest food offered during SXSW, you can't really complain about free.
The Bing Lot (4th & Congress): This was a great one-stop munchies stop as it featured three popular Austin food trucks: Coreanos (Mexican-Korean fusion food with short rib tacos, "Kimcheese fries," and more), Mmmpanadas (empanadas with various fillings, like barbecue beef and soy chorizo with Brie) and Coolhaus (gourmet, build-your-own ice cream sandwiches). All three food trucks were offering free food from 4-6 p.m. to badge and non-badge holders alike during the days the lot was open, and there was even an open bar, allowing folks to grab food and drinks for a nominal fee until 1 a.m. nightly.
The Squarespace Lot (Fifth Street & Neches; @squarespace): Offering SXSWgoers free food every day from a different food truck from 11 a.m. 'til they run out. Featuring local favorites like P. Terry's Burgers, East Side King, the famous Franklin Barbecue and more.