“Nobody goes there any more,” Yogi Berra oxymoroned many years ago. “It’s too crowded.”
Hopefully, neither fate overwhelms the second day of the first annual Haute Wheels Houston Food Truck Festival, since the latter was certainly a fact of life today. Long lines, slow service and premature food outages were the order of the day, forcing many in the audience to admit that food truck purveyors lack the killer-instinct operational fortitude of the typical restaurant chef. Anybody who’s ever cooked for more than six people, though, could see that much more advance prep would be required to get through tomorrow.
One of the day’s bright spots was a behind-the-scenes visit with chef Ruben Ortega, who usually can be found somewhere in the vicinity of his brother Hugo at Hugo’s or Backstreet Cafe. As a seasoned professional, Chef Ruben was ready for the crowds in a truck touring the country to promote Camarena Tequila. All his beef, pork and chicken pieces were cooked already, requiring only assembly into something delicious.
Another chef who refused to get rattled by the smoke of war was Julia Sharaby of Fusion Taco. Though order tickets papered the wall inside her truck all afternoon, the Asian-influenced food kept a’coming. Here she’s building a kind of soft taco with Indian chicken tikka on naan, with a sauce resembling creamy raita. As they like to say at Red Robin: Yummm!
One of the day’s most popular food trucks was called Hit n’ Run, which uses more than its fair share of jalapenos to produce what it calls “killer street food.” Best bets include the killer burger and some very Texas-tasting egg rolls. Be sure you have something cool (or even better, cold) to wash this stuff down.
In general, the food served from food trucks in Texas tends toward the meaty, fatty and caloric. But at least one truck at the Haute Wheels Festival, called Green Seed, specialized in vegan items. And believe it not, they actually had a wait much of the day. It’s not clear how many customers came here on purpose, and how many thought the line would have to be shorter.
There are rumors that a fair number of local restaurant owners are looking into the food truck movement as a way of covering their bases while maximizing their profits. Here, for instance, is Sylvia herself from Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen – in her truck called No Borders with a string of orders above her head just like everybody else.
What goes up must come down. And those who waited to get one of these cupcakes for dessert may have been sorely disappointed. Next time they’ll eat their dessert first, just like their mother told them not to. It’s unclear what the food trucks will do overnight to prepare for Day 2 of Haute Wheels. But it had better involve lots of cooking in very large pots.