By Trupti Rami
Food trucks are like the shooting stars of lunch. Catching one can be a magical moment. But you can look and look, patiently waiting, and never see one anywhere. Thank heavens we have Twitter.
This summer, there are (at least) 18 trucks feeding the streets of Chicago, dishing out sandwiches, sausages, tamales, tacos, and even the odd plate of pancakes. It’s actually kind of a new thing in town—until last July, incredibly, it was illegal to cook food on a truck in Chicago. The rule stated that food had to be prepared beforehand and kept warm. The old rule that a truck can’t park within 200 feet of a restaurant still stands, and now there are also designated food truck parking spaces. Here’s a map.
But really, the best way to catch up to a truck is to look online day-of to see where they found parking. Chicago made a handy food trucks Twitter list you can subscribe to to track down the city’s best trucks. And here’s what you can expect them to hand you from the window:
Brown Bag Lunch Truck (312-857-4221, @brownbagtruck)
Chef Joaquin Soler’s traveling barbecue spot mixes American (smoked brisket and pulled pork) and Korean (bibimbop and ddukbokki) traditions. Each order comes with two slices of white bread (not necessarily for sandwich construction).
Beavers Doughnuts (773-392-1300, @beaversdonuts)
This newcomer to the Chicago French Market is still holding on to its food truck roots with mini doughnuts doused in gourmet toppings such as s’mores, Nutella, and PB&J.
Haute sausage: The chance of a lifetime to eat an alligator sausage sandwich.
Haute Sausage (312-269-5300, @hautesausage)
You won’t find these sausages at the local deli. Rich Levy blends African flavors (beef and lamb sausage with chakalaka, a South African vegetable relish) and exotic meats (alligator and wild boar) for a unique sandwich experience. Update: This truck is temporarily out of commission and its plans are up in the air.
Bridgeport Pasty (773-254-7441, @bridgeportpasty)
This comfort food truck (technically a Mini Cooper) was born via a trip to London where owners Carrie Clark and Jay Sebastian discovered pasties, a traditional English pastry filled with meat and vegetables.
Starfruit (773-868-4900, @starfruitcafe)
Forget about those red, white, and blue rocket popsicles. This ice cream truck is scooping frozen kefir with your choice of fresh fruit, nuts, or candy topping.
5411 Empanadas (773-755-5411, @5411empanadas)
Find these Argentinean empanadas ($2.25 each) during the lunch rush in the Loop. Avoid lines by calling in your order before 10:30 a.m. and picking it up at the truck.
Babycakes. Pancakes on the sidewalk. Why not?
La Adelita (312-869-4413, @adelitatruck)
Brothers Alexis and Teddy Vegar revive Mexican street food with a menu of Yucatan-style pulled pork, chicken in a creamy chipotle sauce, and summer squash and zucchini tacos.
Meatloaf-A-Go-Go (773-698-6667, @meatloafagogo)
Savory cupcakes are the star here. Chef Cynthia Kallie’s meatloaf cupcakes range from traditional (the Mother Loaf: a beef, pork, and veal topped with mashed potatoes) to unconventional (Loaf-A-Roma: beef and Italian sausage loaf topped with angel hair pasta).
The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck. Goo to go.
The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck (773-342-1840, @thesouthernmac)
The mac ‘n’ cheese changes daily in the hands of executive chef Cary Taylor. Varieties can include spinach and artichoke, Mexican chorizo, and pulled pork with barbecue sauce.
Dokkaebi Tacos (202-316-7793, @dokkaebitacos)
Barely a year ago, this truck started serving Korean tacos: Korean-style barbecue beef or spicy pork with Asian slaw on a corn tortilla. No word from them lately on Twitter—fingers crossed we’ll see them again this summer.
The Tamale Spaceship, in orbit around the Loop.
The Tamale Spaceship (312-909-7009, @tamalespace101)
One of Chicago’s original food trucks, you can find the Spaceship’s tamales (pork, beef, chicken, poblanos and cheese, and roasted veggies and mushrooms) around the Loop most weekdays.
PHOTO: CHRISTIAN SEEL
Update: Giordano’s (Multiple phone numbers, @giordanospizza)
Hitting the streets of Chicago for the first time on Tuesday, June 4, this local institution’s new truck served its debut deep dish at Michigan and Congress.