Food trucks at Mobile Food Rodeo

Photo: Mobilefoodrodeo.com

First, the disclosure: Seattle Met was among the sponsors of last Saturday’s Mobile Food Rodeo, an event at which I was one of many judges dispatched to weigh in on the “Wagon Awards.” The awards honored the best dishes served up on Seattle streets.

But I am not here to promote the event. Rather, I wanted to share some things I observed while sampling about 25 dishes made by trucks from Seattle and Portland.

Second, the background: My coworker Chris Werner is a street foods enthusiast, and he has been so thorough and punctilious in his coverage of mobile foods that I have hitherto left the sampling up to him, busying myself with things like cocktails and brick-and-mortar eateries. This meant that I had only tried a few of the 20-odd trucks on hand this weekend.

Having now been exposed to most of our mobile offerings, here are some of my takeaway observations:

1. The best food trucks are doing something idiosyncratic—meaning easily identifiable as theirs and theirs alone—and doing that thing well. A paradigm of the model is Street Donuts, which serves up baby dough rings with toppings like a dusting of Nerds candies or roasted peanuts, and curry sauce. Even if you find donuts as unexciting as I do, you will notice right away that the Street Donuts cooks are masters of their craft. These little donuts melt in your mouth and the flavors sing out clearly. For me, this was the surprise hit of the bunch.

In contrast, the several trucks dishing up hamburgers were hard to distinguish from one another, and none could stand up to what’s served out of Skillet’s airstream trailer. It’s simply one of the best burgers you’ll find anywhere.

2. When judging street food, wear elastic pants and don’t make dinner plans.

3. Is Parfait the best ice cream in town? I’m thinking it might be.

4. Watching Trophy Cupcakes and Party owner Jennifer Shea judge a cupcake is an experience every person should have.

5. Finally, based on what I experienced, here’s a list of not-to-be-missed mobile-food dishes around Seattle:

-Picadillo (Cuban-style hash) from Lee Scott’s new truck Snout and Co. It’s ground beef with chopped tomatoes, green olives, bell peppers, raisins, and spices. This is served on rice and then a big-old plantain chip is stuck into the bowl. A glorious, soul-warming dish and a tailgater’s dream come true.

-The duck confit on puffy flatbread from Big Food Mobile. This is an inspiring example of great food served up in the most casual of circumstances.

-A burger and a side of poutine from Skillet. But we knew this, right?

-An oyster po boy from Where Ya At Matt. At the Mobile Food Rodeo, Matt Lewis presented gumbo as his signature dish, but it is the po boy that is his crowning achievement, in my opinion.

-Curry-covered donuts from Street Donuts.

Anything I missed?