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It didn’t take long for food trucks to reserve a parking space in the hearts of foodies. Though selections must be grab-and-go and casual, the best menu items are a marked departure from those found in a c-store or café.
Kids' Stuff Menu Items
The food truck that rolls up to 200 different public schools in Orange County, FL, started out as an emergency feeding measure after a hurricane in 2004, says Kern Halls, area manager. “After a few years, we saw the popularity of the food truck craze just take off, so we thought we could do something more,” he says. Now, kids can sample food truck fare for the same price as regular cafeteria items (and everything on the truck is free- and reduced-eligible, too).
The menu was created with some inspiration from the Chefs Move to Schools program, Halls says. The most popular items:
The Hawaiian Burger: a beef patty with pineapple and ketchup mixed with Sriracha—(see the recipe at food-management.com) and the Buffalo Chicken Wrap. Pre-packaged fresh fruit (cantaloupe and pineapple spears) is also a cool choice for days spent playing in the hot Florida sun.
A lot of prep work—for cold salads, especially—can be conveniently done in the morning in the schools' kitchens, Halls says. “We prepare some items in the school, and some in the truck. We have a lot of storage and refrigeration aboard the truck and that makes it really easy.”
Globe-Trotting/Regional Menu Items
The cultural road tripping that goes on with many food trucks can draw its inspiration anywhere from the streets of Italy to a Midwestern county fair. From Thailand to Route 66 and back again. Here are some great scenic detours:
Cilantro Chili Shrimp Rice Bowl: steamed rice, shrimp, snow peas, celery, carrots and baby corn in a cilantro-chili sauce from the Hungry Hungry Husky Truck (Northeastern University). Other bowls include Thai Basil Chicken and Orange Beef.
The Adobe Chicken Taco: shredded chicken on a flour tortilla topped with queso fresco cheese and a chipotle avocado barbecue sauce; and the Thai Beef Taco, grilled marinated beef on a flour tortilla topped with sautéed glass noodles and wasabi cream (also on the Husky truck).
Fried Cheese Curds: a true Midwest county fair staple found on the strEATS truck (Miami University).
Fried Sweet Bologna Sandwich with chips and mustard: on the Bird Feeder truck is inspired by “old ladies in Pennsylvania Dutch country,” says Joe Riddles, Jr., production supervisor, Elizabethtown College. “Sweet bologna is more like salami, but very sweet.”
Bodacious Burger and Fries Menu Items
Something of the 50s drive-thru ethos lives on in food truck selections that include a good old burger and fries. Of course, once on a food truck, they’re completely different than the Happy Days version.
Mac and Cheeseburger Sub: a funky mash up of American favorites is one of the top sellers on Elizabethtown College’s Bird Feeder truck, Riddles says.
The TNT Explosion Burger: fiery hot, with jalapenos and hot sauce.
The Happy Hippie: a veggie burger with sliced cucumber. (TNT and Hippie burgers are both on Elizabethtown’s Bird Feeder truck).