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6 Sep

cilantro food truck columbus

Cuisine: Puerto Rican

Cilantro is a Puerto Rican food truck that, as of now, can mainly be found in the Westerville area. It’s owner formerly ran Costelo’s, which was Columbus’ only Puerto Rican restaurant. Cilantro’s menu varies but includes a variety Puerto Rican dishes such as tripletas, pernil, empanadas, arroz con gandules. In addition to the Puerto Rican specials you’ll also find tacos, rice bowls, burritos and sandwiches. On the day we were there they were offering a chorizo and chicken (‘choripollo’) sandwich and their spin on a Cuban sandwich. Not offered on the day we visited was the tripleta, a Puerto Rican sandwich made with 3 different meats (usually pork, ham and beef).

puerto rican food truck columbus

We really liked the pernil special – tender, juicy Puerto Rican style roasted pork shoulder served with a generous side of rice and beans (arroz con gandules), salad and plantains. The plantains were served on the side and we were given both sweet plantains and tostones (savory plantain slices). All in all, a very hearty lunch for $10.

Cilantro food truck columbus

We also enjoyed the empanadas filled with a chorizo based filling (below) and the passion fruit juice.

puerto rican food columbus

If you are looking for Puerto Rican food in Columbus it’s definitely worth tracking down Cilantro, best done by following them on Facebook. The food is tasty and good value. The owner said that he can make other Puerto Rican dishes as special orders with advance notice.

Teodora’s Kitchen

26 Jul

Teodora's panamanian food truck

(614) 282-9636

Teodora’s is a mother/daughter+ operation serving the mother’s native Panamanian cuisine. I caught them on their first day of operation, and may well have been their first customer.

This usually isn’t a good thing – you can’t really evaluate a food business of any sort based upon their opening moments, but you can, at minimum, reasonably surmise that if it’s good at the start, it has a promising future.

So, to be frank – if it wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be writing this. It wouldn’t be fair. And, while there were a few minor hiccups here and there, the food, the truck, and the value proposition were truly impressive from the very start.

panamanian food truck

As to value, look at what you get for $8:
carne frita teodoras

That’s Teodora’s carne fritas – a generous portion of flavorful skirt steak, on a rice and yuca base smothered in lentils, served with an intriguing take on potato salad and a nice, chunky house made pico de gallo style salsa. Everything was spot on, and for someone who isn’t normally much of a fan of potato salad, their take, which includes beets and fresh peas, satisfied completely. Freshness of the ingredients was conspicuous.

Another $8 option was the empanadas:

panamanian empanadas

These were solidly good, though perhaps a bit less so than the carne fritas. The empanada shells are of the central American variety – corn meal based and delightfully crispy on the outside – and ground beef filled them. I’m a huge fan of these in general, and while I enjoyed them I felt the shell to filling ratio was a bit off and that the flavor of the filling could’ve been amped up a bit more. Still, plenty satisfying, and also a great deal.

Other menu items that you can bet I’ll be back to try include tamales and arroz con pollo.

A fun parting thought – Panama is the connector between North & South America, and I couldn’t help but be tickled by how the two dishes I tried illustrated that vividly. The carne fritas vibed very similar to a Brazilian PF style picanha steak dish (substitute beans for the lentils and it’d be a dead ringer), and the empanadas were reminiscent of a Salvadoran favorite.

Explorers Club Food Truck

6 Jul


Facebook: explorersclubmv
StreetFoodFinder: Coming Soon

The Explorers Club Restaurant is about eighteen months past the day the doors opened. While other restaurants entered the mobile food world before Explorers Club, the team behind the wheel of this truck started preparing back in 2012.

Shortly after the restaurant opened, they started to rent a food cart to help get the word out about the Explorer’s Club at different community events. They did well with the cart and saw the advantages of going mobile with a truck including having extra kitchen space in a building where cooking quarters are tight as well as a much easier way to build out a catering business. The truck launched in late May of this year and has been keeping busy doing corporate lunches, events, late night and weddings.

Like the restaurant, the menu is eclectic. While it often has a southwestern / latin theme the sky is the limit for what one might find on the menu on any given day. A few examples are posted below.

menu prime

menu 2

A few examples are shown below. Tots, one of the most sought items on mobile food menus, are frequently on the menu and in many of the Explorers Club Menu items. The example below is the Sloppy Jose Burrito which includes mac and cheese, Ropa Vieja (shredded beef), seasons tots and some saucy goodness.


Tacos in various forms are frequent flyers on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, but always tacos with a twist of one sort or another.


For breakfast, this truck has the best options in the business including breakfast burritos, chorizo sausage Biscuits and gravy and one of my favorites an egg sandwich on Cuban bread with Swiss Cheese, jalapeno mayonnaise and jalapeno slaw.

For vegetarians, there are typically one or more strong options on the menu. For fans of the restaurant, many of the menu items are based on core ingredients at the Explorers Club but this is not a recycling of menu concepts so you will find selections you won’t find elsewhere. The items on the food truck menu are meant to be served fast and are friendly to eating on the go.

Paddy Wagon (2.0)

22 Apr

(Photo provided by Paddy Wagon)

Cuisine: Eclectic American Comfort Classics served with a sense of Justice
Twitter: @PaddyWagonFood
Instagram : @PADDYWAGONFOOD : Paddy Wagon

Zach James, the owner of Paddy Wagon as come a long way. A survivor of the early adopters of mobile food in the capital city, Zach has been adapting to the changes of mobile food and keeping his business going where other peers have had to throw in the towel. You can read about the early days of Paddy Wagon -> HERE. In between now and then, Zach allowed graffiti artists to make his truck an art installation to stir things up and he has continued to mix around his menu, shifting from burgers to brisket while on his truck he switched from spray paint to a professional wrap. Never one to be complacent, Zach knew he had to change to compete and be taken even more seriously in the new age of mobile food. The old sheriff is the new sheriff coming into the town with both six shooters blazin’. He tries to source locally when practical. The Paddywagon serves food in compostable and greenware containers.

There are a lot of new things in store for Paddy wagon for 2013. The wagon relaunched for Earth Day so we will add an update to this post later in the year once Sheriff James gets the Capital City in order and his cuisine arrested to his satisfaction. While the menu still has a burger it also includes a mix of wraps and sandwiches (leading with a big Brisket based sandwich) all with some connection to law enforcement lingo.

Mai Chau

9 Apr

vietnamese food truck columbus
Twitter: @MaiChauTruck

A diverse range of cuisines have been finding their way to the local food truck scene, and Mai Chau’s contribution furthers this trend. Started by a duo that spent a couple of years teaching in Hanoi, Vietnamese food is their calling card.


We caught the truck on it’s second outing, so the menu was limited but poised to grow. Here’s what we had:

In the pork banh mi sandwich the expected components were in attendance, except for pate. The quality of ingredients seemed high, and the signature freshness of the dish clearly came through. The Sriracha pulled pork was a bit of a curve ball, though – while tasty in its own right, it seemed slightly odd in context and we suspect that the saucing was perhaps dialed back to keep the heat of the sriracha in check. As a result, the sauce flavor was difficult to detect. It’s not as spicy as the menu description might suggest. Nonetheless, a likeable enough sandwich.

mai chau food truck

The bun – a cold rice noodle dish – had us nervous… a bit unnecessarily, as it turns out. The key to this dish is the nuoc cham sauce, and none was provided on the side (as we’ve come to expect from local Vietnamese restaurants). Instead, it was drizzled over the noodles and pooled in the bottom, which led us to wonder if it’d be too much or not enough. Turns out, with a quick mix, it was just right. The aforementioned pork is a topping option, as are tempeh and chicken. We opted for the chicken, and enjoyed the flavor of it. Bun is a great summer dish and a nice healthy food truck menu option.

vietnamese food truck ohio

The spring roll was similarly pleasant – a cold dish composed of a generous portion of shrimp, bean sprouts, herbs and greens. It was consistent with what you’d find at any Vietnamese restaurant, which is to say solidly good.

asian food trucks columbus

Mai Chau is off to a promising start, and we’re looking forward to what they come up with next. If you find them in your neighborhood, check ‘em out!

Tokyo GoGo

13 Dec

tokyo gogo food truck mobile food vendor

26 E. 5th Ave., Columbus OH 43201 (near corner of 5th & High, next to Brother’s Drake)

Mobile food in Columbus seems to evolve in phases – first came the taco trucks, and more recently there’s been a boom in trucks serving some fine riffs on what would be considered ‘American’ food. Now, it seems, international cuisines are having their turn. With the opening of Ajumama (Korean), Aromaku (Indonesian), the as-of-yet unreviewed Empanada Joe’s (Colombian), and now Tokyo GoGo, the range of flavors that mobile food offers continues to grow.

From a business perspective, Tokyo GoGo seems especially well conceived. It’s found a set location in a well-trafficked area; tightly integrated with the bustling bar at Brother’s Drake Mead. In fact, with the ability to order their food inside at the bar, it seems to more or less operate as Brother’s Drake’s kitchen. Which is a beautiful thing, particularly during inclement weather. Furthering that connection, Tokyo GoGo’s menu primarily consists of Japanese style bar snacks, which, while traditionally eaten with beer (which Brother’s Drake does carry), we’ve found to also pair reasonably well with their meads.

But wait… Brother’s Drake… Short North… aren’t there already a ton of Japanese food options in the area?

There certainly are, but by and large, this is better – conspicuously handmade (nobody’s reheating frozen dumplings from the freezer) and conceived with a menu tailored to ingredients that can be found locally. So, no fish of questionable quality, and no 100+ item menus, just a tightly focused list of 11 well-executed dishes.

karaage tokyo gogo

The first and foremost of which, for us, was the karaage. It’s simple enough – chunks of chicken thigh meat that have been lightly battered and flash fried – but the chicken is sublimely moist and flavorful, and the sauces, one of which reminded us of a Korean gochujang, are nothing short of brilliant.

gyoza tokyo gogo

Their gyoza, available with both pork and vegetable fillings, make for a pleasant surprise as the 6 dumplings that come to an order are arranged in a circle and grilled into a thin, flaky crepe. The accompanying photo (above) will elaborate on this intriguing arrangement better than words ever could, but the effect is that as each piece separates from the whole it brings along crispy, flaky bits that make for a pleasant textural counterpoint. Delicious.

udon tokyogogo food truck mobile food vendor

The Japanese noodle soup – served with your choice of soba or udon noodles – is exactly what it should be; a great broth covering plenty of noodles, topped with veggies and the like. It’s a perfect winter-month bowl of comforting warmth.

Beyond that, we’ve tried the tempura vegetables, karokke (potato croquettes), hijiki (seaweed) salad, inari, and edamame. All were, at minimum, good, and most were better than.

We’ve enjoyed the bar at Brother’s Drake for some time, and with the addition of Tokyo GoGo, we can make an evening of it. We’d suggest that you do, too.


23 Oct

indonesian food truck columbus

Cuisine: Indonesian

2200 E Dublin Granville Road (161). Next to Taco Nazo.
Open daily 11am-8pm

Street Eats and alt eats come together in this brand new truck focusing on Indonesian cuisine. Owned and operated by husband and wife team Hendri and Vivi Hasan, they view their operation as their first step on a path to opening a restaurant. From our point of view, it’s a good one.

As of our first visit, Aromaku offers three distinct dishes. We started with the bakmi ayam – egg noodles with ground chicken. Indonesian food in Columbus is limited and this is a dish that we’ve not come across before. Served with some greens and bean shoots, the chicken is surprisingly flavorful with a noticeable amount of black-pepper. The noodles were nice and springy. Overall, a winner – especially at $6.95.

indonesian chicken and noodles

Next we tried the classic Indonesian dish rendang, a spicy beef stew made with coconut milk and strongly flavored with lime leaves. In many respects, Aromaku’s rendang sauce reminded us of a concentrated Thai tom kha - and that’s not a bad thing at all. Rendang is, by it’s nature, fairly rich, so the modest portion was just right and the salad (or achar) is a great accompaniment. Rendang is offered with either rice or a roti (shown below).

indonesian food in columbus ohio

A quick elaboration on roti – they’re a flat, pan cooked bread, made to order. Aromaku offers them either plain or with green onion. We liked both but would give the edge to the green onion. Although they share the name with the Indian (whole wheat) roti, they’re quite distinct – white flour-based, pan fried, and much flakier. And, they’re perfection when paired with the rendang.

Lastly we tried ayam goreng (fried chicken) which is marinated in a complex spice mixture and has a crispy but un-breaded skin. A typical order would be two leg and thighs or four wings. This pleasantly flavored fried chicken is served with achar, lightly pickled vegetables.

aromaku food truck

The drinks selection is extensive and includes several tropical juices (mango, guava), a couple of  ice teas and the more obscure soursop, white gourd and sugarcane juice. The white gourd (aka winter melon juice) was particularly interesting and unexpectedly tasted of nuts and caramel. The teh kotak was an enjoyable jasmine tea drink.

indonesian food truck drinks

Suffice it to say that, overall, we’re fans. Indonesian cuisine can, on occasion, be a bit challenging to the American palate, but the offerings from Aromaku struck us as being both faithful to their origins and well selected for wide ranging acceptance. Check ‘em out.

Swoop Food Group

2 Aug

swoop food truck


I’ll cut to the chase – Swoop is good. And, sometimes, very very good.

The gist of the menu, as it stands, is relatively ‘easy-to-prepare’ things done the hard way. Like, for example, their tater tots. A breeze to prepare, unless you make them from scratch, as they do. Beautifully browned and crispy, and tender on the inside, they’re clearly worth the effort and a whole lot better than what you’ll find elsewhere.

 food truck tatertots

Ladle some gravy atop them, and sprinkle with cheese curds, and you have, to my mind, the best rendition of poutine in town. If it’s on the menu, get it – the flavor of that gravy will leave you wondering how so many in the past have gotten it so wrong, and the way it clings to the crusty surface of the tots will make you wonder why poutine isn’t always done like this.

swoop food truck columbus

Their Brussels sprouts are also among the best around – crispy, slightly charred, and bacon bedecked, they’re nothing fancy, but done with a deft touch.

swoop food truck

And those are just the sides. Swoop’s main focus, as of now, is on sliders. If you’re looking for a straightforward cheeseburger, they have it, but from there they take all sorts of liberties with the concept – think B(elly, pork)LTs, jerk chicken, and a BBQ rib version, all on slider buns and priced at $3 each or 2 for $5.

columbus food trucks

They’re perhaps even more varied in flavor than the descriptions would suggest. The jerk chicken was pleasantly, but unusually spiced with what one taster thought might be Chinese 5 spice and another guessed might be cumin. Either way, it was on a juicy slice of nicely fried white meat. The BLT was intriguingly sauced as well.

All were enjoyed, with the only possible critique being that the flavor of the homemade quick pickles asserted themselves more than would be ideal on some of them. Also good are the gooey pimento cheese filled empanadas.

We haven’t had too much time to talk with the guys behind Swoop, but in brief discussions we’ve learned that they’re pushing to source locally as much as possible, with an ultimate goal of purchasing 90% of their raw ingredients within central Ohio.

They’re also likeable guys – treat yourself, check them out.

best columbus food trucks

Mya’s Fried Chicken.

19 Jul

fried chicken truck columbus


3166 N. High Street (corner of Pacemont and High St).
Friday-Sunday 12:00-8:00pm

When Ray Ray’s moved down the street to Ace of Cups, their newly vacant spot seemed a great food truck location left truck-less. But as food trucks abhor a vacuum, the void has now been filled by Mya’s fried chicken – a new truck offering fried chicken and comfort food sides. It’s run by a former executive banquet chef who left his job to start the business, named after his daughter.

fried chicken food truck

We went all-in and ordered a whole bird with biscuits and all of the sides. The chicken is sourced from a local distributor, is antibiotic and hormone free, and is all Ohio proud. It was certainly good enough to satisfy a serious fried chicken craving, with our preference leaning towards the juicier dark meat. The breast was a bit on the dry side on our visit. The breading and skin were crunchy in places with a little chewiness and there was a nice touch of rosemary – overall the flavor was exceptional. We ordered ours plain and tried the vinegar sauce and herbed honey drizzle on the side.

columbus food trucks

The warm house-made biscuits were very popular with our tasting team. They also go well with the herbed honey.

Columbus food trucks

Of the sides, our favorite was the smashed potatoes with pan gravy. The gravy was rich and meaty and it disappeared first. We’ve heard really good reviews about the mac and cheese from friends, and it was highly recommended by the staff, but on the day we were there the sauce was broken, so although the flavor was good the texture was grainy.

comfort food truck columbus

The lemonade was nice and refreshing, neither too sweet nor too tart.

Clintonville food trucks

That Food Truck

19 Jul

food trucks in columbus ohio


The whole food truck thing has been moving fast, and we try to keep up by hitting new trucks as soon as they debut. Though we don’t always succeed, we’ve caught a fair number of trucks during either their soft opening or their first night of business.

This means we’ve seen a lot of trucks at the stage where they’re still trying to work the bugs out – everything from dealing with electrical issues to serious difficulties with the menu items to inability to estimate food quantities to match up with their crowd.

We tried That Food Truck during their soft opening, and none of above applies. In fact, if our experience is any indication, they’ve hit the ground running… and they’ve done it while putting out a quality menu that pushes all of our happy buttons.

food trucks 2012 columbus

These include locally purchased meats from a single farmer that one of the owners (Chef Dan Kraus) butchers himself (!). And, beyond that, a whole lot of locally sourced goodness, including vegetables from their own garden. As well as local farmers, That Food Truck are also working with Eleni Christina Bakery and North Market Spices. NMS have made a special blend for them that they’re calling truck dust. It’s sprinkled on most of the dishes.

The owners of That Food Truck, Dan and Steve, have significant restaurant back-of-house experience, and are using the truck as a means to explore avenues not open to them within a traditional restaurant setting. The truck kitchen is well equipped. They even have an oven and Dan bakes his own chocolate chip cookies each morning.

that food truck columbus ohio

The quality shows in the end product. The hamburger was easily among the best we’ve had from a food truck, and the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ was definitely worth returning for. The chicken confit sandwich was exceptional.

food truck using local ingredients

Really, everything we had hit the mark, with the possible exception of the squash fritters which were a bit mushy on the inside. Those were quite possibly an anomaly, or a small reminder to us that it was indeed a soft opening. We do like that That Food Truck offers some small bites and snack sized items. We really enjoyed the spicy carrot fries. Thin slices of carrot deep fried, salty, a little spicy and not at all greasy.

locally sourced food truck

In talking with them, we were assured that there was more to come, menu-wise. Pork belly lettuce wraps and Tomahawk pork chops were cited as  examples. We’re curious… and will be back.

You can expect to find That Food Truck at Gay and Grant in the evenings and at Campus Pit stop Kenny and Lane during the day – but check their Facebook and Twitter for updates.


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