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El Rinconcito Pupuseria

27 Jun

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El Riconcito
Salvadorean
2400 E Dublin Granville Road
614.254.1739
Open Monday-Saturday 10am-9pm

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Pupuserias in Columbus have come and gone, often quite quickly, but we have more confidence in the longevity of El Riconcito because the owner Betty is a long time employee of veteran taco truck Taco Nazo. We also anticipate they will do well because their food is very good. The menu has four main dishes pupusas, enchilladas Salvadorenos, pasteles Salvadorenos and carne a la plancha.

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The pupusas come in several variations – pork, chicken, cheese, beans or a mixture (revuletos). Loroco is a flower that is often added to cheese pupusas. The pupusas were well cooked (as you can see from the picture) and are served as typical with curtido, a slightly spicy pickled slaw and a tomato based hot sauce (mild or hot).

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Enchiladas Salvadorenos are similar to a Mexican tostada. At El Rinconcito they are comprised of a homemade tortilla topped with beans, chicken, lettuce, cheese tomato, cucumber and hard boiled egg.

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Our favorite item was the pasteles Salvadorenos which are small crispy empanadas with a corn based shell that are filled with chicken, rice and potatoes. They make a great snack. The pasteles and the enchiladas are both served with curtido. The last item on the menu is the carne a la plancha – meat cooked on the grill. It’s served with rice, beans, avocados, salsa and tortillas.

IMG_2044El Riconcito also serves horchata.

We are planning a meet up at the truck on July 8th at from 6-9pm.

 

Schmidt’s Sausage Truck

30 May

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Cuisine: Bavarian

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Street Food Finder
614.444.5050

In 1886, the Schmidt family started selling sausages and other meats in Columbus. In September 2012, Schmidt’s launched their Sausage Truck. Although the truck was new, Schmidt’s was not new to mobile food. Schmidt’s sold sausages from carts in the early days and they have been selling their wares from the Ohio State Fair for over a century. In between the early days and today, they also launched the city’s most iconic restaurant, Schmidt’s Sausage Haus. So it seems fitting that Schmidt’s would finally take to the streets with a few of their fan favorites.

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The menu features Bavarian favorites including: Bahama Mama, Bratwursts, Knockwursts, Fat Daddy’s (Thickly sliced, spicy German balogna sandwiches), Frankfurters and German Potato Salad. And have no fear, the truck carries as many cream puffs as they can squeeze in. Throughout the year, seasonal daily specials are offered such as soups and main dishes. Occasionally a special cream puff flavor will find a way on the menu as well.

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I’ll back track a bit to the Bahama Mama. If you are new to Columbus then you may not have heard of Schmidt’s most famous, signature dish. It is a mildly spicy sausage made with a mix of beef and pork with a touch of hickory smoke. If you can’t make it to German Village, a Schmidt’s Sausage Truck (we will see a second launch this year) will bring it to you.

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Melty Crue

24 May

Truck

Cuisine: Extreme Grilled Cheese inspired by coronary artery disease

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614.316.7805

The food truck owner equivalent of Tommy Lee is Neil Hertenstein. Neil has always been a go really big or go home type of guy. He drives around in a bright yellow Hummer and you can see below, when he decided to help launch a new truck concept in Columbus…..he was dedicated.

Neil

Neil Hertenstein, along with partners, Carlos Pasillias and Jason Davis are the dynamic trio behind Hungry Monkey (burgers) and Juniors Tacos (Carlos started his truck back in 2010 but opted to join forces with Neil a few years ago) decided Columbus needed more cheese in its diet. The concept is about 6 months old (as of May 2014) but quickly won best new food truck in Columbus in an Alive! poll.

So in case you have not already guessed the truck has a Motley Crue / heavy metal theme in everything it does including the wrap on the truck, the music in the background but thankfully not the hair.

kick ass

As for the menu – guests have a choice of fifteen styles of grilled cheese or customized Mac & Cheese.

I tried the Primal Reuben which included: grilled marble rye, shaved corn beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, double servings of mozzarella, provolone and Muenster (yes that is seven slices of cheese) and a bit of siracha mayonnaise to help all of that slide down.

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I’m happy to report the sandwich tastes really good. And unexpected bonus was that it was served with some high-end potato chips and a pickle. Here is an inside tip for you. Always eat the pickle – it aids digestion.

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The Flat Top Pizza Company

18 May

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Cuisine: Pizza, Ice Cream, Soda and Seasonal specials

Website
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614.285.4309

We begin with a bit of Columbus Mobile Food culture. You may have heard of Mikey’s Late Night Slice, a guy named Mike started the first mobile pizza empire in the city. Then you may have heard of Pizza Mike, Mike Evans owned the first restaurant (pizzeria) in Westerville to serve booze in the dry city. Then his pizzeria burned down. Mike was on the Great Food Race and used that experience to start a food truck last year. And then there is Mike and Other Mike. In 2012 a couple of lads working on a food cart decided they needed to do something different to stand out from the cart crowd, so they started doing a grilled cheese style pizza on a cart. The concept worked but they found a cart limiting so they started working on a truck. It took a lot longer to build out the truck than expected so Mike opted for full-time employment while Other Mike continued plugging, painting and paying away on the Pizza Truck. Other Mike is owner/operator/dough slinger Mike Cyan. The lesson of this paragraph – if your name is Mike you are probably running a pizza truck. The name of the truck is an homage to how the pizza is crafted, on a flat top grill.

Flat Top pizza is much more than pizza. The menu also includes truck made ice cream and craft soda. Future menu items may include pepperoni rolls, cinnamon rolls and soups.

The pizzas start with homemade dough and high grade ingredients. The sauces and pesto are made from scratch.

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The ice cream is made in small batches and served in scoops or floats.

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The soda pops are hand crafted as well with a mix of traditional with not so traditional flavors. Mike makes special syrups and flavorings for each pop, which are mixed to order.

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As for the name, Flat Top Pizza is made on a grill not in a pizza oven. The end result still combines pizza with a little grilled cheese char.

We like the look of the truck as well (as do many of the other food truck owners in town). Mike spent a long time crafting his truck, doing almost all of the work on his own. There is a cool retro look to the truck (a Grumman, older than he is) with wood doors integrated into the design. Adding to the retro, pizza to go is served in paper bags (the way pizza was served back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Flat Top officially launched in May 2014 so keep an eye out for truck as it starts to build a following at the usual spots. The easiest place to find Flat Top in action will be Zauber Brewing Company check with the truck and the brewery for schedule information.

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Cilantro

6 Sep

cilantro food truck columbus

Cuisine: Puerto Rican
Website
Facebook
614.899.2550

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.

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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

Facebook
(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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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(Photo provided by Paddy Wagon)

Cuisine: Eclectic American Comfort Classics served with a sense of Justice
Facebook
Twitter: @PaddyWagonFood
614.735.0491
Instagram : @PADDYWAGONFOOD
http://www.Streetfoodfinder.com : Paddy Wagon
email: sheriff@paddywagon.biz

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

Facebook.com/MaiChauTruck
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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