Off the beaten path
By Tiffany Harelik, Via313 photo by Dave Miller; Dock & Roll and Regal Ravioli photos by Tiffany Harelik.
While we will always nod our hats to Austin’s most iconic trailers (Mighty Cone, Gourdough’s, Flip Happy Crepes, Torchy’s Tacos, Chi’Lantro, Kebabalicious), and the ones receiving major media props for their culinary skills (Odd Duck, East Side King, the Peached Tortilla, Seedling Truck, Luke’s Inside Out), Austin has a herd of food trucks that only the locals know about. I took an informal poll among local food bloggers, chefs, friends and food-truck fans to see which trucks had Austinites and beyond craving more.
Brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt from Detroit came to Austin and opened a pizza cart. But not just any pizza cart. What exactly is “Detroit-style pizza”?
“People living in Detroit don’t really know that other people are calling it Detroit-style; it’s just the way the pizza is up there,” Brandon Hunt says. “The pans are industrial steel pans used for automotive parts in Detroit. They hold heat perfectly. The bread comes out like a focaccia, with caramelized cheese all the way to the edge of the pie. And the pizzas are square, with sauce on top.”
Thunderheart Bison: Ranch to Trailer
Business partners Cat New and Patrick Fitzsimmons opened their food trailer in November 2011. Their bison-centric menu is derived from the Shape Ranch (Patrick’s family ranch). The reason their bison is different in quality is that they are allowed to roam on native grasses their entire lives, never corralled, and allowed to maintain their own familial hierarchy. So, why try bison?
“A lot of people think bison is super gamey, but it’s not,” New explains. It’s leaner, cleaner and lower in saturated fat. Not all bison is created equal, but since our bison roam, our meat is as high in omegas as salmon. Your body likes bison; it has all the enzymes to break down the bison proteins immediately, whereas beef sits in your guts for weeks.”
Outside of their bison burger, the hash is their best seller. They dust a bison roast in sea salt, black pepper and oat flour, then sear it with a little bit of Richardson Farm’s pork fat. The meat is then braised with beer, bouillon and fresh rosemary, and allowed to cook down for six to seven hours until it falls apart.
After culinary school, Lee Krasner had cooked in various kitchens in New York and San Francisco before moving back to his hometown of Austin. He collaborated with longtime friends and hometown boys Daniel Dennis and Adam Lewis to develop a food-trailer concept of their own. “[The food trailer] provided a lower risk and upfrontcost way of getting to run my own business, to create a menu and concept, to get to be in business for ourselves, and do things the way we believe are best,” Krasner shares. The Dock & Roll Diner concept revolves around lobster rolls. The Maine Event is their best seller: a Maine-style lobster roll with claw, knuckle and leg meat chilled and dressed lightly with Old Bay lemon butter and chopped chive for garnish.
Hey! You Gonna Eat or What
Chef Eric Regan’s menu revolves around traditional American sandwiches with a unique Austin twist. For example, his spin on the Monte Cristo is a Shiner Bock beer-battered sandwich with homemade cherry fig jelly. Attention to the customer is part of the experience guests receive when they eat at the red-hot 1974 Argosy trailer. The incredible food has folks driving in from throughout the state, but Regan claims it’s their service that the guests find refreshing.
“My background is in fine dining,” Regan says. “In a lot of ways, I employ fine-dining protocol in the way we assist our guests and in the way we serve them their food. I began describing the food in detail to the guests early on in our storied history and it resonated with people. They love having the chef walk them through what he’s done for them. What’s more, they see how much pride we take in producing our dishes.”
“My mom is full-blooded Sicilian and never cooks Italian food, or at least never did when I was living in her house. She prefers to cook Asian instead and is a very good sushi maker. What’s up with that?” Zach Adams asks, laughing about his heritage.
The progression from washing dishes to owning his own food trailer included years of hard work for Adams, and he comes by his pasta-centric menu honestly. His handmade ravioli and pastas are restaurant- quality and are served out of a food trailer. Cheese ravioli is the most popular item on the menu: four enormous oval ravioli stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and Romano cheeses with fresh basil, lemon zest and nutmeg. Customers can pair the ravioli with tomato marinara, Bolognese, pecan pesto or fontina cheese veloute sauce.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Bolognese
Courtesy of Regal Ravioli, as featured in Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook: Austin Volume 2. Make this homemade gnocchi a special tradition with your family.
2 pounds potatoes (two parts sweet, one part white)
2 eggs, 1 yolk
¼ cup Romano cheese, shredded
½ nutmeg seed, freshly grated
Ground white pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
Unbleached all-purpose flour (as needed)
Peel and boil potatoes until a fork inserts easily (do not overcook or potato will absorb too much water). Run potato through ricer (food mill) directly onto stainless-steel table or butcher block. Heavily salt and pepper the potato on table. Using two bench scrapers, mix in cheese, nutmeg and eggs, then begin to add flour, sprinkling in a little at a time . Continue kneading flour into dough until dough ball stiffens and becomes less sticky. Cut sections of dough ball and roll into ropes. (Continue to flour the table as you work.) Cut the ropes into bite-size pieces with the bench scraper. You can freeze the gnocchi or boil it in water right away. Gnocchi are done cooking when they all float, approximately five minutes. Serve with Bolognese sauce.
Bolognese Sauce ingredients
1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork (shoulder if possible)
¼ cup olive oil
2 carrots, minced
3 celery stalks, minced
1 onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
¼ pound prosciutto, finely chopped
5 ounces dry red wine
¼ cup chopped parsley
60 ounces tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Spread out ground beef and pork on a baking sheet, season heavily with salt and pepper. Bake in oven at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes to brown the meat. Do not drain. Set meat aside to cool. In a six-quart stockpot, sauté prosciutto in olive oil until evenly browned, then add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and crushed red pepper. Sauté on low to medium heat until the moisture has been removed from the veggies. Add red wine and cook until veggies absorb the liquid. Add parsley, tomato puree and chicken stock. Bring sauce to a boil. Chop the cooked ground meat and add to hot sauce along with all the fat and drippings in the pan. R educe to a simmer and cook an hour and 45 minutes . Salt and pepper to taste.
For more food truck recommendations, check out trailerfooddiaries.com, or follow along on twitter @trailerfood.