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The Food Evolution in Austin

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From food trucks to brick and mortar.

By Tiffany Harelik

In 2009, Austin saw a rise in food trucks after an economic recession left several creative people seeking a way to take control of their financial futures. Since then, the number of operating food trucks and trailers has swelled to several hundred. Most of these business owners started small, holding a vision that one day their food truck would gain enough popularity to be able to fund opening their own restaurant. To date, we have seen more than 10 of these entrepreneurs expand their humble beginnings in food trucks to sink their roots with brick-and-mortar establishments. The evolution from a food trailer to a restaurant exemplifies Austinites’ continued interest in supporting small businesses within the food community.



Restaurant location: 11311 E. Seventh St. (at Navasota)

Favorite item on the menu: The beef-lamb kebab, traditional beef/lamb shawarma on a warm pita topped with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, tzatziki and spicy red sauce.

Owners Chris Childre and Kristian Ulloa launched their first food trailer in San Marcos, bringing the Euro-Turkish tastes they found on a snowboarding trip to Switzerland home to Texas. Now with two trailers (at Seventh and Trinity as well as at Seventh and Congress), Kebabalicious has added a s torefront location at Seventh and Navasota. Their menus are kebab-centric, featuring fresh and high-quality kebabs. But they also feature specialty items, such as their hand- cut zucchini fries and baklava. Kebabalicious is known for its tantalizing ingredient combinations. Here’s why:

pg26-pistachiosaladPistachio Watermelon Salad with a Jalapeño Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette

As printed in Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook: Austin Edition, Volume 2, courtesy of Kebabalicious.

Yield: 4 servings


1 small seedless watermelon

1 8-ounce block of feta (sheep milk)

10 ounces arugula

1/2 red onion, sliced thin

1 bushel of fresh mint, diced

10 ounces grape tomatoes

7 ounces roasted pistachio nuts, chopped

Jalapeño Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette Ingredients:

2 tablespoons Düsseldorf mustard

2 1/2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup of fresh-squeezed navel orange

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon pure wildflower honey

1 small roasted jalapeño Salt and tellecherry pepper to taste

Directions: Take the watermelon and cut it into 1-inch slices (like big discs) then cut those in half. Take a small paring knife and remove the red flesh of the fruit from the green shell. Once complete, cube watermelon into 1-inch pieces and set aside in the refrigerator to chill. Next, cube feta into half-inch bite-size pieces. Set aside. Heat a pan and add chopped pistachio nuts and toast lightly. Now grab a big bowl and fill it with the washed arugula, thinly sliced red onions, grape tomatoes, feta and diced fresh mint. Give it a good toss and put it in the fridge. Let pistachio nuts cool in pan.

While that chills, start the dressing. Take the small jalapeño and roast it over a gas burner until black. Wrap it in cling wrap and let it sweat for about five minutes. Meanwhile, grab a blender and add the mustard, freshly squeezed orange juice, balsamic, honey, a pinch of kosher salt and tellecherry pepper. Blend until homogenous, and then very slowly, stream the olive oil into the blender while on low. Next, unwrap the jalapeño and peel off charred outer coating. Cut off the stem and cut jalapeño in half to remove the seeds. Add jalapeño to food processor and liquefy. Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Lastly, take the watermelon out of the fridge and add it to the bowl of salad. Then sprinkle toasted, chopped pistachio nuts and serve with the dressing drizzled over or on the side if you prefer.


East Side King

Restaurant location: 2310 S. Lamar Blvd., suite 101

Favorite item on the menu: Fried Brussels sprout salad (it ’s vegetarian and can be served vegan and gluten-free), fried Brussels sprouts, sweet-spicy sauce, shredded cabbage, alfalfa sprouts, basil, cilantro, mint, onion, jalapeño. Their tag line says it all: “So good, make your eye roll back.” Austin’s own culinary god, Paul Qui, alongside business partner and local musician Moto Utsunomiya, opened their fifth location in the ESK dynasty. And it all started as a food trailer that was a side project.

pg26-karageThai Chicken Kara-agé

As printed in Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook: Austin Edition, Volume 1, courtesy of East Side King

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


13 pounds chicken legs, boned and cut into large bite-size chunks

8 ounces Thai chicken sauce

4 ounces white onion, sliced thinly

2 ounces jalapeño, sliced into thin rounds

3 ounces cilantro, picked and washed

1 1/2 ounces mint, picked and washed

1 1/2 ounces Thai basil, picked and washed

2 cups cornstarch

4 cups vegetable oil

Directions: Lightly toss the cut chicken in the cornstarch until each piece is evenly coated and there are no moist spots. Preheat oil to 375 degrees. Fry chicken until golden brown and cooked throughout. Move the hot chicken to a large bowl, add the onions, jalapeño and herbs then add the sauce. Toss gently, and be sure to coat all pieces with a good amount of sauce. Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy!

Thai Chicken Sauce Ingredients:

4 ounces water

4 ounces white vinegar

4 ounces white sugar

1 ounce sweet chili sauce

2 ounces fish sauce

1 1/2 ounces garlic/Thai chili, minced

Directions: Combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Sweet Chili Sauce Ingredients:

4 ounces white vinegar

2 ounces white sugar

1 ounce chili flakes

Directions: In a small saucepot, combine the vinegar and sugar. Allow the mixture to come to a boil without stirring. Add the chili flakes and stir.

Torchy’s Tacos

Restaurant location: 10 locations in Austin, four in Dallas, three in Houston, one in Fort Worth, one in Allen and one in Southlake.

Favorite item on the menu: The Trailer Park

pg26-shrimptacosBaja Shrimp Tacos

As printed in Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook: Austin Edition, Volume2, courtesy of Torchy’s Tacos

Yield: 4 to 6


1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 chipotle in adobo, stemmed

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 (about 3 cups) small green cabbage, shredded

2 large carrots, shredded

Vegetable oil for frying

24 large shrimp (1 1/4 pounds), shelled and deveined

2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

12 corn tortillas, warmed

4 pickled jalapeños, thinly sliced

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 ounces queso fresco or mild feta, crumbled

Lime wedges

Directions: In a mini food processor, blend the mayonnaise with the chipotle and 1 tablespoon of buttermilk. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate. Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the butter, cabbage and carrots and cook over high heat until the cabbage is browned in spots, about two minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. In a large saucepan, heat 2 1/2 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Put the panko in another bowl. Coat each shrimp with the panko and fry in batches until golden, about two minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.

Spoon some of the cabbage into the center of each tortilla and top with two fried shrimp. Drizzle with the chipotle mayonnaise and sprinkle with some of the pickled jalapeños, red onion, cilantro and queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges.

pg26-curlysCurly’s Carolina, TX Barbecue

Restaurant location: 112 E. Main St. (Round Rock)

Favorite item on the menu: Texas brisket with fried okra and wasabi coleslaw.

“And remember, life is too short for mediocre barbecue,” is Curly’s message to barbecue lovers. Jay Yates, formerly of Curly ’s Perfect Pig food trailer, teamed up with John Brotherton, formerly of Hall of Flame BBQ trailer, to open Curly’s Carolina, TX Barbecue in the fall of 2013 . They have received an overwhelming positive response in the media and among the food com – munity as some of the best barbecue in Texas.

Banana Pudding

As printed in Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook: Austin Edition, Volume 3, courtesy of Curly’s Carolina, TX


1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 3.4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding

1 3.4-ounce package instant banana cream pudding

4 cups milk

1 12-ounce container whipped topping

1/2 box of Nilla wafers

3 to 4 ripe bananas, sliced

Directions: Place cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Begin mixing with an electric mixer on medium speed. Slowly add in the can of sweetened condensed milk and continue to mix cream cheese and condensed milk until the mixture is smooth. Add in the packages of instant pudding and the milk. Continue to mix the ingredients until the mixture is once again smooth. Once there are no clumps in the mixture, let the mixture stand for five minutes so it begins to set up. After five minutes, gently fold the whipped topping into the pudding mixture. In a separate dish, place a layer of Nilla wafers. Add a layer of sliced bananas and top with half the pudding mixture. Repeat layers of wafers, bananas and pudding. Finish with a layer of Nilla wafers. Place in refrigerator for two to three hours to allow the cookies to become soft.



Restaurant location: 1503 S. First St., 2700 S. Lamar Blvd.

Favorite item on the menu: The Flying Pig, a doughnut topped with bacon and maple-syrup icing.

pg26-doughnutSticky Kentucky Swine

As printed in Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook: Austin Edition, Volume 3, courtesy of Gourdough’s


1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup evaporated milk

7 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1/4 cup shortening

1 quart vegetable oil for frying

Directions: In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, salt, eggs and evaporated milk and blend well. Mix in 4 cups of the flour and beat until smooth. Add the shortening, and then the remaining 3 cups of flour. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours (three hours will work if you’re in a hurry). Roll out dough to 1-inch thick. Use the top of a drinking glass to cut doughnut circles and use a butter knife to cut out holes in the middle. Fry in 350-degree hot oil for about five minutes, turning frequently. If doughnuts do not pop up, oil is not hot enough. Drain on paper towels.

Candied Bacon

(Four to five slices will be enough to top one doughnut and to have some to snack on later. Gourdough’s uses thick cut.)


4 or 5 slices thick-cut bacon

1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar

Maple syrup

Cracked black pepper


Turn oven on to 300 degrees. Place parchment down on a half-sheet pan. Arrange bacon neatly on parchment so that the pieces are not touching. Sprinkle brown sugar all over the bacon. It’s OK if bacon is not covered completely. Drizzle maple syrup all over bacon. Place bacon in oven for 15 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove and let cool.

Makers Mark Bourbon Caramel

Yield: about 2 quarts. (You can drizzle what you don’t use on the doughnut over other snacks like ice cream.)


2 cups sugar

1/2 cup Bourbon

1 ounce water

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup cream

1 tablespoon maple syrup (corn syrup, dark or light can be substituted)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions: Pour the sugar into a pan that’s not a non-stick pan. It doesn’t come out right if you use a non-stick pan. Add 1/4 cup of the Bourbon and save the rest for later. Add the ounce of water. Place pan on stove over medium heat. With a whisk, stir until ingredients just start to come together and make a sugar paste. Wait until sugar looks like the color of the Bourbon, approximately five to 10 minutes. (If you take it off before the color change, you’ll accidentally make a praline.) Take pan off of heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and the rest of the Bourbon. While adding Bourbon and butter, whisk quickly. Note: The mixture will steam and bubble. While still whisking, add in the rest of the butter, cream and vanilla. Let cool slightly and serve. Can be held in airtight container for one week.

To build the doughnut: Glaze the doughnut with the caramel sauce. Chop bacon in rough chunks and sprinkle over the caramel topping.

Applause for more food trucks that have opened restaurants:

  • Say laV
  • Stinson’s
  • Odd Duck
  • The Flying Carpet
  • Hey! Cupcake
  • Man Bites Dog
  • Verts
  • Mighty Cone (Hudson’s on the Bend)
  • Additionally, Lucky J’s Chicken and Waffles started as a trailer and opened a brick-and-mortar location, but they eventually closed it and went back to refocus and redefine their efforts on the trailer.
  • The Peached Tortilla is proud to announce their restaurant opening fall 2014 at 5520 Burnet Rd.

For more food truck recommendations, check out, or follow along on twitter @trailerfood.

Watermelon photo by Bonnie Berry Photography. Storefront photo by Letitia Smith. Trailer photo by Chris Childre. Thai Chicken Karaage and original ESK trailer photos by Marshall Wright. ESK SoLa interior photo by Nicolai McCrary.



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