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DINING: A little bit of truck

Food trucks

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Dining - A&E

Until now, I’ve avoided the whole food truck phenomenon in Indy.

Why? Well, as an East Coast transplant, food trucks didn’t seem like anything to get excited about. On campus at Temple University and on the streets of Philadelphia, they were ubiquitous. One near my office in Philly was even willing to put barbecue sauce on my chicken cheesesteak.
 

ae-food-trucks03print-1col.jpg Food truck dining—including Byrne’s Grilled Pizza—is all the rage in Indy. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

In Philly, these trucks were just a cheaper option for grab-and-go food, usually with a slight downgrade in quality. When they began showing up in Indy, I expected them to serve the same purpose, with the same side effect.

One look, though, and I was hit with sticker shock, finding prices similar to their brick-and-mortar brethren. Why bother standing in the long lines if there wasn’t a price advantage?

There are answers to that, of course. One is variety. For those downtowners who don’t have the fortitude or the time to take a lunch stroll, the trucks are a way to mix things up (although the lines at the trucks near the government center can take as much time as a trek to just about anywhere downtown).

Another reason may be quality—at least, that’s what I’m setting out to find this month as I dine my way through as many mobile eateries as I can in four columns.

Let’s start simply, with a pair of pizza purveyors. The long wait, $3 slab, sub-

mall-pizza quality, and solo operator who handled money and food without gloves didn’t win me over to The NY Slice. In the real New York, it’s easy to find such a standard dough/tomato sauce/cheese wedge for only $1. The Indy version had run out of pepperoni and sausage when I made it to the front of the line—another truck downside, but at least the sodas ($1) were cheaper than at some other trucks.

Better was Byrne’s Grilled Pizza, which separated cashier and cook, offered jovial service, and got more creative with its toppings. The Farmer’s ($5) featured pesto, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers and ricotta—evidently this farmer is from Italy. The Mediterranean garden ingredients were a refreshing diversion from pizza standards; however, the ricotta clumped, creating an inconsistent base. A good-enough breadstick sided it (with a soda, that’s a $1.50 upgrade). Not-too-salty pepperoni discs nicely accentuated the not-so-basic cheese ($4), which mixes mozzarella and asiago on a hand-rolled, irregularly shaped crust that’s artfully charred for Byrne’s signature grilled flavor.

Now off to find a few more—this time, some of the more ambitious and creative mobile kitchens. FYI: To track down where your favorite food truck is parked for the day, tweet: Indyfoodtruck.•

—Lou Harry

__________

First in a month-long series of food-truck dining columns.

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  • I can read, Lou....
    ....although I won't be anymore.
  • joviality
    Relax, Russ. Jovial is a positive thing. Look it up. And if you read the intro again, you'll see that I'm saying that I had misconceptions about the trucks and had made incorrect assumptions about them--which is why I'm checking them out all month. Rather than demonstrate your skills at misreading, how about recommending some trucks you really like and that are worth the money? Thanks for reading, Lou
    • Obviously written by someone who does not get the concept of food trucks
      For one thing, to be a fair judge of the quality of a truck, you need to visit more than once. Most often they have a limited daily menu and they run out of stuff because the variety of locations they run can make prep difficult to predict. If you want to make sure you get something, then arrive early, and most of the operators in town are connected enough via social media that you can request info and get updates before they arrive. If you're going to complain about how "jovial" the staff is, I'd like to see you work in a 3 foot wide space with two or three other people working behind you, especially with some of the summer days we've had this year. I have personally enjoyed NY Slice in the past, and maybe you received different service on this occasion, but the tone of the article seems like it bashes all food trucks. The snooty East Coast attitude is plain here... "Oh, we used to have these places all over when I was in college... look what's finally catching on in our quaint little burg!" Blech... go back to brown-nosing the foodie snob shops in B-Rip and downtown, Lou.
    • Food in a fishbowl
      I feel for those truck operators. Their work day is in a fishbowl, for all to see and scrutinize. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Steak N Shake built their grill and stores around the "In sight it must be right" motto; meaning that if the customer can see the food prep, they can rest assured as to its cleanliness. I know I have witnessed the truck folks purposely keeping food and money segregated. But it would not surprise me to see them slip up. But I always tell friends that it's probably best not to know what goes on in (some?) restaurants' kitchens that we cannot see into. And if one is squeamish about such things, I say ordered your food deep fat fried to kill any and all dangerous food borne illnesses. Now, me and my work buds are taking to these trucks recently and I am trying to support them as much as I can, and give them good word of mouth. I would not want to work in the fishbowl, but I'm glad they do it for us that like their variety and more importantly their entrepreneurial spirit!

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