Food trends usually arrive in this town long after they sweep other cities. Blame Cincinnatians’ tendency to be skeptical, critical and set in their ways. But every now and then amongst all the bust there is a boom. Sometimes the perfect storm of an ailing economy, creative, tenacious Cincinnatians and a helpful public servant come together and magic is made.
What the hell are we talking about? Food Trucks!
When the first food trucks hit the streets here, they had a hard time finding a place to legally vend downtown. That was until Tom Acito, owner of Café de Wheels, approached City Hall. Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan headed up an initiative that led to the designation of four downtown areas where food trucks can operate. Twenty initial permits were snapped up quickly, and the rest is history.
And what about Cincinnati’s other 51 neighborhoods? The better food trucks do what trucks do best and drive all over town, halting wherever the hungry hoards hail. And some of the best aren’t even trucks at all. Here’s a rundown of our favorite mobile muncheries.
Café de Wheels: A true O.G. of Cincy food-truckin’. Café de Wheels aims for its food quality to rival brick-and-mortar restaurants. It’s not already-ready-already, but it is worth the occasional short wait. Gourmet burgers, sandwiches and fries. Twitter @theburgertruck
Habanero Burrito Wagon: An offshoot of the long-standing Clifton restaurant, the burrito wagon sells pre-made versions of Habanero’s popular mouth-watering burritos kept hot on board. Grab and go! Twitter @habanerolatin
New Orleans to Go: Once a proper restaurant in Springdale, New Orleans To Go closed its doors in 2009 and turned the key on its Street Cart Named Desire. Now they’re serving up Po’ Boys, Shrimp and Grits, Jambalaya and more on the open road. Twitter @neworleanstogo
Señor Roy’s Taco Patrol: Tasty tacos and burritos made right before your eyes with whatever fresh ingredients you choose. Once a major player in the culinary caravan, Senor Roy’s is now closed and for sale. We’ve included it because it’s great and we think it’ll be rolling again in short order. Twitter @senorroys
Taco Azul: Modeled after Los Angeles taco trucks that serve authentic Mexican cuisine, Taco Azul serves tacos (pictured above), burritos, tortas and quesadillas made to order at a very reasonable price. Call in and text ordering available soon. Twitter @eltacoazul
Mr. Gene’s Dog House: The mobile version of the Millvale hot dog haven has features like the Doberman, a super-hot mett coney; the Poodle, a mild mett that might be better for the faint of heart; and the Dachsund, a hot dog with kraut. Follow ’em on Facebook @ mrgenesdoghouse
Taqueria Yolandita: Perhaps the most authentic Mexican option, it’s not a truck but a trailer. We suppose it could move, but lucky for us it stays put so we know where to find it: next to Tienda La Centro America, a Latino grocery on Queen City Avenue by Murray’s Wings. For four bucks, a couple tacos include heaps of braised meat, fresh avocado, chopped onions and cilantro, quartered lemons and slices of crisp radish. It’s a feast! 2157 Queen City Ave., Fairmount, 513-551-0828
FireSide Pizza: Fluffy, crispy crusted pizzas are made to order on this wood-fired oven on wheels. Choose from different sauces and locally sourced toppings. www.firesidepizzawagon.com
Dojo Gelato: A real sweet-cart, Dojo scoops its popular and creative gelato flavors alongside the other guys downtown and at private events. Twitter @dojocart