In less than a year, the food-truck presence in St. Louis has blown up like metal in a microwave, with no less than 16 trucks currently roaming the streets. (There’s even a guild now: the St. Louis Food Truck Association.) The curious use Facebook and Twitter to track down everything from pizza to falafel to arancini. Like other trends, it took a while for this one to travel from the coasts to the Midwest. The recession could be the driving force, with chefs forgoing the expense of brick and mortar. (On the flip side, some restaurants have voiced concerns about drive-by dining taking potential customers.) For those looking to grab a quick bite, here’s all you need to know about meals and wheels.
The Grub: Tangy, marinated Korean beef, pork, chicken, and tofu tacos. It’s true fusion cuisine from a truck.
Be Sure to Try: The basic taco, with steak marinated in sweet barbecue bulgogi sauce, topped with Korean salad, green onion, secret orange “Seoul sauce,” crushed sesame seeds, and a lime wedge.
Not as Odd as It Sounds: Korean taco trucks got their start in L.A. and have spread across the U.S.
Contact: seoultacostl.com, @SeoulTaco on Twitter
Pi on the Spot
The Grub: That famous cornmeal-crust Pi pizza, beloved by President Barack Obama and the rest of us.
Be Sure to Try: Any of the four 9-inch, deep-dish pizzas on the truck, with two meat and two vegetarian options.
Can You Finish One Yourself? You cannot—seriously. Bring a friend or take it home for a midnight snack.
Contact: restaurantpi.com/truck, @PiTruckSTL on Twitter
The Grub: Pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven inside a vintage 1973 Airstream trailer.
Be Sure to Try: The “Stinky Tinkle” pizza, with asparagus, prosciutto, mascarpone, Parmigiano, and shallots; or the “Meat Meet Meat” pizza, with crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano, smoked prosciutto, Spanish chorizo, and salsiccia from Salume Beddu.
Stick Your Head In: The copper-clad pizza oven in the back of the truck is an engineering marvel—be sure to take a peek.
Contact: wanderlustpizza.com, @WanderlustPizza on Twitter
Shell’s Coastal Cuisine
The Grub: Mexico meets Miami (with island music wafting from the speakers).
Be Sure to Try: Grill-pressed Cuban sandwiches, which are hot and filling, with savory roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, a bite of pickle, and warm mustard on Cuban bread. And don’t miss the veggie tacos with Key lime crema, the shrimp melt sandwiches, and the homemade Key lime pie.
Go West! Unlike most of the other trucks, it’s often parked in West County.
Contact: shellscoastalcuisine.com, @ShellsCoastal on Twitter
Cha Cha Chow
The Grub: Mexican with a twist.
Be Sure to Try: Tacos in great varieties like beef short-rib, Yucatan pulled pork, Baja-style roasted chicken, grilled fish, and curried sweet potato. Also, check out the three-layer quesadillas and Cha Cha burgers.
Yum! The salsas, sauces, and rubs in every dish are made from scratch.
Contact: whereschacha.com, @whereschacha on Twitter
The Falafelwich Wagon
The Grub: Authentic Middle Eastern falafel and gyros.
Be Sure to Try: The Original Falafelwich, with neat stripes of falafel, couscous tabbouleh salad, pickled red onion, cucumber, tomato, fresh herbs, and lemon juice. Also take a look at the curried chicken sandwiches, naan chips in three flavors, and watermelon-basil lemonade.
Flirting With the Profane: They also sell half-sandwiches called “F-Bombs.”
Contact: falafelwich.com, @Falafelwich on Twitter
The Sweet Shop Truck by The Sweet Divine
The Grub: Cupcakes and other sugary sins.
Be Sure to Try: Cupcakes in flavors like banana split, Cherry Coke, orange Dreamsicle, Thin Mint, white chocolate–raspberry, pink lemonade, and Boston cream pie. There’s also cheesecake, fudge, cake pops, cookies, scones, and whoopee pies.
Cute but Dangerous: The cupcakes are a little smaller than average, but the frosting dollops are huge.
Contact: thesweetdivine.com, @TheSweetDivine on Twitter
Street Life Mobile Food Service
The Grub: American comfort and soul food.
Be Sure to Try: “Elephant wing” large hot wings, fried and tossed in Street Life’s own hot sauce. Or go for the rib-eye steak sandwiches, Angus chuck burgers, turkey burgers, fried shrimp and fish, and house-made egg rolls.
Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’: Find the truck in North County, Earth City, and other areas.
Contact: streetlifemobilefoodservice.com, @StreetLifeFood on Twitter
The Grub: Italian like Grandma used to make.
Be Sure to Try: Hand-rolled arancini consisting of hamburger, pulled chicken, and mozzarella encased in a deep-fried, breaded rice ball. Or try the caprese paninis, chicken parm sandwiches, burgers, salsiccia, and beef or cheese toasted ravioli.
Hello, Lawsuit: South Grand’s Mangia Italiano took legal action against Mangia Mobile, alleging that the name would confuse diners; at press time, there was still no resolution.
Contact: mangiamobile.com, @MangiaMobile on Twitter
Guerrilla Street Food
The Grub: Old- and new-world Filipino.
Be Sure to Try: The asado-glazed pork-loin sandwich is outstanding—the asado sauce is made from oyster and hoisin sauces, ginger, garlic, and chili sauce. Other great options: pork adobo with rice; tocino (Filipino bacon) salad; longganisa (Filipino sausage) sandwiches with coriander aioli and pickled veggies; cua pao open-faced steamed buns with a choice of toppings; slow-roasted lechón pork belly over rice; and a calamansi cooler of Philippine lime juice, ginger, and mint.
Superlative: Owner/chef Brian Hardesty’s yen for playing with East Asian flavors has really paid off—the food is superb.
Contact: guerrillastreetfood.com, @guerrillastreet on Twitter
Papa Tom’s Gateway Dog House
The Grub: Gourmet hot dogs.
Be Sure to Try: The Gateway Beer ’n’ Pretzel Dog has bacon, a dill-pickle spear, spicy brown mustard, and melted beer cheese on a warm pretzel bun; the Bavarian Dog has beer-braised sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard, and a dill-pickle spear on the same bun. The fries are drizzled with sautéed garlic, butter, Italian parsley, and sea salt.
Breakfast of Champions: Open at 8 a.m., Papa Tom’s breakfast choices include the Hound Dog, an Elvis-inspired grilled peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich, with bacon optional; and an Early Bird Dog, with eggs, bacon, and cheese in the bun with a hot dog.
Contact: facebook.com/GatewayDogHouse, @GatewayDogHouse on Twitter
The Fire & Ice Cream Truck
The Grub: Local legends Ronnie’s Ice Cream, Fitz’s Root Beer, and Gus’ Pretzels.
Be Sure to Try: Old-fashioned vanilla or chocolate in a cup or cone; the hand-dipped Ronnie’s Rocky Mountain drumstick; strawberry and passion-fruit sorbets; peach ice cream; and lemon ice.
Our Forefathers: The truck is a repurposed 1946 Ford firetruck once used by the town of Albion, Ill. There’s still a fire, though: The owners are talented artists who rigged up a propane-powered pipe organ on the roof…that shoots flames.
Contact: facebook.com/pages/The-Fire-Ice-Cream-Truck/173991145994628, @FireandIceCream on Twitter
Sarah’s Cake Stop
The Grub: Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes.
Be Sure to Try: Any of more than 100 flavors (gulp!), including red velvet cake, snack cake, strawberry cheesecake, wedding cake, French toast and bacon, gooey butter cake, raspberry margarita, pineapple chardonnay—you get the idea. And then there are the Nutella brownies, chocolate salted-caramel ice-cream sandwiches, frozen Key lime pie on a stick, and ultrahealthy “raw cupcakes.”
You Scratch My Back… Sarah’s Cake Stop and Cha Cha Chow often park near each other to boost sales.
Contact: sarahscafestl.com, @Sarahscakestop on Twitter
The Grub: Sweet and/or savory crepes.
Be Sure to Try: It’s all good when Nicole Shelledy grades batter across the hot crepe stone to form light, perfect crepes in a kitchen within a converted school bus. Locally sourced fillings can include: mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and pesto; bacon, spinach, tomato, and chili mayo; pears, goat cheese, honey, and arugula; and the can’t-go-wrong Nutella and banana.
Best S’more Ever: The marshmallow/graham-cracker crumble/chocolate s’more crepe is heavenly.
Contact: facebook.com/HolyCrepeSTL, @HolyCrepeSTL on Twitter
Supa’ Fresh Veggie Mobile
The Grub: A mobile farmers’ market on wheels sponsored by City Greens Produce and Catholic Charities Community Services. It’s not a traditional food truck, but we like its mission.
Be Sure to Try: This huge, pea-green trailer swings open on all four sides to sell fresh produce, bread, coffee, tea, jam, honey, and Amish products from a perfectly constructed stall with clouds painted on the interior walls.
For Richer or For Poorer: The Veggie Mobile aims to serve low-income areas known as “food deserts” with limited access to nutritious foods.
Contact: midtowncitygreens.org, @citygreenstl on Twitter
The Grub: Barbecue smoked right on the truck.
Be Sure to Try: Cliff and Earline Collins plate up ribs, brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey legs, and sides. Cliff’s special barbecue sauce is smoky, but not sweet. That distinction he saves for dessert: caramel cake, red velvet cake, carrot cake, and German chocolate cake, all house-made and sold by the slice.
Not a Typo: The Barnyard Kitcjen has a J in the middle for Earline’s maiden name, Jones.
Contact: Barnyardmobile Kitcjen on Facebook, @bkitcjen on Twitter