Eat Chicago : Food Trucks = Sad Face

When it came to food trucks in Chicago, I might have been smiling on the outside for the photo. However, on the inside, I was really crying.

Chicago Food Trucks

They are only allowed to sell food that is pre-prepared and packaged, and this translates into food that just isn’t as good as if it was hot off the grill and prepared RIGHT THERE on the truck. I was rather disappointed after such great experiences in Vancouver, Portland, and back home.

On our last day in Chicago, Ryan and I ran around the downtown area looking for food trucks. With Jessica’s help, we were able to locate a few. Sitting side by side were the Meatyballs Mobile and Haute Sausage.

Meatyballs Mobile

Haute Sausage

We ordered the Original Meatyballs [Beef, pork, four-cheese sauce, truffle oil], Campfire Bison [Bison sausage with blackened corn, grilled onions, baked beans, and BBQ sauce], and Boerewores Chakalaka [Beef & lamb sausage with Chakalaka, a spicy, South African mix of onions, tomatoes & beans].

They sounded really good at the time, but when we sat down on our bench for the grand revealing, they just didn’t hit the spot. I think it definitely had a lot to do with the food pre-preparation. For any items with a bun, you didn’t want too much sauce or the bun would suffer “soggy bun syndrome,” but without the sauce, you were relying heavily on the meat for flavor, which they just didn’t have enough of.

Meatyballs Mobile on Urbanspoon

Dissatisfied with our early findings, we hunted down two other trucks – The Southern Mac and Cheese Truck [more of a van] and gaztro-wagon. We ordered two kinds of mac ‘n cheese and a Stromboli naanwich [Pork cheeks, garlic puree, provolone, marinara].

Southern Mac gaztro-wagon naanwich

The mac was a little heavy after the other food, but it worked because no soggy buns were involved. We took a few bites and saved the rest for the plane ride home. As for the naanwich, the texture of naan was more forgiving than that of bread, and for the most part, it soaked up the delicious flavors of the tender pork cheeks, garlic, and marinara. If we had waited another hour with it, however, it might have turned into a soggy mess.

Southern Mac Truck on Urbanspoon Gaztro-wagon (food truck) on Urbanspoon

You know what truck I think would work given that the food has to be prepared ahead of time? Another kind of bun [pronounced “boon”] truck – Vietnamese rice vermicelli! Please let me know when this happens, Chicago, or if the laws change around your food trucks because there’s so much potential!

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  • A friend has told me the mac n cheese and gaztro wagon are  the best food trucks there. I hope mayor rahm manages to change the law!

    • I hope so too! If that happens, I know our next visit to Chicago will be a very different one – food truck based! 

  • What a bummer. Sounds like these could otherwise be so good…!

    • Yeah, lots of potential. I’m hoping they change the law and that they can cook food on the trucks.

  • Wow, I’m really surprised that of all cities it’s Chicago. They’re known for a lot of great food! I can see the safety precautions with the food trucks, but they’ve gotta realize that times are changing and food trucks are really gourmet now. I hope this law changes!

    • I think that with enough pressure, it will. They’re getting so big that they’d be falling behind otherwise. 

  • Cosmic Girl

    I would eat the mac and cheese. Pre-prepared and packaged just isn’t right…..I was just in Chicago on business Thurs-Sat and fell in love with Garrett’s Popcorn. 

    • I didn’t try Garrett’s Popcorn, but a few times I walked by, the smell was just so inviting. :) Tempting, even.

  • Aw. It’ll be interesting to see them grow. Houston was not very food truck friendly with their rules (You can’t park for longer than some kind of duration of time and then something to do with bathrooms being near, etc) but it has grown a lot!

    I can’t wait for you to visit Austin and I can give you a food truck tour!

    • Ah, yes! Food truck tour. :D

  • B.

    Wow. That seems like a dumb law to me. Isn’t the point of a food truck to deliver hot and FRESH food to the people?

    • Probably health code concerns, which makes sense. You don’t want to get sick off of something you ate on a truck, but there should be a different set of guidelines for these new up and coming trucks.

  • I love that you guys search out food trucks wherever you go. I should do that. I guess I don’t ever think about food trucks because don’t have that many here in Richmond. And I’m really, really sad I missed out on The Southern Mac & Cheese truck….

    • What’s funny is that I don’t really go to the ones in SF all that much. They are around, but when I am here, I eat at home most of the time. :p