NOTE: The Syracuse Food Truck Association is holding a weekly Food Truck Rodeo in the parking lot of the Cosmopolitan Building on West Fayette Street from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. Since that’s right around the corner from my office, I plan to make this my midweek lunch plan. As a service to you, dear reader, I’ll round them up and report back.
Who made a repeat appearance?
Who was missing from previous weeks?
Was there music?
What was new?
The truck from That’s What’s Up, which has a pretty cool story behind it. I had company this week in my co-worker Toni. And, there was extended hours this week as the Rodeo coincided with an outdoor showing of the Jon Favreau film Chef.
Toni had never been to one of these before, so our first couple of minutes was walking around so she could get the lay of the land. After learning that my friend had never experienced an empanada before, I decided Sarita’s would be our first stop.
Sarita’s eponymous food truck has a rather simple setup with refrigeration, hot plates and pots of oil to fry her wares, which also include Oreo cookies. I eschewed the sweet and dove into her three for $10 empanada special, ordering the traditional beef and cheese for Toni, and the chicken cilantro and choriqueso for myself. The chicken cilantro (above) was a nice blend of flavors that stood up well in the fried pastry. The choriqueso (right) had a nice spice, aided by jalepeño slices and a very flavorful chorizo sausage. Toni raved about her beef and cheese, the first of what I expect to be many stops to Sarita’s truck in the future.
While waiting for our empanadas to finish, we slid next door to Oompa Loompyas. Admittedly, I know nothing about Filipino food or the Philippines, really, beyond the fact that the nation’s past as a Spanish colony very much influences its present. For $5, I got a basketful of loompyas (pictured at top) — little cylinders that looked like a cross between a taquito and an eggroll. Fried to a golden brown and served with either sweet or hot chili sauce (thumbs up for the homemade sauce), I tried the traditional beef and spinach and artichoke. The latter tasted like spinach and artichoke dip wrapped in a crunchy shell, as one might expect. Both were exceptional.
After a stop at Unity Coffee for something cold, I made my way to Mami’s for a long-awaited pernil slider (right). Now I’m mad that I didn’t just suck it up and get one (or six) sooner. While others were lined up waiting for cubanos, my handful of pernil came out on a slider roll in no time. The pork was expertly flavored with just enough spice to be noticed, and an almost creamy flavor from the fat that melted away from the pernil.
The slider was enough to keep me occupied as the elder George Shattuck fried up a batch of falafel tots for me at his truck. He brought along another menu item this week: the porkychanga, or pork-stuffed chimichangas. By the time I met back up with Toni, she was digging into her fried shrimp tacos from That’s What’s Up. Curtis Washington’s truck won the award for largest staff of the day, as well as the biggest mystery. His menu of beef and bison sliders and shrimp tacos kept a long line all day long. The truck itself is nicely equipped, though the shrimp-frying operation had to be moved behind the truck to accommodate the rest of the crew. She really liked the tacos, and I think I have a new place to try next week.
Words of compliment and/or grievance?
The retro cafeteria tables were back, which was great. They were jampacked during our 45-minute stay.
Wednesday’s rodeo was supposed to last until 9 p.m., as organizers were expecting hundreds to turn out for a free showing of Chef that was taking place at dusk.
This week seemed like the first time everything was clicking. There was a good crowd of people and trucks, excellent weather, and a good buzz in the crowd. There weren’t any TV cameras or reporters milling about, which was fine because this way grazers didn’t feel like animals at the zoo. One of the big things I noticed were the number of families that had turned out with kids. Mom and/or dad could get a loompya or sriracha tots, while the kids got hot dogs or burgers. It was as if the last two weeks were the soft open and week three of the Food Truck Rodeo was where it all came together.