LOS Burger Truck Breakfast Edition

I remember the first time I heard about Lucky Old Souls Burger Truck. I was pumped to hear of a food truck selling burgers with grass-fed Lancaster County beef and unique milkshake flavors like maple, black pepper. Yeah! Unfortunately, it took too long to get the opportunity to check them out.

Luckily, Headhouse Square opened back up a couple of weekends ago. Yay, Headhouse! I’ve written tons about our Sundays at Headhouse and it’s finally back in business for the season!

Previously, we’ve gotten Renaissance Sausages, but Lucky Old Souls Burger Truck has taken their spot for the first few weeks, at least. I follow LOS Burger Truck on twitter and have been mesmerized by exciting milkshakes and crazy interesting burgers. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned in the past, my lunchtime flexibility  is minimal due to my job. When we heard LOS Burger Truck would be at Headhouse, my husband and I gave an enthusiastic “hell yeah!”

On our way over to the truck, with the dog of course, we ran into some friends who had just ordered their food. They told us that we just had to order the breakfast burger. The breakfast burger consists of a whopping grass-fed beef patty, bacon, habanero cheddar and local blueberry jam, all topped with a fried egg. Oh yes. How could we resist? In an attempt not to be completely piggy, we opted to split the massive burger, contained in a buttery brioche bun. But then I added fries. Of course I did.

Check the fried egg nestled under the grilled bun.

Now check the cross section.

I think Guy Fieri would call this the money shot. For those of you wondering what’s up with the blueberry jam?? It worked. It totally worked.  The sweetness of the jam paired beautifully with the savory burger and the slight heat from the habanero cheddar. And the bacon. Well, bacon obviously makes everything better. And then there were tasty little morsels of fried egg–a little cooked, a little runny–just the way I like it. You have to taste it to try it, but these weird and slightly discombobulated ingredients just worked. LOS knows what they’re doing. So if you thought a maple and black pepper milkshake sounded weird, think again, my friend.

Oh, and the fries?

Handcut fries fried in 100% peanut oil with an optional (but let’s be clear here, there was no optional about it) garlic mayo dipping sauce…these bad boys were extra crunchy and just popped with flavor and saltiness. While the burger is the star, don’t leave without trying these guys.

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Pitruco Pizza

When my brother, Joe, was younger, he played tennis with this kid named Jonah. They were buddies. Unstoppable on the junior doubles circuit and together all the time, they truly were brothers. Although Jonah was a little taller and skinnier, they even looked alike, down to the same haircut and that fateful prom where they donned matching silver suits (inevitably from Suit Corner or another one of those “high-quality” men’s apparel stores on Market Street) and spray-died silver hair. I felt sorry for their dates, although the memory, captured by a single photograph, is certainly a family treasure.

While the boys went to different high schools and colleges, they remained close, occasionally entering a tournament together, although they were both occupied by life’s various ventures. After college, Joe spent time in the middle East while Jonah returned to Philadelphia and channeled his background in education and tennis expertise with a position as tennis pro at Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education. Ashe was where Joe and Jonah began their tennis journeys, so it was only fitting for Jonah to return. He was, not surprisingly, quite successful in his position. Years passed and Joe and Jonah maintained this friendship, often separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles. They had one of those friendships, you know how it is, where they could call one another up and pick up conversation like nothing had changed. Beyond their relationship, of course, the two families got to know one another quite well, celebrating Bar Mitzvahs, birthdays and other momentous events together.

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A few months ago, I was perusing the various local food media outlets and came across a piece about a new food truck, Pitruco Pizza, which would feature a wood burning pizza oven INSIDE the truck. Super cool, I thought. But something else caught my eye. As it turns out, tennis-playing Jonah was one of the partners. What?! Having known Jonah for years, I was intrigued but not at all surprised. With his go-getting nature and entrepreneurial spirit, this was completely aligned with the young man I remember best in his tennis whites. Over the next few days and weeks, I gathered more information about the truck and learned that they would be at a fundraiser for Arthur Ashe one weekend when my brother was home. Ironically, my friend Sean of the nano-brewery, Mellody Brewing, would be at the event as well. I was unable to attend but sent my brother and father off to the fundraiser, with instructions to report back. Midway through the event, I received a phone call from my father.

“Hey dad,” I answered.

“Hey Zoe, hold on.”

All of a sudden, I heard a new, yet familiar voice on the phone.

“Hey Zoe.” It was Sean of Mellody Brewing. Sigh. I am 30 years old and my father still embarrasses me. Yes, it’s true. My father had sought out Sean and, always the overachiever, chose to not simply introduce himself as my father but to call me and shove the phone in Sean’s face. Double sigh.

But this is about Pitruco. When Sean returned the phone to my father, I heard nothing but good things about the pizzas they had tried. In fact, they went to Love Park later that week to sample more pies. At this point, I was jealous. They had tried Pitruco twice and I was yet to get even a taste.

This quickly changed during the Chinatown Night Market. Pitruco was one of the many, many vendors and food trucks selling their goods on the packed street that October evening. Luckly, we ran into some friends (including the aforementioned Sean) who waited in line for pizza while we checked out the other trucks. We were lucky enough to try the traditional margherita and the salame, a red pie with soppressata, mozzarella and a touch of pecorino. Both pies were tasty, with the necessarily crispy crust. I especially loved the chewy soppressata on the salame. Because they were busy that evening, I could only wave hello to Jonah and the guys, while I had a brief chat with his mom, who was helping out for the evening.

After that taste, I knew I wanted more. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to leave work for an extended lunch hour and it took a few months for me to get another taste.

Last Saturday, we were at a 30th birthday celebration for two of our friends who live in Fishtown. As we left, around 11pm, Zach mentioned that Pitruco was stationed at Frankford and Girard, just minutes from the party. This is why I love my husband, folks. There was no conversation; we simply knew we were getting some pizza.

As we approached the intersection, we spied the truck sitting just across from Johnny Brenda’s. He pulled over and I hopped out to place our order. I was pleased to be greeted by my dear old friend, Jonah. I hemmed and hawed about our order, asking them what I should get, considering the two I had already tasted. They wanted me to get a better dish than what I had tried at the Night Market, because the pizza that night were not up to their high standards. We settled on the traditional margherita ($8) and a sausage ($8.50.) Jonah and I chatted as the guys prepped the pies for him to put into the hot oven.

I love the tiling.

As we caught up on our lives and chatted about business, Jonah deftly operated the pizza peel, sliding the dough towards the flames.

The sausage emerged first, loaded with meat and other earthy toppings.

The margherita followed soon thereafter, with a heat blistered crust that was prime for eating right there on the chilly street. Check out the steam!

Unfortunately, we did not get the pleasure to eat it immediately (and I do think this pizza is best eaten as soon as humanly possible after it is removed from the oven.) I sat the two pies on my lap for the seemingly interminable drive home. As soon as we stepped through the door, we ripped into them. The verdict? The sausage was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t realize it had mushrooms until I was eating it and they created this earthy flavor that balanced the savory sausage, with a hint of sweetness from the caramelized onions and a creamy bechamel. Oh my. And I wasn’t the only one who liked it. I begrudgingly  tore off a small taste of the sausage for my dog and she literally quivered in anticipation as I held it above her head.

The margherita was, of course, everything a margherita should be. A perfect ratio of sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil created a humble and simple pie, packed with full flavors in each bite. And the crust certainly did not disappoint. I loved chewing on the charred pieces throughout.

Many might say that I had to say something nice about my brother’s best friend, the tennis boy. If I had tried the pizza and didn’t like it, I certainly would have struggled with what to write (and may have opted not to write anything.) Luckily, I wasn’t faced with this challenge in the least.  This post literally wrote itself. I am beyond beyond happy to see the success of Pitruco Pizza and its partners, Jonah, Nathan and Eric who embarked on this journey with incredibly interesting and diverse backgrounds. Besides, Craig LaBan liked the pizza so who even cares what I have to say…

The Latin Farmer

What is it with me and food trucks? I seriously can’t get enough of them! In the Row Home Eats household, our Sunday tradition (at least between the months of May-November) involve waking up and heading over to the Headhouse Square Farmers Market while listening to brunch with the Beatles. Dog in tow, of course. We used to do our shopping for the day then hit the Renaissance Sausage Truck and munch our sandwiches on the cement stairs adjacent to the shambles. My favorite was the vegetarian while my husband usually opted for the Mediterranean. But alas, a few months ago I stumbled across some alarming news. The Sausage Truck would be closing! We were sure to visit Headhouse on their last official Sunday and split a kielbasa in sadness as we wondered who could possibly fill their big, big shoes.

Around this time, another truck began to make a name for itself in the Philadelphia area. The Latin Farmer debuted at the stupid Mt. Airy Night Market where I couldn’t find a stupid parking spot after driving all the way up there in rush hour traffic. Nah, I’m not still bitter. The Latin Farmer promoted healthy, local eating and had an eco-conscious truck to boot. I had to check this place out.

Unfortunately, my day job (i.e. my only job) does not allow me the leisure to take long lunch jaunts to Love Park, where the truck set up shop, so I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that it would be replacing The Sausage Truck on Sundays. The first time we spotted the truck there, we just knew we had to try it. I love the shiny green truck (get it, the “Green” truck is green?)

We checked out the menu and I was drawn to the chicken salad but couldn’t quite wrap my head around the collard wraps. I do love me some bread.

My adventurous husband chose the steak collard wrap while I ended up with the braised beef sandwich, the bocadillo.

The collard wraps were pretty adorable, I must admit. For $8, however, it was a bit shrimpy. Luckily, reports were glowing. The steak inside was well-seasoned and the salsa was the perfect sweet accompaniment.

The bocadillo looked pretty hearty in comparison.

Surprisingly, the highlight of this sandwich was the crunchy apple slaw that sat atop the braised meat. The crunch played well with the soft and chewy meat and gave it a great tang. I must say, and it’s funny that I’m complaining after whining that the collard wraps had no bread, that the bread to filling ratio in the bocadillo was a bit off. There was just too much  bread for this sandwich and it overwhelmed the filling, which should have been the star.

While I miss the Sausage Truck, who will always remain near and dear to my heart, I’m happy to say the The Latin Farmer has found a home. Unfortunately, since that Sunday, the Latin Farmer has temporarily ceased operations. Hopefully we’ll see them back in business in the near future.

The Happy Taco or Why I Love Food Trucks

Upscale food trucks are THE in thing these days and you know what? I’m very ok with that. What could possibly be better than freshly made, mobile and low-cost food? As a Philadelphia resident, I’ve been eating at food trucks for years. Luckily, we live in a city lush with carts, a city that beat the recent trend with its line of specialty trucks along Spruce Street on Penn’s campus. Trucks like Le Anh and Magic Carpet have been there since I can remember. In fact, there are so many, I recently (like, just now) learned that there is a website devoted to Penn food trucks–PennFoodTrucks.com. How cool is that?!

Philadelphia, along with many other big cities across the country, has fallen hard for food trucks. Recent, hip additions to the scene include Tyson Bees, La Copine Brunch Truck, Sweetbox Philly and, of course, Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Guapos Tacos. Many of these trucks have twitter accounts so their hungry followers can locate them with the click of a keyboard. Somehow, the mobile nature of these trucks makes it all part of the game.

My husband and I travel to Gloucester, Massachusetts a few times a year to visit family. Gloucester is a sleepy little Portugese and Italian fisherman’s town that is best known for the movie The Perfect Storm, Gorton’s Fisherman and this guy. While The Perfect Storm is a fairytale that falls far outside the understanding of most Northeasterners, the story hits a little too close to home for many fishermen’s families in the area. Each June, the city shuts down for the Festival of St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen.

For the visitors to Gloucester and other coastal New England towns, lobster is a delicacy. To these fishermen and their families, it is their livelihood. Because I love to support the local economy, we do our very best to eat lots of lobster when we’re in the area. From rolls to benedict to boils, we don’t discriminate. In fact, it’s not uncommon for us to eat a lobster roll for lunch followed by a lobster dinner that night. At prices lower than a half-decent steak, how can you NOT eat lobster?

But then…

My fabulous sister-in-law, who recently moved to Gloucester with her husband, had some news that she just couldn’t wait to share. “Guess what?! There’s a FOOD TRUCK in Gloucester!!!” I was shocked to learn that a taco truck had recently popped up in town. I just had to try The Happy Taco.

After a fun day of shopping at an hour way too close for dinner, we decided to take the plunge. I love the friendly yellow truck with a literally “Happy Taco” logo.

We called my husband and cousin because we didn’t want them to miss out on the fun and ended up with two sirloin asada, one fish (recommended by the owners) and one pulled pork burrito. The owners were beyond friendly and accommodating. They were even nice to the woman behind us who thought she was at a Taco Bell.

We also grabbed a couple local Mercury sodas made by the nearby Ipswich Ale Brewery.

After a slightly too long wait–I’m hoping they’re just working out the kinks–our burritos were ready to go. Unfortunately, we had to resist digging into them until we met up with the guys but the smells permeated the car. Drool.

When we finally tore into them, they were worth the wait.

The sirloin asada (my order) was great. Tons of flavor and lot of crunchy lettuce. It was a touch heavy on the rice, though. It’s difficult to find the perfect balance in a burrito. To me, it’s about having a variety of flavors but also textures and a wet: dry ingredients ratio.

As promised, the fish was excellent. The battered cod played its role perfectly in creating that perfect balance in the burrito.

Check out that flaky fish!

And the pulled pork.

The pulled pork definitely wins for the most flavor-packed dish of the day. Besides, this guy likes it.

The Happy Taco is a great addition to Gloucester’s waterfront. The affordable prices create accessibility for a variety of customers and the fresh and nutritious food will keep them coming back. With a little tinkering here and there, The Happy Taco has the potential to be a serious contender–not just for the fishermen but on a national level.

Night Market II

In October, The Food Trust premiered the first ever Night Market along Passyunk Avenue in Philadelphia. The concept is neat–food trucks and area restaurants/prepared food stores, gathered in one place to offer their fare to the public. On the upside, the October event was wildly popular. On the downside, it was wildly popular. No one anticipated how many people would show up and many of the vendors ran out of food just an hour or so into the event. Simmering beneath the frustration, however, was excitement and anticipation for the Philadelphia food scene.

Fast forward to June. The Night Market made its second appearance at 39th and Market. The Market coincided with Philly Beer Week, so in addition to the food offered, the Blockley Pourhouse was setting up a beer garden.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew to get there early. It was one of the hottest nights of the year and, although they warned people to take Septa, I was sufficiently whiny that my husband grudgingly agreed to drive. Because of my familiarity with the area, we found a great (and free!) spot just a block away and walked the gritty Market Street path. When we got there, we noticed that the event was actually taking place in an empty parking lot. It was HUGE.

We walked in right at 6pm and noticed that the line for the “beer garden” was already at least 30 people deep. I left my husband and sister in line while I went to explore with my camera. Wow, there were some great offerings. I couldn’t resist making a beeline (unintentional pun) to Tyson Bees after the mountain of praise it has received lately. The truck, like many newer food trucks, is bright and welcoming.

There were lots of intriguing options but I went with the pork buns. Tyson Bees is set up such that you order from the center of the truck and then pick up your food from the passenger side window. My food came up quickly.

I only had a few luscious bites of this pint-sized dish but it certainly left me wanted more. The next time I passed the truck, however, the line was enormous.

I made another loop around the massive parking lot, snapping pictures along the way. Nomad Pizza was apparently a big hit but we didn’t get any because my sister didn’t want to get in line.

While there were “fancier” new trucks, it was nice to see some more old-school trucks as well.

I rolled past Dapper Dog next and knew I had to get me some doggie goodness.

Decisions, decisions…

I ended up going with the smoked kielbasa with jalapeno relish and spicy mayo. Wow, they weren’t kidding about the spice! I had to knock some of the jalapenos off but this dog was meaty, not too smoky and yum, yum, yum.

As I returned with the dog, my husband and sister were nearing the front of the verrrry slow beer line (that’s a kink that still needs to be worked out for next time, FYI.)

My bright husband made the very smart suggestion that we each get two beers so we didn’t have to wait in line again. That’s why I married the guy! I’m glad we did that, because the later lines were outrageous (and it’s not like they were giving the beer away.) I wanted a Victory Summer Love Ale but they were still pouring warm, I was advised, so I ended up with the Ithaca Apricot Wheat and a Saison. They were both kinda warm too.

While we relaxed with our beers and dog, we watched the line for Guapos Tacos grow and grow. Sigh.

Next to it was a cute looking burger truck that I’ve never heard of.

After finishing our beers, we meandered for a while, chatting with folks we knew and checking out the scene.

During our wandering, we ran into my sister’s friend with a margarita in hand. Well, we had to get a margarita too! We hit up the Cantina for tangy blood orange margaritas.

Our last stop was Plenty. Even though I live just a few blocks from them, I wanted to check out their offerings. My sister got a whiskey chicken sandwich.

This sandwich was sweet and summery. I was initially drawn to it but was concerned that there would be too strong of a celery flavor. That was definitely not the case. I tasted the sweet whiskey chicken and chewy bread. Yum. My husband and I got the ham and tallegio sandwich (house smoked ham!) Just look at it. I don’t even need to describe it.

On our way out the door, we passed by Renaissance Sausage. We weren’t planning on hitting them up because we get sandwiches from them most Sundays at Headhouse Square. I have to say that I was proud of my little sausage truck. Check out that line!

Just because I’m curious, I wanted to see what they were offering.

Quarter pound sausage burgers!!! Now, I’ve had their breakfast sausage and it is MIND blowing. I can only imagine these burgers must have been out of this world. Go Renaissance Sausage!

Overall, the event was much better organized and planned than the first Night Market. They had the foresight to bring more vendors (who brought more food,) have it in a larger space and offer more beer! On the down side, there were still extremely long lines and the beer garden was very poorly organized and slooow moving. The pros definitely outweigh the cons though, and I look forward to the next event!

 

 

Far From Home Cafe

Ever since I stumbled across Far From Home Cafe food truck (“your favorite comfort foods from all around the world”) I knew I had to check it out. I love comfort food! I was intrigued by the menu containing a variety of burgers, tacos and enchiladas. Hmm…this could either be very good or very, very bad. Unfortunately, my work schedule does not often allow a long, leisurely lunch hour and I never knew where the truck would be. Lucky for me, Far From Home Cafe has a new home, along with Guapos Tacos and a variety of cupcake trucks. Also lucky for me was the fact that my co-worker was in possession of a car for the day (most of us bike or take Septa.) Because it was a busy birthday week, we had taken my co-worker to a Thai lunch the previous day and opted to check out the truck on Friday.

As we headed out, I tweeted out that we were heading over for some birthday lunch.  When we got to the truck (as my other co-worker circled Love Park in fear of a parking citation,) the super friendly staff recognized us–perhaps when my co-worker mentioned it was my birthday–and asked who we were on Twitter. I’m still getting used to introducing myself by my real name and then my Twitter name. It’s funny to meet people in the Twitter world who respond “oh you’re Row Home Eats.” We chatted for a bit before placing our massive order of chicken tacos, black bean tacos, curly fries, the Mighty Moo burger and the Mighty Euro burger. We wanted to try the empanadas but they were all sold out. I’m thinking that it’s a pretty popular item. Because it was our birthday, we got  a special dessert on the house! I cannot, for the life of me, remember what exactly my dessert was but it was some sort of blondie with chocolate chunks (or something like that.) It was pretty tasty and I love the packaging!

After we placed our order, the owner came out from inside the truck and chatted with us for a bit before introducing us to the friendly city employee who spearheaded the “lunch at LOVE” program, bringing city folks back into the park during the lunch hours with food truck, entertainment and more.

Check me out in front of the festive truck.

We finally got back to work and got down to business.

The curly fries were a great accompaniment to the burgers, although I certainly didn’t need them with my Vetri birthday dinner fast approaching. Curly fries are my fave.

Next, we opened our burgers. These juicy burgers (yes, I tried my co-worker’s burger too. All in the name of blogging) were just my style. They were cooked on the flattop with a little char ,which provided a nice crunch, and lots and lots of flavor. My “Mighty Moo” had the basic toppings–lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, American cheese and “mighty sauce.” I fluctuate between wanting the simplicity of a burger like this one, with all the “normal” toppings and wanting something a little more far out. I went traditional this time, but my co-worker went all out with the “Mighty Euro” with bleu cheese, crispy bacon, sauteed onions, tomato, pickles and, once again, “mighty sauce.” I actually preferred the Mighty Euro. While the toppings added a ton of flavor, they didn’t overwhelm the patty tucked between the buns.

The Mighty Moo from the top.

The Mighty Euro–check out those fixins!

I only tried the black bean tacos and they were light and refreshing.

Far From Home Cafe fills a perfect niche in the Philadelphia food truck scene.  They’re not trying to do anything spectacular beyond cooking tasty, straightforward food which is welcome in my city any time.