Wednesday, April 20, 2011
L.A.'s Worst Gourmet Food Trucks
Korean Fried Pinworms. The actual name of this truck is 한국 튀겨진 벌레, the logo of which is spread in beautiful swoops of blue and red on the side of this bustling little boit-on-wheels. Unfortunately, those symbols stand for chef Li Ving's little-understood California fusion of fresh farmers' market produce with Enterobius vermicularis (human intestinal parasites). We had seven bowls of their signature dish and couldn't stop eating it -- so much so that the ER nurse had to wrestle our spork away and put us in wrist restraints. Mystifying "A" Health Code rating written in crayon.
Hot Chicks In Skimpy Outfits Serve Bowls of Whatever. One of the most popular trucks to emerge on the L.A. scene over the last five hours, you can always identify the HCSOSBW truck by its eye-blindingly pink exterior and long lines of middle-aged men, young men, old men, unemployed men, men with skin problems -- well, let's just say a lot of men. Reviews across the board are uniformily positive, despite the title being slightly misleading: The "bowls" can range from a wax-treated envelope to an old WWI Army helmet and the "whatever" can encompass old oatmeal from the L.A. County Jail, food hastily bought from other food trucks or a crumpled Groupon for Blimpie's.
The Weiner's Circle West. Popular and not-at-all controversial Left Coast offshoot of the infamous Chicago, IL hot dog stand where patrons and employees hurl vile racial invective at each other while placing/processing orders for delicious foot longs, piping hot french fries or Italian beef sandwiches Chi-Town style. This concept hasn't exactly translated well to the streets of Los Angeles, where the plucky lil' truck has been accompanied by an armed-to-the-teeth National Guard/Blackwater Security escort and large unexplained fires.
You Cook This, OK? This charming "interactive" truck owned by a cabal of hipster house-flippers with David Cross glasses and fuzzy-squirrel soul patches (including the women, for some reason) turned hipster gourmet food truck bandwagoneers. In a charming ode to its owners/"chefs", the truck always opens 45 minutes late and is staffed by only one vaguely stoned "clerk" who seems offended that you are interrupting his "Black Uhuru groove" with your inane and bougeouis-fascist questions. Food is laid out raw at least 48 hours before they open, and you are advised to "flame your shit" extra long on one of their one mini-grills (actually just poorly designed hot plate) until its burnt black to avoid any "poop bummers" later in the evening. Will frequently Tweet the wrong location to keep out "ordinaries."
Ferredibles. Started by an ex-hippie coffeehouse barista and a 40something record shop clerk who looks like he woke up passed out on the street, this animal-only food truck serves the culinary cravings of everyone's favorite adorable "alt-pet" -- the ferret! (Not to mention their strange and annoying owners -- there's a special play area for them right behind the truck.) Finicky ferret ferreters can step up and order micro-delicacies like "meat, organs, bones, skin, feathers and fur."* As an added (and completely au gratis) feature, the minute you place your order, a specially placed sprinkler system sprays a violent blast of urine on your arm.
2 Chefs, 1 Truck. In a perfect world, this superb truck would not even be on this list. Two master chefs -- Encarnaccion "Skippy" Valdes from Miami's Cuban-fusion oasis La Barba, and Italian wunderkind Charlemagne "Kid" Polizzi from Seaside Heights, New Jersey's [random drunken obscenities] Bar and [more obscenities] Grill -- joined their star power for a saucy Latin take on traditional Italian street food. Yet for some reason people have been staying away in groves. There have even been picket protests by angry feminists and repeated raids by the Vice Division of the LAPD. Hey, no one said the food truck business wasn't risky!
The Paul Reiser Show. No one really knows why this truck has even made an appearance or what it serves -- and frankly, no one really wants to know.
Shmelvis Parsley's TCB Greasepit. After a lengthy copyright infringement lawsuit with Graceland Enterprises, this rockin' 'n' rollin' wagon has reopened with a new name yet has kept its vanguard take on white-trash cuisine intact: burnt-bacon sandwiches, runny eggs, fried banana dumplings with a side of deep-fried Twinkies, shitloads of amphetamine pills. Projecting videos of Elvis (female impersonators) and piping in the evergreen sounds of The King (of Memphis Wrestling Jerry Lawler's 1985 solo album) over its intercom, this truck is sure to satisfy your stomach as well as your jones for all things sort-of Elvis.
Jack White's Third Man Rolling Record Store. This most confounding truck from multi-tasking former White Stripes frontman Jack White seems like a perfect idea on paper. What self-respecting music nerd wouldn't love a traditional take on American tavern food with a most delicious innovation: it's all shaped like record albums! In practice, however, this venture is a grisly failure. We ordered the "I Cut Like a Bufffalo" special and received a parcel of food that looked so much like a classic vinyl 7-inch (in its own edible sleeve, no less) that we almost wanted to play it before we ate it, ha ha. Unfortunately, we wound up picking bits of particle board out of our teeth and swallowing painfully sharp daggers of black shiny "vinyl." Ugh, and the taste! All waxy and petrochemically. Also: no condiments, or napkins, or utensils, or a menu, or beverages, or grill, or smells of things cooking. Mr. White, we suggest you stick with the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather and producing Wanda Jackson and leave the yummy food to the pros!
Armenian Yellwagon. Turks won't eat here if they know what's good for them. Not even sure if they serve food.
James' Francophile. OK, let's get this out of the way: YES, shapeshifting actor/writer/artist James Franco IS behind this new food truck concept with a tinge of Tinseltown fairy dust -- or some sort of powdery substance -- sprinkled throughout its grease traps. And YES, he mans the grill and till and also plays a brief ukelele set between orders and gives women breast exams and teaches stoner-skateboard-snowboard lingo to passing children and does a live painting to Vijay Iyer's new CD while directing a remake of The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller...is this joke played out yet? The food is not french but Franco-American: the Oscar-nominated thespian is too exhausted and disoriented to do anything but open cans of Beefaroni and Spaghetti-Os and thrust them at you and squint hopefully as you eat it with your fingers.
SoCalFusion. Expecting the street-food equivalent of Michael's in Santa Monica or Spago in Beverly Hills, we were suprised to find a standard "roach coach" with the kind of bargain-basement fare (burritos, wrapped sandwiches, sludgy coffee) you'd find parked outside of a warehouse in Vernon at 1pm on a Tuesday. The only difference we could see was the persistent sounds of 1970's jazz fusion playing REALLY LOUD over the loudspeaker -- and not even the good Weather Report/Bitches Brew kind but some sort of sub-Santana piffle that goes on for like 45 minutes and makes you feel like you're in a proctologist's waiting room in Century City at 2pm on a Thursday. Turns out, its the music of the truck's owner Esai "Starchild Dreamcatcher Funkburgher" Ramirez and his sub-Santana jam band he led through 39 lineup changes and one album during the Carter Administration. FYI: He will try to sell you his new self-released CD before he will even discuss your order.
Carl Sagan's Wonderful World of gAstronomy. Seriously, hasn't this whole "molecular gastonomy" thing gone a little too far? In the tradition of famed MG chefs like elBulli's Ferran Adrià, several illegitimate descendants of the late astronomer/TV host Carl Sagan have thrown their hat into the latest and hottest and most creatively unregulated culinary trend in recent memory. Bad idea jeans, phood pholks. First off, no one remembers who Carl Sagan is; he's like those late-70s celebrities like Ewell Gibbons or Michael Sarrazin (Remember them? No? See?). Second, their Carrot-Toppy take on the MG fad is ill-suited for street food: like speading the entire street in front of the truck with foie gras and then pointing down to it and saying, "Get it? Street Food? Right?" or having to digest an entire Thanksgiving meal through an I.V. or download a spaghetti dinner through your iPOd. I mean, really? Let's get back to basics, people!