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50 States of Food Trucks

More than mere trend, food trucks have firmly established themselves as a dining genre all their own, and today, there’s never been more variety or creativity in what can be whipped up in a tiny kitchen on wheels. From rock-n-roll-inspired pancakes to churro sundaes, cheese curds to craft coffee, these food trucks serve passion and a dash of home state pride.

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Photo: Marckel Rayshun

Alabama: Smac's Shack Food Truck

Artious Walker’s entrepreneurial spirit was cultivated during his days at Alabama A&M University, where he sold sandwiches grilled on a modest, portable electric grill (until the university shut him down). Undeterred, Walker spent five years learning about barbecue and building out his red-roofed, pine-sided truck. Smac's Shack Food Truck slings smoked meats at weekend festivals along the Gulf Coast, where pulled pork, chopped chicken and brisket can be piled on to fries (Smac Stacks), cheesy tortilla chips (Not-Yo Nachos) or in a sandwich (Bang’n Baguette). For a local taste, go for the chopped chicken Bang’n baguette, in which a flash-fried baguette is sliced-and-stuffed with smoked chopped chicken, then drizzle at will with Alabama white sauce. If you’re hitting the truck late-night, pair your brew with the smoked "wild wangs," which come in three flavors: sassy (hot), classy (lemon-pepper) or ashy (ranch).

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Alaska: El Green-Go’s

Prior to opening his taco and burrito truck, El Green-Go’s, Anchorage-based chef Tyler Howie worked at a healthy-focused restaurant that specialized in vegan options, and whenever he ran Spanish- or Latin-inflected vegan specials, they sold out. That combo inspired the truck’s menu, which offers inventive riffs on burritos and tacos for vegans and meat-lovers alike. Howie smokes all the proteins, a nod to his N.C. roots and barbecue pride, from tofu to local fish and game. Try the smoked-tofu-black-bean-burrito topped with coconut black queso or vegan nacho cheese, or the summer-ready fish tacos featuring smoked halibut topped with lightly pickled local blueberries with shaved fennel (pictured above). There are plans to add elk tacos with pickled blackberries next. Look for the truck at summer festivals and in downtown Anchorage at 4th and L Street.

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Arizona: Emerson Fry Bread

Though he only visited his family’s Native American reservation but twice a year, Loren Emerson grew up with the smell of fry bread, a puffy flatbread made from flour, baking soda, salt and water. Emerson’s Hopi grandmother and her friends would make and sell fry bread to raise money for the family’s touring band, the Salt River Band. The legacy continues with his Phoenix-based truck, Emerson Fry Bread, where he uses the fry bread to make Indian tacos, as with the signature Jazzy (named for his daughter Jasmine), a puffy disc topped with juicy carne asada, sour cream and a housemade fire-roasted-tomato-and-jalapleño salsa. It’s a deceptively simple dish that belies Emerson’s culinary school training; even his salads shine, starring homegrown baby greens, arugula and mesclun with prickly pear vinaigrette. Wash it all down with prickly pear tea and save room for dessert-inspired fry breads, such as the S’more, topped with toasted marshmallows, chocolate syrup, cajeta (a Mexican caramel sauce) and graham cracker crumbs.

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Arkansas: Big Sexy Food

Chef Brent Hale prides himself on the chef-driven gastropub fare he turns out of his Arkansas-based Big Sexy Food trucks, and his fans agree, gathering up and down Arkansas’ I-49, and locals in Fayetteville, Springdale, and downtown Rogers know where to seek out the trucks’ permanent postings at local breweries. Hale’s personality is a big draw too — he even took a memorable starring turn on Guy’s Grocery Games — but he’s just as known for his over-the-top burgers. Take The Nutty Pear-fessor: a bun slicked with jalapeno pepper jam gets layered with a tangle of arugula and shaved purple onions, followed by a mozzarella-and-bacon topped local beef patty that’s crowned with sliced pear and crunchy peanut butter. Then there’s The Oinker, Hale’s personal favorite and a nod to Arkansas barbecue, a six-inch-high porky behemoth topped with barbecue pulled pork, black forest ham, thick-cut bacon and pork rinds. Balance these meaty masterpieces with the brussels sprouts, where deep-fried sprouts get the cheffy touch with a finishing of goat cheese mousse, black walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette.

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