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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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).

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.

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.

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.

California: Mariscos Jalisco

If Los Angeles had a signature food truck dish, it’d likely be tacos, given the proliferation of excellent taco trucks across the city. But what set Mariscos Jalisco apart from the competition are its deep-fried shrimp tacos, a dish that Raul Ortega brought from his Mexican hometown of San Juan de los Lagos, where he was also a street food vendor. After moving to L.A. more than a decade ago, he rode the food truck wave with his signature creation, earning devotees that include Chrissy Teigen, who summoned the truck to her house on Oscars night. The star dish features a tortilla rolled around shrimp and vegetables that’s deep-fried, then topped with tomato-cabbage salsa and creamy avocado (A self-professed avocado lover, Raul tops just about everything on the menu with it.). Ortega also serves up the flavors of his hometown with dishes like the tostado mixta, with fish ceviche, whole shrimp and pieces of octopus piled onto a toasted tortilla. And happily, the once-secret Poseidon, a dish of shrimp and octopus in a red aguachile, is now a regular menu item, so ask for it by name at the truck’s permanent location on East Olympic Boulevard.

Colorado: Quiero Arepas

Quiero Arepas began when Igor Panasewicz would make the arepas of his native Venezuela and deliver them to his wife, Beckie, during bartending shifts. Soon customers started to place orders, too, leading to the launch of a food truck in 2011. Cornmeal patties are grilled, baked and split open for filling. There are vegan and vegetarian versions, but the hands-down crowd favorite is the La Havana, a riff on the Cubano featuring slices of slow-roasted pork loin layered into a pillowy grilled pocket and topped with ham, cheese and a pickle-mustard-mayo sauce. The couple shares truck stops on social media, and makes regular visits to the South Pearl Street Farmers Market.

Connecticut: The Cheese Truck

The Cheese Truck began as a natural extension of owner Tom Sobocinski’s locally beloved (and now-shuttered) cheese-centric New Haven restaurant, Caseus. Given his love for cheese and the near-universal appeal of grilled cheese, he decided to go all-in on the toasty, melty sandwiches. Each grilled cheese features a signature, seven-cheese blend — including local melters from Mystic Cheese Company and Cato Corner — which diners can customize with add-ons such as bacon, guacamole, tomato or pulled pork. The fan-favorite is a combo of bacon and guacamole, to which Sobocinski likes to add hot cherry peppers. The cheese and add-ons are piled onto slices of Whole G bakery sourdough slathered with butter, grilled open-faced to guarantee a golden burnish, and then served with cornichons and grainy mustard to cut the richness. A side of tomato soup for dipping is also highly recommended. Though The Cheese Truck rolls into events, farmers’ markets, and breweries across the Constitution State, it’s often posted up on Yale’s campus in downtown New Haven where it’s a favorite among students, faculty and locals alike.

Delaware: Mojo Loco

Some might call Wilmington-based food truck Mojo Loco a glorified hot dog cart, but chef Steve Ruiz refers to it as "an open kitchen on wheels." His signature mojo pork anchors the menu — the tender citrus-and-garlic braised pork tacos are a fan-favorite — but Ruiz also puts his stamp beloved local blue crabs. Don’t miss the crab cake and lobster bisque when it’s on special, along with the popular crab fries, seasoned with Old Bay, piled with crab meat and topped with pico de gallo, queso fresco and a chipotle ranch drizzle. Follow the truck on social media for the weekly schedule or find them at the Downtown Visions farmers market in Wilmington on Wednesdays.

Florida: Santo Dulce

There are churros, there are ice cream sundaes and then there are Santo Dulce’s churro sundaes, a confection that has become a sensation in Miami as much for its sweet-tooth-sating powers as its Instagram appeal — you can’t miss the halo-shaped churros that crown each Santo Sundae. If you get stuck deciding between the near endless combinations of mix-and-match churro toppings and glazes, opt for one of co-founder Yule Nuñez’s personal favorites, the Santa Teresa con Fresa (a strawberry ice cream base) paired with a Sacred Nutella Halo, a halo-shaped churro dipped in Nutella. Others include a version inspired by tres leches cake, and churros flavored with guava and cheese. The truck posts its weekly schedule on Instagram, but on weekends it’s often in Miami’s artsy Wynwood neighborhood.

Georgia: Nana G’s Chicken & Waffles

Before he started turning out his locally famous bacon-infused waffles and fried chicken, Guy Hollcroft worked in the fashion industry. While on a business trip to California, where he had planned to start a denim company, he discovered L.A.’s food truck revolution. The seed was planted, and after his mom discovered some of his grandmother’s old recipes, he found his concept. Nana G is named for his Grandma Grimes, and Nana G’s Chicken & Waffles is indeed inspired by the bacon-studded flapjacks she used to serve her family alongside her signature 48-hour brined fried chicken. The recipe has evolved into a modern Southern classic with the bacon-infused Belgian waffles topped with fried chicken tenders, making them easy to eat or even roll into a waffle taco. Nana G’s is a regular fixture at Georgia Tech, Emory University and Clark Atlanta University, where lucky students can forgo the cafeteria and swipe their meal cards at the truck.

Hawaii: Porky’s

Hawaii is abundant with local flavors, including locally beloved kalua pork. It serves as the inspiration for Justin Hier’s Kauai-based food truck, Porky’s, which specializes in sandwiches with slow-cooked local pork that he crisps on the flat-top before piling into sandwiches. Porky’s is typically parked in Waimea on Kauai’s sunny west side, so after a day of hiking in the Waimea Canyon, refuel with the #3, a grilled cheese sandwich with mounds of kalua pork and sautéed onions contained between layers of Muenster and Havarti cheeses. It’s paired with a side of homemade sweet-tangy barbecue-style Porky’s sauce. For a case of the meat sweats, double down on the pork with the #1, starring a grilled pork sausage tucked into a toasted French roll and topped with pineapple, sautéed sweet onions, and smoky kalua pork, then smothered with Porky’s sauce.

Idaho: MakyJames Grill

When James Hamilton decided to start a food truck back in 2015, he chose a classic American concept specializing in grilled and fried foods. The Boise native operates MakyJames — a mash-up of his and his brother, Mak’s, names — with his mom, who suggested adding "grill" to the truck’s name to highlight the open-flame that gives the truck’s burgers and grilled chicken their char. The classic bacon cheeseburger is a solid choice, especially when paired with crinkle-cut fries and fry sauce, an Idaho staple that tastes like a tangy ketchup-mayo hybrid. For another state signature, order the finger steaks, which originated in Boise. Lean strips and pieces of steak are lightly battered and deep-fried; order like a local and get ‘em with a kicky house made cocktail sauce, though we imagine fry sauce goes nicely, too. And since sauce is clearly tops here, customize your burger or grilled chicken sandwich with a medley of sauces, like the popular Sauce Boss Burger which mixes ranch and sweet chipotle BBQ sauce.

Illinois: Crust Culture

As Chicago suburbanites, Brenton and Colleen Stafford are surrounded by pizza fiends. But even so, their Neapolitan pizzas stand out. Inspired by Brenton’s brother, who runs a wood-fired pizza truck in Rhode Island, the Staffords built a custom truck, perfected their signature two-day fermented dough and, in 2017, launched Crust Culture in North Aurora with their wood-burning Valoriani Italian oven that reaches temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees. Place your order, then snag a front-row spot to watch the team stretch dough, assemble toppings and fire the pie before your eyes until the crust blisters and yields a puffy-yet-chewy texture. The signature pizza, the Portio di Milo, features a savory-spicy-sweet medley with house-made mozzarella, Calabrian sausage, candied jalapenos and blackberry balsamic onions. Look for an Italian-beef-style pie coming soon, the Stafford’s homage to the famous Chicago Italian beef sandwich.

Indiana: Pierogi Love

Using a converted delivery truck, Rob Wilder dishes out pierogi to Indianapolis locals. Pierogi Love’s most-popular dish is called the Loaded Lender, a riff on a loaded baked potato in which potato-and-Cheddar-stuffed pierogi are deep-fried, then loaded up with Cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, sour cream and chives. You’ll find the pierogi truck at local breweries, markets, festivals and events around Indianapolis, but it’s worth following the truck on social media to find out when the coveted bananas foster dessert pierogis hit the menu.

Iowa: Top Bun

Dave Barry is a proud Iowan, so it should come as no surprise that locally sourced ingredients are a priority for Top Bun, his Des Moines-based burger truck. He sources local beef, local buns and hoagie rolls, and Italian sausage meatballs from renowned Graziano Brothers for his USS Torpedo, a meatball-, red sauce- and provolone-stuffed hoagie. On the burger front, try the fan-favorite Flyin’ Hawaiian, a seared one-third-pound patty stacked with grilled pineapple, roasted red peppers and teriyaki mayo. Pair with an order of Truffle Shuffle Tots, fancy potato tots tossed in truffle oil and Parmesan with a spicy mayo drizzle. Barry uses the tots to finish the Captain Coyle (pictured above), a black-bean veggie burger topped with roasted corn salsa and cucumber ranch. You’ll find the truck’s schedule updated on its website — local office parks, the State Capitol complex, and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park downtown are all favorite hangs — but you can also place orders online for a specific pick-up time to skip the line.

Kansas: Torched Goodness

Since founding crème brûlée truck Torched Goodness in 2009, Julia Ireland has created more than 30 flavors of custard for her torched-to-order confections that she sells throughout the state. Fan-favorites include sea salt caramel, infused with homemade caramel sauce, or the cult-favorite lavender, steeped with fragrant locally grown dried flowers. A summer-ready strawberry basil, infused with homegrown basil and topped with fresh berries and a balsamic glaze, and warming fall flavors such as maple bacon and pumpkin spice, are among the seasonal standouts. The mint-green truck stops at the Lawrence Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and at area street fairs and festivals. Torched Goodness often rolls up to local wineries, too, where many of the custard flavors are a fine match for the wines, such as orange blossom crème brûlée with a summery Pinot Grigio.

Kentucky: Louisville Dessert Truck

After designing up to seven wedding cakes every weekend for over a decade, Leah Stewart decided it was time to trade her piping bag for a food truck. Since 2011 she’s run The Louisville Dessert Truck, creating nostalgia-inducing desserts such as brownies, cookie-ice-cream sandwiches and ice pops, all with the deft touch of a formally trained pastry chef. She’s earned a devoted following for her Maker’s Mark bourbon brownies, in which fudgy, gooey brownies are splashed with Maker’s Mark bourbon, and topped with bourbon cream candy and a chocolate drizzle. When the Louisville summer temperatures soar, locals seek out the small-batch ice pops in out-of-the-box flavors such as elderflower-lemon, hibiscus tea and hummingbird, named for the classic Southern cake’s banana, pineapple, and coconut flavors. And of course, there’s also a Maker's Mark bourbon-peach popsicle — Kentucky is bourbon country, after all.

Louisiana: Diva Dawg

Chef Ericka Lassair — aka Chef Diva — came up with her concept for Diva Dawg, which specializes in New Orleans-style hot dogs, after she couldn’t shake a craving. Diva Dawg rolls through the Big Easy slinging signature dawgs like the raving chili dog, in which a custom Creole-spiced pork-and-beef frank is topped with red beans, fried chicken and ketchup aioli. She’s steadily earned a reputation for her crawfish etouffee sauce, too, a roux-based sauce that Lassair cooks until it achieves a cheesy, creamy texture. The consistency makes it perfect for smothering not just hot dogs, but fries and nachos, too. Finish strong with an order of her locally famous apple-pie-inspired bread pudding, finished with an apple-whiskey glaze.

Maine: The Lobster Buoy

Since its founding in 2017, the Bangor-based Lobster Buoy has become a favorite among locals and visitors for its roster of regional seafood classics. The signature lobster roll comes in three sizes: the two-ounce Baby Buoy, a quarter-pound sandwich or a half-pound (as pictured), with freshly shucked lobster meat mixed with mayo and piled onto a buttery grilled bun, served plain or with hot drawn butter. Upgrade your roll to a basket and it’ll come with fresh-cut French fries and homemade coleslaw. Owners Benjamin Gregory and Erin Doughty round out their menu with additional Maine bounty, including fried whole belly clams, fish ‘n' chips, crab rolls and lobster stew. Pro tip: ask for the secret menu lobster melt, which melts sweet lobster meat into a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.

Maryland: Flash Crabcake Company

Maryland natives and restaurateurs Jeff and Jo Gordon couldn’t find the crab cakes they grew up eating without going to a sit-down restaurant, so they decided to make some themselves. The resulting Flash Crabcake Company has developed a loyal following around Baltimore for its speedy service and signature crab cakes — the key is no filler — as well as the cream of crab soup. Sample both with the aptly named Best of Both, starring a six-ounce all-lump crab cake topped with cream of crab soup. When their son noticed how many fans were taking multiple crab cakes home, much like you would with a box of donuts, they started offering The Big Deal, six cakes and a quart of soup, and The Very Big Deal, twelve cakes and two quarts of soup. The couple and their two sons are so busy, they’re working on a second truck and hope to launch a production and shipping facility to spread the Flash Crab Cake love beyond the Eastern seaboard.

Massachusetts: Papi’s Stuffed Sopapillas

After falling in love with sopapillas on a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jason Melmed saw the potential for putting his stamp on the fried pastries with bold flavor combinations. Since launching in 2015, Papi’s Stuffed Sopapillas has earned fans all around Boston. The blue truck (look for the mustachioed sopapilla donning a chef’s hat) visits local festivals, farmers markets and breweries serving sopapillas that are made from scratch, flash-fried until crisp-chewy, then split and stuffed like a pita pocket. Popular picks include the bulgogi kimchi, stuffed with bulgogi steak that’s been marinated in an 18-spice blend, sweet chile cream cheese and kimchi slaw, and the pork al pastor, made with chipotle-smoked pork and a hatch green chile aioli slaw, a nod to the pastry’s New Mexican roots. Melmed’s favorite is the Fluffernutter, stuffed with marshmallow Fluff (which was invented in nearby Somerville) and Teddie’s Peanut Butter from nearby Everett. Make up your own combination and your wish may be granted — local legend has it that the craziest custom order was an ice-cream-stuffed sopapilla with bacon, peanut butter, Oreo, Cadbury creme eggs and whipped cream.

Michigan: Twisted Mitten

The Detroit-based Twisted Mitten — formerly known as Qais Truck — has racked up numerous awards, TV appearances and major street cred for its farm-to-table halal Mediterranean food. Chef-owner Omar Anani serves dishes crafted with local ingredients, for example, risotto balls stuffed with local mushrooms. The fan-favorite remains the falafel, using local chickpeas that are soaked overnight and ground with loads of cilantro, parsley, garlic and onion — are tucked into fresh Yasmeen Bakery pita with hummus, pickled turnips, salad and tahini dressing. Wash it all down with a housemade soda on draft, which comes in flavors such as strawberry-rose and watermelon-jalapeño.

Minnesota: The MidNord Empanada Truck

Empanadas’ portability, along with their savory and sweet applications, are pretty ideal for a food truck. Or so gambled Phil Gaffney and his wife, Megan. After learning learning to make the hand-held pies from an Ecuadorian family in New York City, the Gaffneys launched the MidNord Empanada Truck with the motto "traditional Spanish empanadas, Minesota-style." Seek out the Juicy Lucita, a riff on the locally famous cheese-stuffed burger. Here, the dough is stuffed with a ground-beef-and-bacon mixture, followed by a cheese pocket of local sharp Cheddar and Colby jack, then crimped closed, fried until golden-crisp and finished in the oven for maximum meltiness. Follow the truck on social media to find out when the Gaffneys drop the fall-favorite pumpkin pie empanada, crafted with homemade pumpkin pie filling, cinnamon sugar and vanilla whipped cream.

Mississippi: Oxsicles

Oxford-based Oxsicles rolls to refresh. Owner Lauren Klimetz makes all-natural ice pops in all shades of the rainbow, using fruits and vegetables to dye each flavor — beets for red, carrots for orange, spinach for green and blue fresh water algae for blue. As a bonus, most of the pops are dairy-free, many have no added sugar and, because of her own dietary restrictions, the pops are soy- and gluten-free too. Strawberry remains a top seller, bolstered with lemon and sweetened with local honey, though Klimetz likes to think of her Green Machine as her signature pop, a creamy, sweet-tangy number made with pineapple, avocado, honey and spinach. Look for stellar seasonal treats such as chai fig, which blends cold brew chai with locally grown figs, or the fall-ready vegan pumpkin 'cheesecake,' made with local pumpkins and soaked cashews. There are even peanut-butter-and-banana Pupsicles for furry friends, which are mounted on a raw-hide-alternative dog chew instead of a stick. Find the pops at the Oxford Community Farmers Market and Oxford Mid-Town Market, and check the website and social media for up-to-date schedules.

Missouri: Seoul Taco

Though there are now brick-and-mortar Seoul Taco locations in Missouri and Illinois, the O.G. food truck remains a St. Louis staple. Open since 2011, when neither food trucks nor Korean food were prevalent in the city, David Choi's Seoul Taco puts a contemporary, approachable spin on the Korean flavors and foods Choi grew up eating. The menu features bases such as burritos, tacos, nachos, and bowls, which diners can spin into their own Korean-fusion creations by adding items such as kimchi, bulgogi beef and gochujang peppers. Fan-favorites include kimchi-fried-rice-stuffed spicy pork burritos or bulgogi steak tacos, which nestles Korean barbecue-style beef into tortillas with mixed greens and sesame vinaigrette. You'll find the truck at local breweries like Four Hands Brewery, as well as office parks and summer festivals.

Montana: Blue Smoke Barbeque

Winters in Big Sky Country are notoriously tough, so when Bozeman locals see the Blue Smoke Barbeque truck come summer time, there's guaranteed to be a line. They're likely to smell the truck even before they spy the plume of the trademark blue smoke, when the air is redolent of wood-fired sizzling 'cue. Chef-owner Justin Koller smokes locally sourced meats in the style of Texas barbecue, so beef brisket, smoked over a combination of imported Texas oak and local apple and cherry woods, is a prominent feature. There are also the requisite ribs and pulled pork, but Koller's personal favorite are the whole chickens, which he brines in a local IPA before giving each the low-and-slow smoker treatment. Order a half or whole chicken, then take any leftovers home to make tacos or sandwiches. Given his chef pedigree, all sides and sauces are made from scratch; pair the brisket with a smoky sauce made from Bozeman Brewing Co.'s porter and smoked peppers and onions. You'll find the truck posted up outside an old A&W drive-up restaurant in Three Forks, as well as at breweries and events in Bozeman.

Nebraska: Mosaic Pickle

Deanna Jones has always loved to cook, but the idea for and confidence to run a food truck came after winning a local chili cook-off. To allow for maximum creative freedom with the menu, she named the truck Mosaic Pickle, evoking an eclectic patchwork menu of inspirations (plus, she's a huge fan of pickles). Since launching her Omaha-based truck in 2013, she's put her stamp on street food, transforming the components of a gyro into a puffy Greek-inspired steak taco with tzatziki; and Cuban sandwich sliders, starring slow-cooked, citrus-marinated pork topped with brown sugar-glazed smoked ham, pickles, mustard and garlic-Parmesan aioli, which took first place in a state-wide food truck competition. But for all the global inspiration, you'll also find sought-after dishes that hit close to home, including deep-fried, local corn on the cob (a nod to the state's Corn Husker nickname) and a classic Reuben, fashioned after the original at Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel, where corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing are piled high between slices of grilled marble rye from Rotella's Bakery. Look for the truck at local businesses, night farmers markets, festivals and breweries around town.

Nevada: The Cookie Bar

Jennifer Baumgartner had the name for her dream bakery picked out long before it became a reality. But in 2012, she took the plunge and launched The Cookie Bar, popping up at events around Las Vegas with her small batch cookies. It was at one of these events that she met her now-husband Caleb, who owned a Chicago-style food truck and was himself an experienced food truck builder. Ready to help Jennifer grow her blossoming baked-goods business, Caleb helped transformed two old postal trucks — just ten feet long and six feet wide — into a mini fleet of The Cookie Bar food trucks. The menu features desserts both boozy and non-boozy; for a kid-friendly treat, opt for the perennially popular Kitchen Sink Bars, which stuff an Oreo or peanut butter cup between chocolate chip cookie dough and brownie batter, to bake and top with milk chocolate and candy. For a more adult treat, there’s the rum-infused caramel-coated Booze Munch, or the Twisted Krispie, a brown-butter-and-sea-salt-infused marshmallow-puffed-rice-cereal confection that can be spiked with wedding cake-flavored vodka. Hey, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?

New Hampshire: Lunch Lady Food Truck

Rather than pick a singular food truck concept, JJ Hall opted for a "not your average lunch lady" approach, so she could dish up something for everyone, from barbecue to quinoa. Hit the Concord-based Lunch Lady Food Truck early if you want to snag an order of the crowd-pleasing Reuben Egg Rolls, stuffed with corned beef, tangy sauerkraut, shredded Swiss and a touch of pepperoncini, served with house Russian dressing. The Skirted Burger smashes a quarter-pound Angus patty on the griddle before it's flipped and topped with a hefty mound of shredded Cheddar, then and steamed until the skirt of cheese is melty. Pair with the Garlic Parm Fries, crisp crinkle-cut fries tossed with fresh garlic and grated Parmesan cheese — it's garlicky enough that each order comes with mints on the side. For a regionally inspired dish, try the arugula apple salad, starring local apples, maple-candied pecans and a maple-lemon vinaigrette. The Lunch Lady is regularly stationed at Douglas N. Everett Arena and Lithermans Limited Brewery, but check the website and social media for updates.

New Jersey: Romano’s Disco Fries

A New Jersey diner staple, disco fries typically feature crinkle cut fries topped with brown gravy and melted mozzarella. Long-time chef and restaurant consultant Pat Romano pays tribute with his food truck, Romano’s Disco Fries, turning out a classic version with his own cheffed-up beef gravy, as well as a Jersey-pride version topped with fried Taylor ham cubes and Cheez Whiz. His signature fries also serve as the base for signature creations, like Philly cheesesteak fries loaded with chipped ribeye beef, Cheez Whiz and diced onions, or buffalo chicken-topped fries complete with chopped celery and blue cheese dressing. Up next, he hopes to roll out a pulled-pork-topped disco fries. Look for the Ocean County-based food truck at Icarus Brewery in Lakewood, and events across Manasquan.

New Mexico: Oni Noodles

In Albuquerque, Oni Noodles has earned a reputation for deeply flavorful bowls of ramen made from carefully sourced ingredients. Co-owners David Gaspar de Alba and Daniel Linver met while working at Sliver Leaf Farms in Corrales, New Mexico, where they bonded over their love of local ingredients. The pair teamed up in 2017, at first slinging noodles once a month, but eventually scaling up to bi-weekly. Oni Noodles' signature (and most popular) ramen is the shoyu, which stars a broth made from slowly simmered roasted local pork bones from Talus Wind Ranch, bobbing with springy Sun Noodles, a sous-vide egg, thinly sliced local pork belly and roasted seasonal vegetables. For a hyper-local (and vegan) taste, don't miss the pecan dashi ramen (pictured above), where the broth is bolstered with local chiles, toasted sesame purée and pecan milk. Linver recommends adding smoked bone marrow to your bowl — it's served in the bone and can be scooped out to eat solo or stirred into the broth for an added smoky, savory layer. You’ll find Oni Noodles at Marble Brewery weekly or by checking the schedule on the website and social media.

New York: Cinnamon Snail

At first glance, Cinnamon Snail might seem exceedingly gluttonous, but the popular food truck is entirely vegan. Since 2010, legions of New Yorkers have stopped in their tracks to ogle the gorgeous display of doughnuts, in flavors such as vanilla-bourbon crème brûlée or blueberry-rhubarb, or spent the better part of their lunch break waiting for over-the-top veggie burgers like the Beastmode Burger Deluxe, an ancho-chili-seitan-burger topped with jalapeño mac and cheese and smoked chile-coconut "bacon" on a grilled pretzel bun slicked with chipotle "mayo." You’ll find the truck at vegan food festivals across New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Follow the truck on social media for up-to-date appearances.

North Carolina: So Good Pupusas

So Good Pupusas' owner Cecilia Polanco ensures that her pupusas — a griddled, filled flatbread from her family’s native El Salvador — live up to the 'so good' part of her Durham food truck's name. First off, they taste so good — stuffed with a paste-like filling that gets its deep flavor from an hours-long process of thrice-cooking ingredients. But Polanco also aims to do good, funding her non-profit Pupusas for Education, which provides scholarships to undocumented students pursuing higher education opportunities. Perennially popular picks include the chicharron y queso, pork and cheese, the vegetarian-friendly frijol y queso, beans and cheese, or one of Polanco's personal faves, the ayote, or zucchini and cheese. The pupusas are served with traditional toppings of curtido, or pickled cabbage and carrots, and mild or spicy salsa. Find the blue-and-white truck at regular haunts like La Cooperativa Latina LCCU and at Cocoa Cinnamon’s Lakewood and Geer Street locations.

North Dakota: Up North Catering

Run by experienced chefs Cody and Denise Monson, the Bismarck-based Up North Catering food truck is heavily inspired by their roots in North Dakota and the "up north" part of Minnesota. Look for clever riffs on hearty regional dishes, like the best-selling Bat Out of Hell, a wild-rice-meatloaf sandwich with aged Cheddar, barbecue aioli, sarsaparilla onions and arugula. Or take the Curried Knoephla Soup; instead of serving the German dumplings in a traditional potato soup, they're set adrift in a creamy curry broth with vegetables and crispy leeks. Look for the red-and-white truck at the BisMarket farmers' market Saturday mornings, Dialectic Brewing Company and local festivals.

Ohio: The Chili Hut

Growing up, Fadi Khalilieh's family owned a diner, slinging breakfast all day, burgers, sandwiches, and their signature Cincinnati-style chili, which is often served over spaghetti (a local delicacy). Khalilieh took the family recipe and top-secret, 20-spice blend (like most Cincinnati chili, there’s cinnamon in there) and, together with his dad, slings classic Cincinnati-style chili from his food truck, The Chili Hut. You can order your chili different "ways" — the numbered combinations are well-known among locals, two-way for spaghetti and chili, for instance, or five-way with spaghetti, chili, cheese, beans and onions. For a hand-held take, opt for the Cheese Coney, an all-beef chili dog topped with mustard, onions, cheese and jalapeños, or the Eden Pork, which features a Queen City Sausage Hot Mett — formally known as Mettwurst, a German smoked pork sausage — that's smothered with chili and finished with the same toppings plus homemade coleslaw. If you’re really in the mood for on-the-go fare, opt for the fan-favorite Walking Taco, Fritos or Doritos (or both, no judgements here) topped with chili and a medley of taco toppings. Find The Chili Hut at weekend festivals and food truck rallies around Cincy, or follow them on social media to get your up-to-date chili fix.

Oklahoma: Whole Latte Pie

The aptly named Whole Latte Pie specializes in pies by the slice and carefully crafted espresso drinks. For a signature pairing, opt for a slice of the Samoa pie with a Mexican mocha. The pie is fashioned after the eponymous Girl Scout cookie (fun fact: Girl Scout cookies started in Oklahoma) where a velvety cream cheese caramel filling is blanketed with toasted coconut and a chocolate drizzle, all nestled inside a buttery chocolate graham cracker crust. The Mexican mocha mingles locally roasted espresso from EÔTÉ with Abuelita's Mexican-style hot chocolate, steamed milk and whipped cream. It's worth following the Oklahoma City-based truck on social media not only for its schedule, but for the weekly pie specials, like the guaranteed-to-sell-out salted caramel, which boasts a crushed pretzel crust, fluffy cream-cheese filling and dulce de leche topping.

Oregon: The Pancake Underground

Shenan Hahn and Christopher Kemp once joked that Portland had a food cart for every taste, from vegan organic barbecue trucks to rock 'n' roll pancake carts. But when they realized that there wasn’t actually a music-themed sweet-and-savory pancake cart, they decided to turn the anecdote into a truck of their own: The Pancake Underground. To wit, the Elvis Pancakesly features two buttermilk pancakes layered with peanut butter, banana and bacon, while the Bone-In Thugs N' Harmony rivals any chicken and waffles by pairing bone-in fried chicken with the fluffy rounds. Popular dessert 'cakes include the namesake Pancake Underground, a red velvet pancake topped with banana, maple whipped cream, chocolate and cream cheese drizzles, or the fan-favorite Butterscotch Blondie, in which two butterscotch chip pancakes sandwich a generous dollop of maple-whipped-cream and warm salted caramel (pictured above). Find The Pancake Underground's re-furbished 1957 Jewel camper at the Cartlandia food cart pod on South East 82nd Avenue, or popping up at local events. Fun fact: The owners took the camper's original oven and turned it into a free community library, and anyone who donates to it gets a free pancake with butter and syrup.

Pennsylvania: Authentik Byrek

When Albanian native Arber Dhima couldn't find byrek, a flaky, savory-filled pastry, in his newly adopted hometown of Philadelphia, he learned to make it himself. It was a hit every time he brought it to parties, and soon he had requests for orders piling up. He decided to launch a food truck, first returning to Albania to master homemade phyllo to make his version even better. It worked: Philadelphians have fallen for Authentik Byrek's flaky triangular parcels, stuffed with traditional fillings such as ground beef with sautéed onions, mixed cheese, or Dhima's personal favorite, spinach with feta cheese. He’s even been inspired to create a Philly cheesesteak version, after the locally beloved sandwich, mixing thinly sliced steak, sautéed onions and provolone and Cheddar for the filling. Even so, the traditional ground beef version remains the most popular pick at special events and food trucks.

Rhode Island: Portu-Galo

Rhode Island has one of the largest Portuguese-American populations in the country, and while there are plenty of Portuguese restaurants, Levi Medina noticed that there weren't any food trucks serving his family's cuisine. He's changing that with Portu-Galo, which sells Portuguese sandwiches around Providence. One of the truck’s most-popular combinations is the Bifana, a sandwich so ubiquitous in Portugal, it could be the country's national food. Portu-Galo's version starts with pork loin that's been marinated fresh garlic, pimento moida (a Portuguese red chile paste), salt and a splash of white wine. Thin slices are then pan-fried, topped with caramelized onion and garlic aioli, and piled onto a fresh roll from a local Portuguese bakery. Besides finding out where the truck will be parked, follow Portu-Galo on social media to find out when it'll be serving Bolacha Maria, a traditional Portuguese dessert of espresso-soaked Maria-brand cookies layered with cinnamon-infused whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk. Get there early; the limited servings usually sell out within an hour.

South Carolina: The Holy City Cupcakes

The Holy City Cupcakes started as a farmers' market stall and a now-shuttered brick-and-mortar bakery before Rachel and Allen Carpenter expanded to a food truck in May of 2017. The truck's oversize cupcakes are so popular around Charleston that the truck is out twice a day most days (check Facebook or the Street Food Finders app for the most up-to-date locations). You can customize your confection depending on your cravings or choose from a menu of signature creations. Popular picks include the Bourbon Pecan Vanilla Bean, a vanilla cupcake topped with vanilla bean icing, a bourbon caramel drizzle and crushed pecans, or the Elvis Presley, a chocolate cupcake frosted with peanut butter icing finished with banana chips and a chocolate drizzle. Rachel's personal favorite is an off-menu cupcake that consists of a Southern-inspired red velvet cupcake topped with cheesecake icing, a bourbon caramel drizzle and crushed pecans.

South Dakota: The Big Orange Food Truck

Dean Marshall set his sights on owning a food truck back in culinary school, encouraged by the idea of a flexible schedule and creative license to change the menu while working closely with local farmers. He launched The Big Orange Food Truck in late 2018, traveling around downtown Sioux Falls, to local breweries and around the summer festival circuit. Fans love the cheesy flatbreads and the Green Meat Burritos, which tuck citrus-marinated slow-smoked pork shoulder into a kicky sauce made from jalapeño, serrano and green peppers. For a taste of the region, try the chislic, small bits of skewered meat cooked in local sweet cream butter. Lamb is traditionally used, but you'll also find locally sourced meats ranging from venison to pheasant to goat.

Tennessee: Red’s 615 Kitchen

Chef Erick White honed his chops in Nashville kitchens for more than a decade before striking out on his own with a food truck. It takes a lot of moxie to take on an iconic food like hot chicken, but White was confident he could put his own stamp on it at Red's 615 Kitchen. His signature recipe starts by brining chicken for 36 hours in a buttermilk-and-hot-sauce mix, which keeps the chicken juicy and infuses it with its first layer of heat. Next, the chicken is breaded and rested for two hours (to ensure maximum crispiness), then fried to order. Finally, the chicken obtains Nashville Hot Chicken status once it's slathered in a top-secret, spice-lard mix, which gets its signature heat from spices such as cayenne, ghost pepper, habanero and Carolina Reaper, chased with just a hint of sweetness. Put out the fire with an order of 'slaw or a side of pimento mac and cheese. Follow the truck on social media for current schedules and to keep tabs on coveted spring time specials like the Hot Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich.

Texas: Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ

Tex-Mex and Texas barbecue find ideal harmony at Austin food trailer Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ. Whether you order from the "Tex" side or the "Mex" side, you'll be served pitmaster Miguel Vidal's signature smoked meats, including pulled chicken, pork and brisket, all seasoned with a proprietary rub. Go Tex to have the slices of brisket piled onto a roll, paired with tangy slaw and mesquite-smoked BBQ sauce, or Mex to get the smoky slices nestled into warm homemade tortillas topped with guacamole and tomato-serrano salsa. Either way, popular sides include soupy charro beans, redolent of spice and bacon, and smoked corn, tossed with crema and spice rub. Since this is Texas, you'll also find queso and chips. There’s usually a line come weekends, but it’s worth it for barbecue "hecho con amor," or made with love.

Utah: The Lost Bread

While watching an episode of The Great Food Truck Race, Jake Trembath and his brother, Aaron, joked about starting a food truck of their own, making their favorite breakfast, French toast. In 2016 they launched Salt Lake City's The Lost Bread, named for pain perdu, a dish French peasants made to salvage stale bread by soaking it in an egg-and-milk custard before baking it. The Lost Bread's signature French toast and bread pudding both start with oversized slices of custom-baked local bread, which are soaked in custard, baked till golden then topped with freshly whipped cream and a medley of sauces and fruit. Favorites include Strawberry Sunshine, which pairs fresh strawberries with orange butter, and the Peaches and Cream, a rich, caramel-topped peach combination. Hack the lunch menu with the secret-item Monty Cristo, where slices of French toast house a turkey and pepper Jack grilled cheese with mixed berry sauce. Though the brothers have served mayors, movie stars, and the Utah Jazz, one of the highlights of their food truck journey so far has been their own star turn on The Big Food Truck Tip.

Vermont: Pioneer Food Truck

Burlington-based Pioneer Food Truck serves dishes inspired by owner Jean-Luc Matecat's French heritage and his world travels with his fiancée, Lindsay Taylor. Dishes are made using local ingredients, including Vermont cheese, for dishes like a brisket melt topped with an Alpine-style melter called Savage by Von Trapp Farmstead. Though the menu changes often, the Frontier Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a staple that gets a flavor jolt from a combination of tarragon aioli, hot-pepper honey and mint. Pair any order with skinny, Parisian-bistro-style frites that are sprinkled with roasted salt seasoned with herbes de Provence. Look for Pioneer Food Truck every week at Arts Riot Truck Stop and Foam Brewers or follow them on social media for an up-to-date schedule.

Virginia: Hanu Truck

Since 2017, the vibrantly orange Hanu Truck has traveled to breweries, coffee shops, office parks and festivals around Roanoke and throughout the New River Valley area, serving contemporary Korean street food. Popular dishes include a Bulgogi Sesame Bowl, which pairs the traditional soy-marinated beef with stir-fried noodles, slaw, egg and a double drizzle of garlic sauce and kimchi aioli. After discovering how much their Virginia fans love barbecue, especially pulled pork, Chef Pat Ohpark and his wife, Jessica Ra, added the Beer Belly Bowl to the menu, including low-and-slow beer-smoked pork tossed with sweet chile sauce, then piled onto noodles along with kimchi pickles, soft-cooked eggs, a flurry of fresh herbs and fried dumpling skins for crunch. Whatever you order, don't sleep on a side of the Bunch of B.S. — those fried Brussels sprouts, tossed with crispy wontons and a sweet chile drizzle, could convert even the staunchest sprouts hater.

Washington: Pilgrim Coffee House

Seattle is spoiled for choice when it comes to coffee houses, but there's distinct pleasure in having the coffee come to you. When Justin Shaheen came up short in his fundraising goal to open his dream coffee shop, he took his business on the road in a vintage Ford truck. In addition to offering classic espresso drinks made with house-roasted beans, Pilgrim Coffee House's menu takes a seasonal approach to its craft beverages. Cooler weather means a winter spice latte that warms with a mix of white chocolate, mulling spices and peppermint, and summer brings cold brew mocktails, such as the Delight, crafted with lavender syrup, or the ultra-refreshing Black & Yellow, bolstered with fresh lemonade. (A cold brew ice cream float option is also in the works.) No matter the season, the drinks all pair well with fresh pastries from Temple Pastries, particularly a croissant-muffin hybrid. The truck is hard to miss, and you'll likely spot it driving around Seattle or parked at farmers markets, art fairs and night markets on the weekends.

West Virginia: Southside Sliders

Named for the area of Huntington where owner Jason Webb grew up, Southside Sliders has a reputation for warm hospitality and great cheeseburger sliders and tots, which can be loaded like fries with toppings such as cheese, chili, ranch or bacon. Keep an eye out for the slider of the month, like November's The Lindsey, a nod to Thanksgiving dinner that features a patty topped with roasted turkey, sage-and-onion stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo, all piled onto a roll. In June, the slider of the month pays homage to West Virginia with a namesake burger paired with steak-fried local bologna, grilled onions, and mustard. For another local favorite, opt for the WSAZ-Fritos, a nod to the local TV station’s chili cook-off fundraiser, where patties come topped with chili, cheese and sour cream.

Wisconsin: Curd Girl

Best friends Jessica Wartenweiler and Kayla Zeal grew up in Monroe, Wisconsin, a town known as the Swiss Cheese Capital of the U.S. and host to the Cheese Days festival, which brings in more than 100,000 visitors to their town of 10,000 people. The line for the festival's hand-battered, deep-fried cheese curds was often over a block long, so the women didn't have to look far for inspiration for their Madison-based food cart, Curd Girl. Fresh-made cheese curds are the key to keeping a springy, squeaky texture after frying, so the pair source curds from local dairy Crave Brothers, which they dunk in a top-secret beer batter made with local lager, then fry until golden-crisp outside and gooey-stretchy inside. Dip them in homemade ranch or sriracha aioli. During the Curd Girl season, they pop up at Madison's Dane County farmers market and at local summer festivals.

Wyoming: Bonafide

Not for the faint of appetite, Bonafide in Sheridan has a sterling reputation for its signature two-pound Bombass burritos and gourmet doughnuts, which are dished out at local breweries and the local Farmers Co-op. Since beef is king in Wyoming, opt for the fan-favorite beef-and-potato burrito, which packs two pounds of juicy, well-seasoned beef into a tortilla with home fries and mild or spicy salsa. Doughnuts nearly always sell out, so don't skip out when you see them. The striking rounds come in creative combinations such as raspberry glaze with matcha green tea dust or vanilla bean Bavarian cream with chocolate ganache and fresh berries.