America's 26 Best Food Trucks
While certain cities have emerged as major food truck hubs (think Austin, Portland and LA), they're hardly the only spots where you can score incredible meals on wheels. Join us on a road trip of America's best on-the-go eats!
Photo By: Tim Kothlow
Photo By: Dejan Pesut
Photo By: Joy Godfrey
Roti Rolls, Charleston, South Carolina
Not only is Roti Rolls consistently voted Charleston's best food truck, but for a time it was the South Carolina city's one and only food truck! To be sure, the "Green Machine" is always a welcome sight on the streets, serving roti parathas padded with Caribbean-, Asian- and Indian-inspired fillings made from locally grown ingredients. Think the Funky Farmer with coconut-green-curried local vegetables, the Thurman Murman with braised local short rib and Creole mac 'n' cheese, and the Shrimpin' Ain't Easy, featuring pickled local shrimp and butter bean chow-chow.
Fava Pot, Washington, D.C.
"Eat Healthy for a Good Cause" is the motto at Fava Pot, a beloved D.C. truck that's also birthed a brick-and-mortar business. That means every purchase of gluten-free fava bean falafel, antibiotic-free grilled Cornish hens sprinkled with sumac, and Egypt's vegetarian street staple, koshary (lentils, rice, chickpeas and pasta, bathed in spicy tomato sauce) goes to fund founder Dina Daniel's work with Coptic Orphans. Building on their Valuable Girl Project (a development program that empowers young women through educational mentoring), she currently sponsors Coptic Girl Rising, offering scholarships to gifted girls with college aspirations.
Nong's Khao Man Gai, Portland, Oregon
Nong Poonsukwattana immigrated from Bangkok to Oregon back in 2003, with $70, two suitcases and one badass recipe for khao man gai. And as it turns out, that's all she really needed to open one of the most-sought-after mobile food vending operations in one of America's most-food truck-obsessed cities. Not only has Nong been on the receiving end of major, high-profile press (everywhere from The New York Times to the Washington Post, as well as CNN, Ted Talks, Eater, Munchies and more), but she was able to open a restaurant too, on the strength of a single dish. All patrons need to do is order white or dark meat, from free-range chicken simmered in ginger, garlic and pandan. The chicken is served with a concentrated broth made from the poaching liquid, and jasmine rice toasted in the poultry's rendered fat.
Tot Boss, St. Paul, Minnesota
Who knew that those freezer-section potato nuggets could form the basis of an entire business? Yes, the tots at St. Paul's mobile spud slinger come courtesy of good old Ore-Ida, while the truck tends to indulgent toppings. Here, tots are wrapped in bacon, substituted for corn chips in nachos, tricked out like pizza, doused in gravy and cheese curds for poutine, and even styled into that Minnesota staple, hot dish — a meat, veggie and canned-soup casserole paved with crunchy tots.
Bombay Food Junkies, St. Louis
St. Louis' first and only 100 percent vegan-vegetarian Indian food truck brings Bombay's vibrant street-food culture to the urban heart of Missouri. Alongside the omnipresent samosas, you'll find regional specialties like vada pav: spiced, chickpea flour-coated potato fritters topped with chutney and served on a fluffy bun. There are also wrapped roti sandwiches, such as faux chicken or paneer tikka, teamed with Indo-Chinese noodles or peanut carrot salad.
Micklethwait Craft Meats, Austin, Texas
Standing out from the pack in Austin — one of America's food truck capitals — is quite the accomplishment. And achieving it through barbecue in a state where pitmasters abound is an impressive exploit as well. The fact that Micklethwait's critically acclaimed meat emerges from a trailer (or more precisely, a miniature, screened-in smokehouse positioned mere feet away) is yet another victory. Alongside the all-important brisket, standouts include sausages like lamb, duck and garlicky kielbasa, cooked over post oak.
Blaxican Food Truck, Atlanta
Collard-green quesadillas. Blackened-fish tacos. It's everything you'd expect (and crave) from a truck that serves Mexican soul food. But the cheeky moniker — after a nickname given to owner Will Turner — and quirky concept aren't just about shock value. Besides keeping Atlanta patrons well satiated with shrimp and jalapeno cheese grits tostadas, tips from the truck and donations from the website go toward feeding needy residents throughout the city, through organizations like the Peachtree-Pine Shelter, My Sister's House Shelter and East Point Christian Church.
Gastros, Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island's only USDA-certified mobile food company, Gastros specializes in housemade charcuterie. That means there's not an outsourced sausage, sad stack of cold cuts or preservative-laden hot dog in sight. Consisting solely of heritage meats, all-natural casings and other top-quality ingredients, the offerings extend to Genoa salami and wagyu pastrami sandwiches, as well as bacon cheddarwurst and smoked chorizo deposited in brioche buns basted with garlic butter.
Mannino's Cannoli Express, Hammonton, New Jersey
Ice cream trucks are a dime a dozen. But if you're seeking a quick sugar fix in New Jersey, what could be better than on-the-go cannoli? Drawing on years of experience working at her father's restaurants (where she was often tasked with making pastries) as well a culinary degree, which inspired her to experiment with techniques and flavors, Gabriella Mannino Tomasello has really made the sweet Sicilian treat her own. In addition to traditional vanilla ricotta cannoli, there are inventive seasonal specials such as fresh blueberry and peach, maple bourbon bacon, pumpkin and caramel apple, and limoncello and fig.
Quiero Arepas, Denver
When you want Venezuelan cornmeal cakes (and just happen to be in the Denver area), there's no better destination than Quiero Arepas, run by a Maracaibo native. Not only is the entire menu naturally gluten-free (masa dough is grilled, split and stuffed with fillings like queso, plantains, black beans and shredded beef), but the truck is all about social and environmental responsibility: Produce, meats and cheeses are sourced from local farms, the low-emission vehicle is powered by natural gas, and you won't find lids, straws, plates, utensils or side cups on the premises, in an effort to remain as close to zero waste as possible.
Hero or Villain, Detroit
Whether or not good triumphs over evil (insofar as your order from Detroit's roving sandwich truck is concerned), you're going to end up with something pretty darn delicious. The Captain Planet is bound to please the environmentally conscious set, being composed of portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and mozzarella on a pesto aioli-smeared hoagie roll, while the steak-and-provolone-piled Deathstroke is on a mission to clog your arteries.
Ms. Cheezious, Miami
No Miami bikini body is safe in the face of Ms. Cheezious and its out-of-bounds sandwiches. So much more than white bread cemented shut with plasticine squares of American, the molten grilled cheeses here include the Frito Pie Melt, with chili, jalapenos and corn chips on sourdough; the Mackin Melt, made with house-cured bacon and Gouda mac 'n' cheese; and even a S'mores Melt for dessert, coated with roasted marshmallow, salted hazelnut spread and graham cracker crumbles. And though the menu may sound joyfully juvenile, it's won Ms. Cheezious some very adult accolades, such as South Beach Wine and Food Festival's People's Choice Award for Best Food Truck.
Big Wave Shrimp, Haleiwa, Hawaii
In case you didn't know it, serving shrimp from a truck is an actual thing in Hawaii. And Big Wave Shrimp has ridden that crest right up to the top, luring lunchers in historic Haleiwa with plates of pristine white prawns tossed with garlic butter, dusted with lemon pepper or battered and fried until crisp.
Kogi BBQ Taco Truck, Los Angeles
A true OG, Roy Choi's Kogi (which hit the streets in 2008) helped kick off a nationwide obsession with food trucks, as well as the concept of Asian-inspired tacos. It also codified California as a true nexus of mobile vending and established Twitter as a means for businesses to build a rabid fan base, attracting 150,000 followers (and counting) on the strength of its short rib burritos, spicy pork tacos and kimchi quesadillas.
Flash Crabcake Company, Baltimore
Peddling crabs in Maryland is sort of akin to bringing coals to Newcastle. But if you're going to partake of the native crustacean, it's best to have your cakes made by a bunch of lifelong locals like the folks at Flash. And thanks to their established relationships with shellfish purveyors, the Gordon family (former restaurant owners) are able to keep their quality high and their prices low. A thoroughly streamlined menu — think lump crab cakes, cream of crab soup, or crab cakes bobbing in cream of crab soup — also means your order will be ready in a flash.
Pierogi Wagon, Chicago
This cheerful yellow wagon "spreads the pierogi love" all throughout Chicago. And its pillowy Polish dumplings can be customized to your liking: bursting with white cheddar and potato, spinach and cheese, sauerkraut and mushroom or braised beef, and smothered with grilled onions, sour cream and/or bacon. They're also ideally served with a side of Polish sausage, or the sugar-dusted jelly doughnuts known as pączki.
The Halal Guys, New York City
What began as a humble New York meat cart is now a full-on global franchise (seriously, you'll find The Halal Guys in other locations from Wisconsin to the Philippines). Yet its midtown Manhattan location still attracts some of the city's longest lines for street food — no small feat — wooing office workers, cab drivers and tourists alike with gyro sandwiches and chicken over rice, slathered in proprietary red and white sauces.
Pho Nomenal Dumplings, Raleigh, North Carolina
The 2015 winner of Food Network's own The Great Food Truck Race, this Raleigh, North Carolina, favorite showcases the culinary experiences of two Asian-American women who grew up in the South. The name is one playful example of that, and the menu is very much another — in addition to more straightforward fare such as pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) and pork-and-chive dumplings, look for cheerwine bulgogi sloppy joes, Taiwanese spaghetti and corn-dog banh mi.
I Don't Give a Fork, Newark, Delaware
Don't let the name fool you; this mobile business is a real passion project. After winning a pitch competition sponsored by the University of Delaware, Leigh Ann Tona decided to go all in on her idea. And having nurtured it from a rickety cart purchased off of Craigslist to a full-on food truck parked at the Firefly Music Festival, she's pretty much emerged as Delaware's queen of fork-free eats — sought out for her signature mac 'n' cheesesteaks and her fries dipped in ranch dressing and dusted with garlic powder.
Off the Rez, Seattle
Seattle is a food truck mecca, which means Off the Rez gets serious props for differentiating itself from the crowd. It's the only place in the city where patrons can get a taste of Native American cuisine — most notably Indian fry bread. The puffy, doughy vessels can be enjoyed as is, or used to cradle fillings such as chicken chile verde, pulled pork or burgers, or even ordered as dessert, drizzled with honey, rolled in cinnamon sugar or dolloped with lemon curd, Nutella or jam.
Authentic Gyros, Miami
Served from a truck as blue as the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, the gyros from Miami's Greek machine are definitely legit. Piled with spit-roasted lamb, pork or chicken, they're wrapped in fresh grilled pitas and showered with locally grown tomatoes, onions and housemade tzatziki sauce.
Yeti Dogs, Anchorage, Alaska
The common (and frequently true) perception of hot dogs is that they're jam-packed with mystery meat. Yet this Anchorage, Alaska, purveyor stands proudly behind its proteins, with good reason. All-beef sausages are merely a jumping-off point here; look for links forged from reindeer, alligator, rattlesnake, elk and yak as well.
Burmese Bites, New York City
While it's possible to find fare from just about anywhere in the world in New York City, there are precious few places dedicated to Burmese cuisine. That explains much of the excitement around Burmese Bites, winner of the People's Choice honor in the 2018 Vendy Awards (honoring the city's best street-food purveyors). A primary cause of the fuss, though, is the incredible keema palata, which owner Myo Lin Thway learned to how to make from a trishaw driver, in his hometown of Hinthada. A flatbread — formed from unleavened dough, swung in the air and slapped down repeatedly so it forms paper-thin, ultraflaky layers — is wrapped around juicy chunks of chicken spiced with masala imported from Myanmar.
Streetza Pizza, Milwaukee
Quick — name America's best city for pizza. Bet you said New York, right? Well, according to national media, who've declared Streetza "The #1 Food Truck in America" (Bloomberg Businessweek), one of the "Best Pizza Joints in the U.S." (Travel Observer) and "The Best Food Truck in All the Land" (Eater), Milwaukee may have stripped the Big Apple of its title.
Smoke Et Al, Nashville, Tennessee
As the name suggests, this Nashville favorite goes way beyond barbecue. Granted, the pit-smoked meats are unimpeachable, from hickory ribs to hand-pulled pork shoulder to brisket, either served as is or tucked inside of a taco. But the "Et Al" portion of the menu also deserves mention. Yakitori tater sticks (roasted, fried and skewered Yukon Gold potatoes glazed in Japanese grilling sauce), anyone?
Bang Bite Filling Station, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Enrique Guerrero is something of a culinary celeb in Santa Fe, since he's opened multiple popular restaurants (many of which have showcased what he calls his "Nuevo Hacienda Cuisine") as well as Bang Bite Filling Station, one of the area's longest-running food trucks. And while he's obviously got serious fine-dining chops, he's just as committed to serving up award-winning burgers. Take the Bite Burger, which raises the stakes on the beloved green chile cheeseburger, with jalapenos, serranos, poblanos and chipotles blended right into the meat.