The Grilled Cheese Truck

I love cheese.  One of the best ways to enjoy it is via a grilled cheese sandwich (GCS).  As a kid, I used to come home from school and eat a GCS or two as my “snack”.  It was also one of the first dishes I learned to make – margarine, 2 pieces of wheat bread and a Kraft Single.  As an adult, though, I’ve moved on to more “gourmet” versions and higher quality ingredients…like -REAL- cheese…hahaha.

I’ve been chasing the Grilled Cheese Truck around LA ever since I heard about it months ago.  My first two attempts to partake in the ooey gooey yumminess were thwarted by crazy long lines.  But when I read on Twitter that they would be at South Bay Mini in Torrance for some promotional event a couple of months ago, I told Husband that we were going and dammit, I was going to get me a GCS, even if I had to run people over (preferably in a shiny new Mini)!

Line at Grilled Cheese Truck

When we got there, there was already a line.  Fortunately, it wasn’t anywhere as bad as the last two we encountered.  Sure, we still had to wait about 40 minutes before getting to the order window but I was on a mission. Even the threat of getting towed didn’t deter me; I just sent Husband to move the car instead….  Such a good spouse!

Specialty Sandwiches

The Grilled Cheese Truck offers up several pre-made combinations and a list of ingredients for a build-your-own sandwich.  Bacon, cheddar, gruyere, basil, and tomatoes are just some of the choices you have.  There’s also a “sweet” section for a dessert-y grilled sandwich – banana, nutella and marshmallow!

Pictures speak louder than words

Now, another way I enjoy eating cheese is in mac n’ cheese form.  Imagine my delight when I saw the Cheesy Mac Melt.  OMG…mac n’ cheese in a GCS?  Sure, it sounds like carb overload but what a brilliant idea!  Two of my favoritest cheesy things in one…

I opted to add in the BBQ pork and caramelized onions.  Husband went with the original Cheesy Mac Melt.  I also got an order of the Harvest Melt.  Hey, I didn’t know when I would get to visit the Grilled Cheese Truck again!

Cheesy Mac Melt with bbq pork and caramelized onions

Wear your stretchy pants when you eat Grilled Cheese Truck’s food because they don’t make skimpy sandwiches.  My Cheesy Mac Melt was heavy, rich, delicious Southern comfort in between two slices of crispy, butter-toasted bread.  I devoured this beast but it conquered my hunger so the Harvest Melt waited a few hours before consumption.  After sitting around in a foil bag, the sandwich was still good but the bread had lost its toastiness.  This was a great vegetarian option, full of fall flavors.  I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, which is surprising because I do like my proteins…

Chipmunk??!?! Is that Grilled Cheese speak for chipotle?

The Grilled Cheese Truck also serves up tater tots as a side and for 50 cents extra, you can get a dipping sauce.  We got an order each and opted for the chipotle and nacho cheese sauces.  Turns out, a single order of tots would have sufficed for the two of us.  Not the best tots I’ve had, these were a bit on the greasy side and were a little soggy.  The chipotle dip packed a bit of a kick but paired with oil-heavy tots and a heavy cheese sandwich, it was too rich for my stomach.   The nacho cheese dip was actually better and lighter.

Last weekend, the Grilled Cheese Truck was back at South Bay Mini so Husband and I stopped on our way to the Del Amo Mall to indulge in some GCS goodness.  This time, I tried their double-cream brie and pear with turkey while Husband went for the Cheesy Mac Melt again, but opted to add in bacon.  Last time, we both felt that the original needed some sort of meaty product to offset all the starch.

I keep forgetting that I’m not a big turkey fan.  I want to love turkey but at some point, my tastebuds and stomach go “DONE!”.  The brie and pear were a great combo, with the brie not being overly strong but still having that bite to it.  But at some point, the turkey did me in and I stopped enjoying the sandwich.  I think next time, sans turkey.  Or maybe I’ll try the Cheesy Mac Melt with bacon because it looked awfully good…and Husband didn’t give me a bite even though I kept giving him the “look”.  He was too busy eating to notice, I guess…

Price wise, Grilled Cheese Truck isn’t the cheapest; our 2nd time eating their food cost us $18. A bit high for a “food truck”, but the sandwiches are fancier with better restaurant-quality ingredients so I don’t be-grudge the hit on my wallet as much.

4 NOMs for Grilled Cheese Truck!

The Grilled Cheese Truck
http://twitter.com/grlldcheesetruk
Grilled Cheese Truck (food truck) on Urbanspoon

First Annual LA Street Food Fest

LA Street Food Fest

VIP Patio

Saturday, we hit up the LA Street Food Fest.  When we arrived, there was a line that wrapped around the block.  Fortunately, we had snagged pre-sold VIP tickets but even then, there was a 1/2hr+ wait to get in because they were checking names off a list.  I appreciate the effort to be green and not have people print out anything but it would be faster and still eco-friendly to have VIP attendees print out tickets, collect them at the door, and then recycle the paper.  Looking for each person’s name on a list really backs up a line…

The VIP lounge was okay.  The free drinks, swag bag, and use of indoor restrooms did make the $30 price worth it, in my opinion, but I was disappointed by the lack of exclusive VIP vendors.  Only 3 were present on the patio – Dim Sum Truck, The Fry Girl and T Salon.  A few more would have made the VIP lounge feel more…VIP-y.

Dim Sum Truck stand

Roast Duck taco sample from Dim Sum Truck

Dim Sum Truck was fantastic and I look forward to finding them on the street.  They were giving out samples of their roast duck taco and shu mai dumplings.  The roast duck was delicious; they left the crispy skin on the duck!  The shu mai was moist, plump and had good flavor though I found the soy sauce dressing they put on it a little on the salty side.

Making Doughnuts Fry Girl style

Cinnamon Sugar Mini Doughnuts from The Fry Girl

The Fry Girl (mini fresh doughnuts) was my husband’s favorite.  For a guy who’s not big on sweet things, the fact that he went back for seconds was a big deal.  They offered up two toppings – powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.  We went with the cinnamon.  Lightly fried and sweet, these were wonderful.  I now want the mini doughnut making machine that they used in my house…

The teas were actually quite good.  They were giving out samples of a berry one and a chocolate-vanilla.  I enjoyed the berry one more.

We headed down to the main area to hit up some of the big-name trucks.  First on my list was the Grilled Cheese Truck except the wait was already at 2+ hours.  Um….eek?  It would have been a great perk for VIP attendees to get a few “fast passes”.  Wandering around, it seemed that most of the trucks had at least a 1 hr wait.  The more popular ones like Ludo Bites, Komodo, Fry Smith and Buttermilk were around 2hrs.  *sigh*  Looking around, Coolhaus (gourmet ice cream sandwiches) barely had a line (that changed quickly as the day got hotter) so we rushed them.

Brown Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip and Strawberry with Chocolate Brownie from Coolhaus

Coolhaus was doing 2-flavor sample bags for $3 or 4 flavors for $5.  We went for the 4 flavors – brown butter bacon ice cream with chocolate chip, ginger snap with wasabi ice cream, chocolate with mint ice cream and strawberry ice cream with chocolate brownie.  The brown butter bacon was good – rich ice cream with bacon bits.  The ginger snap with wasabi was disappointing as I didn’t taste wasabi at all.  The strawberry with chocolate brownies was a familiar and comforting combination.  I’m not a mint fan so I didn’t try that one at all.  Husband chowed down on that and had no complaints.  These were the perfect size for consuming neatly and quickly in 2-3 bites.  I hope they actually add mini-sandwiches to the Coolhaus menu.

Next, up was Mama Koh’s chicken (Korean-style chicken wings) which was an actual stand vs. a truck.  The LA Food Fest marked their debut to the public.  They had almost no wait whatsoever.  All the chicken had been prepared beforehand so all you had to do was pay and then grab a dish.  Quick and efficient but the chicken wings lost their crispiness.  They were covered in a deliciously sweet n’ spicy glaze though.  I enjoyed these and hope to see them popping up around LA soon.

A not so tasty thing from Sabor da Bahia

Another stand nearby, Sabor da Bahia was serving up Brazilian food.  They were out of their chicken appetizer samples so I tried a black eyed pea fritter with some sort of shrimp paste on it.   This was…not good eats to me.  The paste was good but the fritter part was salty and extremely fishy tasting.  I ended up tossing this.

Dogzilla

Dogzilla LA Food Fest menu

Dogzilla was present and I was quite enamored with their take on the hotdog.  Regular franks become Japanese-fused oddities with toppings like yakisoba noodles, furikake, nori strips and teriyaki sauce.  I didn’t get to try any due to the 2hr+ wait but I am now keeping my eye out for a chance to try these.  And hopefully get a shirt, one day.  A  hot-dog eating Godzilla?!?!?  Brilliant…

At this point, a couple of friends finally arrived (gotta love the LA traffic) and we ran around looking for something they wanted that didn’t have a crazy wait.  We tried to brave Louks‘ line but ended up eating at Fresser’s as that line went quicker.  The pastrami they served up was quite good – tender and very peppery.  My friend said their pot roast was delicious.  The caprese sandwich I had was mediocre.

After our friends had their bite, we decided the crowd and heat were just too much to deal with and left to go to Wurstküche which ended up having a crazy line out the door.  I was later informed that the Food Fest had started turning people away and that many more attendee-hopefuls didn’t even bother waiting in the long line.  Those who didn’t get in flooded the nearby restaurants.

I don’t know much about the organizers of the Street Food Fest but I wonder if they had ever put together an event of this size.  The venue they chose was fine and accommodating for the size of the event but there was a lot they could have done to improve the experience for their patrons.  The first thing they could have done was limit the number of people.  They announced they were expecting around 10,000 attendees.  Frankly, I think that was too much for food trucks to handle.  With only 2-3 people able to work in the space, cooking food “made-to-order” for those numbers without creating an enormous backup wasn’t feasible.  On top of limiting numbers, spreading the food festival over a weekend instead of just one day would help mitigate the crowd issue as well (though there are costs associated with this, I know).  Also, the organizers only released VIP tickets for presale and then later released a small number of regular tickets.  Releasing all the tickets for pre-sale and selling whatever remained at the door may be a better choice for next year; it certainly would have help reduce the wait at the door.  As for the lines, it was confusing trying to find the end and various trucks had lines that collided with each other.  After my years at Comic-con, I know there are many creative ways to try and keep things orderly, one of which are End of Line signs.  And worst case scenario, if it’s too long to manage, cut it off and ask people to come back in a half-hour.

While I didn’t really get to try most of the trucks I was hoping to, I didn’t think the Food Fest was an absolute failure.  It’s a great concept that was wasn’t executed as well as it could have been but it is the first year so kinks are to be expected.  If they do it again, will I return?  Absolutely.  Though I fully plan on getting VIP tickets again and being there well ahead of opening…  In the meantime, I’ll be hunting the various trucks I didn’t get to try on the streets.