Time Management: Mobile Food on the Go

October 1, 2009

Mary Jo Newhouse, editor

Some of the newest hot spots for lunch or late night food are not spots, or at least not stationary spots, but roving kitchens roaming the streets of the Emerald City and surrounding areas.  They are mobile food establishments.  Mobile food sources (carts and trucks) now provide a wide assortment of quality and options for dining in the Seattle area.

Mobile Gourmet

Mobile does not mean simply mass produced or low end.  The Seattle area sport some surprisingly good and some exotic mobile food sources.  Take, for instance, “the Pig” or, more accurately, Maximus Minimus, 206-601-5510.  This mobile delight can be found parked at the corner of Second and Pike on most weekdays or outside the Qwest Field Event Center before Seahawk and Mariner games.

The menu is limited: a choice of two sandwiches (pulled pork or vegetarian), slaw and/or veggie chips.  The sandwiches and slaw are available with spicy (“maximus”) options and you can ask for “some hurt” for extra spicy.  (We tried the vegetarian with the hurt; it was very hot.  The Bar Bulletin editor’s son gives the pulled pork a thumb’s up).

Everything on the menu is good.  The vegetarian option is surprisingly good.  Either the slaw or the chips are worth adding to your meal.  For beverages you can choose between hibiscus nectar and ginger lemonade.  Both are worth trying.

It is a very good sign that everyone we have taken to Maximus has wanted to return.  Maximus is owned by the same family of companies that brings you Bennett’s Bistro (in Mercer Island), Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (Pike Place Market) and Pasta and Co. and, unlike some of the other mobile providers, they take all forms of plastic.

If you are anything like us, you have been dreaming of a Korean taco truck for most of your adult life.  Throw in some Spam and some sliders and it seems almost too good to be true.  This year, the Schwabe Dining Out Team salutes “Marination Mobile” for making our dreams come true.

Marination Mobile can be found all over the city.  From Beacon Hill to West Seattle, private parking lots across Seattle are opening some space for this Korean taco truck with a hint of Hawaiian.  Current schedule and location are available on the website.

The view from the park across from the Beacon Hill stop is “Seattle spectacular” and provides covered picnic tables, making the outing a food adventure worth seeking out.  The spicy pork tacos are five to six bites worth of great flavor for $2.  The sliders, almost perfect comfort food, spread warmth with each mouthful.  Also priced at $2, the health-conscious-serving-sized, miso ginger chicken taco was just right in a tender tortilla with matchstick veggies and a succulent sauce.

Everyone who went would go back.  The servings were “just the right size” to be satisfied without feeling stuffed.

Not So Mobile in Practice

On the shores of Lake Union, the Kaosamai Thai Lunch Truck is located near the Center for Wooden Boats at Valley Street near Terry Avenue.  It offers a variety of classic Thai dishes.  On the menu are a number of stir fries, including pad Thai, cashew chicken and Rama garden, as well as red and PaNang curries. The food is prepared fresh and fast and is very good, easily rivaling offerings at several of the well-established Seattle Thai restaurants.

Kaosamai Thai Lunch Truck, open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, packages its food to travel, but also can be enjoyed in the out-of-doors in the park only a few steps from the truck and as many steps from South Lake Union.  If you are in a rush, you can always call ahead at 206-288-3534 to give the cook a head start on your meal.  But remember to bring cash, because the Truck does not accept plastic or checks.

At 2 a.m. it can be hard to find food that does not come in a bun.  That’s when a drive (or ride) to the Rancho Bravo Tacos truck at 211 NE 45th St. in Seattle is an excellent idea.  With the scenic view of a gas station and a Winchell’s Donut parking lot, it may be a bit of an overstatement to say that the atmosphere keeps customers coming back.  But the pork tacos are divine.

While some may find the food a bit heavy on the radish and cilantro side, these are tacos made for the lone wanderers at night seeking nourishment in the wrong places.  With picnic-bench seating, you may make a few new friends over some fresh horchata.

Before Going Mobile

Wise mobile-food connoisseurs check the website of the mobile food location before venturing out of the office.  But even more wise may be to follow these mobile trucks on twitter.com.  Many local, mobile food joints are on Twitter and provide last-minute updates regarding changes in location and specials.  While the websites seems to be updated frequently, the location in 140 characters or less is a bit easier to update and quicker on the uptake.

Another bright idea is to check the weather and see if covered seating exists by your truck of choice.  Take, for example, Marination Mobile’s Beacon Hill site versus its West Seattle site.  If you would like your lunch warm and dry, you’ll have to eat it in your car at the West Seattle location, but the Beacon Hill location has a charming park overlooking the city with a covered shelter from the liquid sunshine.

Carrying plastic?  While not often a problem, mobile truck diners should consider stopping at the ATM before going too far out of their way.  There is nothing worse than showing up at a taco truck and having to watch others eat because you didn’t bother to grab $2 in cash.  With these tips, you are prepared to join the Dining Out With Schwabe crew as it happily samples the market on mobile food.

Contact Mary Jo Newhouse with comments or for more information at mjnewhouse@schwabe.com.

Originally published in the October 2009 issue of the King County Bar Bulletin. Reprinted with permission of the King County Bar Association.

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