Taking a look at food trucks around the city today, along with the mid-city Jamaican staple Boswell’s. A four-meal run that ended under a freeway. Let’s do this.
Occupation: Store manager
You can find her: Selling you lingerie, designing a burlesque costume, planning trips to Asia.
The food truck revolution hasn’t had quite the liftoff in New Orleans that it’s had in other American cities. Perhaps that’s because of the sheer number of restaurants, many of them of high quality. Or perhaps because of the tradition of dining at home and inviting the neighborhood. But for a city with such legendary food culture, food trucks are only just starting to take off. One owner told me there were just five in the city over a year ago. Now, there are close to thirty.
The point is they’re out there, and they need to be sampled. So for my first multi-restaurant raid, I hijacked Lindsay Davis, a nice girl from Ponchatoula (home of the world famous Strawberry Festival) who’s gone a bit wrong in the Big Easy. She still carries some of that country sweetness with her, but she also works in a lingerie store, moonlights as a burlesque dancer, and has the jarring habit of referring to her pet cats as “the whores.”
This is called camouflage.
Boswell’s was an institution on South Broad Street until Katrina wiped out the original location. The new version opened up on Tulane Avenue in the summer of 2008 and has held down the fort in a hard to spot building next to an auto-glass shop ever since.
The original intention was a food truck run, but when I mentioned a curried goat stew I’d seen on one of Anthony Bourdain’s programs Lindsay started drooling. We found Boswell’s (it took two passes) and took a seat at the bar, where several men were halfheartedly watching the news.
We ordered a plate of curried goat with peas and rice, mac and cheese, fried plantains and a bottle of Ting (Jamaican grapefruit soda). It came out looking like this:
“That’s love right there,” said the next man at the bar. And it is. The goat falls right off the bone and the mac and cheese places high in the running for the best I’ve had in the city. But the goat is the highlight. Perfectly spiced and so tender it practically melts at the touch of your tongue. How did I go all these years in this city and never find this place?
We were taking our final bites a man at the bar gawked at our empty plate. “You go through all that already?”
Yes sir. Yes we did.
Parked in front of the apartments at the Esplanade at City Park was the King Creole truck, which I learn is owned by a North Carolinian with a penchant for New Orleans cooking. The menu for the day included several local standards, from dirty rice to a muffaletta. We went with the crawfish pootine, determined to get our last few tastes of the little bastards before they go out of season, then took a seat next to Bayou St. John, where ducks rapidly advanced on our position.
This might sound adorable, but in actuality it was fairly horrifying. I’ve seen ducks that expect breadcrumbs before, but this was another level of aggression. They came from both sides of where I was sitting, and they moved fast. They even started calling in geese for reinforcement, and if you know anything about geese you know that they are ill-tempered feathery time-bombs that hiss when you get close to them and would like to peck your eyes out as soon as they’d steal your food. They rank up there with blue jays, seagulls and swans as the true dicks of the bird kingdom.
I’m not going to say I ran back to the food truck, but I beat a hasty retreat from the waterfowl. One of the braver ducks was nearly on my lap by the time I started eating. I had to shoo it away with a picture of the Duck Dynasty family.
We polished off the crawfish fairly quickly and I kept an eye on the ducks the whole way back to the car, lest they swarm suddenly in a Hitchcockian orgy and tear us to pootine.
7:00 p.m.—Courtyard Brewery/Taceaux Loceaux Food Truck
I wrote about Courtyard Brewery in my last post. It’s a taproom on Erato Street just under the freeway that serves a variety of beer and solves the old “no kitchen” problem by providing a nice big lot for food trucks to park in. Tonight’s food truck was Taceaux Locaeux, an older (by New Orleans standards) truck that hit the streets here five years ago. Still, when I was asked for a name to go with my order and I said, “Governor Huey P. Long,” the kid taking my order had no idea who I was talking about. Ah well.
Taken with some tasty beer, we went with tacos named Messin With Texas (brisket) and Carnital Knowledge (pork), along with avocado fries, which are french fried avocado slices, which does not sound at all like something French people would do.
The Messin With Texas tacos are pretty phenomenal. Brisket isn’t the easiest thing in the world to make, and can come out tough and rubbery if you’re not careful. Not a problem with the Taceaux Loceaux folks. The brisket is tender and juicy, and several people nodded approvingly when we placed our order. This truck has a pretty loyal following, which means that, just in case you order more than you can handle, anything you can’t eat can always go to a worthy cause.
This is Ninja, aforementioned worthy cause.
La Cocinita is the only food truck in New Orleans I’d tried prior to this insane run, and I have a soft spot for it because their sister operation is in Chicago, another town near and dear to my heart. I’ve snacked on quite a few of their tacos, and the fact that I could still make room for tacos of chorizo, pork and chicken with a variety of exciting sauces after gorging myself at three prior locations should be all the testimony I need to give for the quality of their food.
Waddling and approaching Defcon 4 on the food coma chart, we bellied up the food truck for our final stop of the night. I chose the tacos, as Lindsay was finding it difficult to continue forming words. She’s a small person, and by this point, had eaten about as much as a full squadron of marines. “We’re done after this,” I told her. She nodded. I think she’d forgotten how to speak.
La Cocinita gets points not only for their tacos, but for the mere fact that they serve arepas, a treat common in Colombia and Venezuela. The chorizo is magnificent, and if not for my desire to keep the variety up, I would have just ordered three chorizo tacos and a couple arepas with the same filling and called it a night.
We took a seat curbside and polished off our last meal with the cars roaring by on the freeway overhead and the moon peeking down from between the streetlights. With the last bites taken, I went back to the truck and snagged a Mexican Coke to serve as dessert.
“We did good tonight,” I told Lindsay.
“I can’t move,” she said.
“We should do this again,” I said.
She gave me a dirty look at this point. I almost suggested going to one more spot. But I think if I hadshe would have punched me in the face.
Boswell’s Jamaican Grill is located at 3521 Tulane Ave. It can be tricky to see from the street so keep your eyes out. They are open Monday thru Saturday. More info here.
The King Creole food truck has a website here.