There seems to be an explosion of wheeled eateries in the area. While cities have always been full of them, until recently they have been rare around here. The growing fleet of local food trucks vend a variety of items from hot dogs to Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches (to bánh mì hot dogs!), but the general concept is usually comfort food with fusion-inspired modern riffs – a new twist on an old favorite that might just make you pull over and try it out. For a few bucks you can experience a new food concept or have comfort food made from locally sourced ingredients, or both, without committing to the time and belly-load of a whole restaurant meal.
Food trucks appeal to the young, both kids and to youthful revelers. In my early 20s I remember loving the greasy fries at Beansie’s Bus in Battery Park in Burlington, Vt., and later the cheeseburgers at Haven Brother’s in downtown Providence at 2 a.m. after a long night out. Food trucks also appeal to the middle-aged foodie eager to try new cuisines and imaginative flavor combinations. And they appeal to the older-but-young-at-heart type as well, who may be brimming with nostalgia for the food trucks of yesteryear.
This first annual Hudson Valley Food Truck Festival this Friday, October 19, from 4 to 10 p.m. in Saugerties promises to assemble an assortment of the best local food trucks, along with live music and kids activities.
One of them is Pippy’s Hot Dogs, which normally sets up shop at the junction of 32A and 23A in Palenville. Proprietress Heather Williams offers natural-casing, all-beef hot dogs with an assortment of toppings from the classic to the avant-garde (including that bánh mì dog). Ordained as a minister and trained as a teacher, she is carrying on a family tradition that her grandmother and aunt started with their hot dog truck in the 70s. Williams’ bright red 1973 van is similar, and is painted with jaunty flowers.
The Food Truck Festival will be held in the parking lot of Fiberflame, a mixed media art studio at 1776 Route 212 in Saugerties. Besides the stars of the show, the food trucks, there will be four live bands – Connor Kennedy, Josh Tyler, Mr. Roper and Sin City Band – plus a beer and wine garden, fire jugglers, crafts for the kids and a showing of Return of the Pink Panther at 7 p.m. Sponsors are YumYum on Wheels, ‘Cue BBQ and Fiberflame, who hope to start holding similar events several times a year, with an ever-bigger roster of food trucks.
YumYum on Wheels is an offshoot of the popular YumYum Noodle Bars in Kingston and Woodstock. Their bright green and pink van is no longer out on the street due to town permit issues, according to proprietor Pierre-Luc Moeys, but they’re working on it for next year. In the meantime the truck stays on the road going to private events, such as weddings and Friday’s fest.
Another sponsor is ‘Cue, normally situated at 136 Partition Street in Saugerties. They have a full selection of barbecue classics, with all meats smoked in-house, plus riffs like a “faux ‘cue” sandwich.
Also at the fest will be Sean Kelly’s The Tin Cantina, whose address is at Fiberflame, so it won’t need to move. With Southwestern specialties like burritos and quesadillas, you’ll also find a sweet potato/black bean burrito plus specials such as a dry-rubbed tilapia and cod in a taco with roasted tomato salsa, sliced avocado, fresh corn, scallions, cilantro, and a ginger mint aioli.
Slidin’ Dirty, which operates mostly in the capital region, was started this year by Tim and Brooke Taney, offering signature sliders made with chicken, beef, fish or meatless, plus tacos and creative sides like avocado fries and bacon scallion potato pancakes.
The Lucky Cow, whose slogan is “None of that Bull $@*!” was born in Cornwall-on-Hudson in Orange County and trying to expand into Dutchess and Rockland. It hosts an all-vegetarian and vegan menu of food plus juices and smoothies that change weekly.
In the meantime, if you can’t get to the fest, or if you just need to keep feeding your food truck fix, there are options. The other day I had a delicious veggie burrito from Bubby’s Burritos in Red Hook. The very teeny trailer has a teeny menu and you won’t find fusion or faddy food, but the stand has been drawing people for years in a variety of locations, mostly recently next to Hardeman Orchards on Route 199 near its intersection with Route 9G. Unfortunately, like many mobile eateries, it’s only open seasonally. It just closed for the season on October 13, but watch for it in the spring.
Also in Dutchess County is the popular Rae Rae’s To Go, in the Town of Poughkeepsie where Titusville Road, Bushwick Road and state Route 55 meet. Comfort food using organic and local products whenever possible is the m.o. of owner Rachel Palombo, with quinoa or Angus chili, wraps, soups, fries, pastelitos and egg rolls.
Mr. Grumpy’s, at the corner of Route 9 and East Market Street, in Hyde Park has pulled pork, hot dogs, meatball parm and sweet potato fries.
In Ulster County, a cart called EAsT sold pan-Asian fusion, Vietnamese and Thai goodies near Woodstock’s town green, but has closed for the season.
Fortunately for us, food trucks are popping up like mushrooms all over. The appeal of the food truck for the owner is that although they’re at the mercy of weather (many close on rainy days), the overhead is lower than at the traditional brick and mortar restaurant. Usually fewer menu items make things simpler, too, although each one has to really shine, no duds allowed. For the eater, good food that is the specialty of the food truck operator, often made with quality ingredients, is the draw, along with original concepts, bold flavors, and a mix of the comforting with the untried, like Korean or Greek tacos, Asian sliders and such.
The Hudson Valley Food Truck Organization is organizing the Hudson Valley Food Festival, which will be held at the Fiberflame parking lot at 1176 Route 212 in Saugerties. For more information, call Fiberflame at (845) 679-6132. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s www.dinehudsonvalley.com.