What’s your preference? Pulled pork? Shrimp ceviche? Asiago macaroni and cheese? Pakistani samosas stuffed with beef or vegetables? Fresh berries atop a fluffy mound of whipped cream? Red velvet cupcakes?
You can sample all of these treats at more this weekend at the Boardwalk on Bulverde where the first Food Truck Throw Down and Music Festival runs through Sunday evening. About 25 food trucks from across town and around the state have converged on the site, serving up everything from Colombian snacks to French-style crêpes.
Tacos were certainly popular Friday evening as hundreds of people strolled into the food truck park after work and as the sun began to set. Barbecued meats, from naked chicken wings (available with a truly spicy sauce, if you dare) to sausage sliders, were also drawing lines, but a great many were also happily trying jumbo dill shrimp and Ahi tuna.
At Rickshaw Stop, San Antonio’s only Pakistani food truck, owners Meagan and Sameer Siddiqui were serving up beef bihari kebabs made from Sameer’s grandmother’s recipe. He wouldn’t divulge the secret ingredients, but he did say the eye of round was marinated at least 24 hours in yogurt and papaya juice to break it down and make it tender. The rest of the spices give it an Asian edge that will make you want to return for more.
But are San Antonio street food customers ready for Pakistani food? Meagan admitted it has been a challenge, a word echoed by several food truck vendors, but the majority of tasters do enjoy it once they try it, they all say. At Rickshaw Stop, Meagan has had to come up with Mexican food analogies to get many to try her dishes. The samosa are kind of like empanadas, she’s told customers, while the beef kebab with onions on top and wrapped in a flatbread is akin to a taco.
Those descriptions have helped people venture out of their comfort zone.
And comfort food is what most food trucks are about, chef Brian West said. Friday was his first visit to Boardwalk on Bulverde, and he loved the tasting the bacon-wrapped shrimp, the asiago macaroni and cheese, and the cupcake he tried. But he would like to see the food trucks “push the envelope a little more. I’d love to see more modern cafe food,” he said.
“I’m a big believer in San Antonio,” added West, who used to own Cafe Paladar on Sonterra Boulevard.
Pork belly was one of the dishes West wanted to try, and it was served two ways Friday night at the Throw Down, but it wasn’t necessarily easy to find. Less than two minutes after West walked away, Adrian Davila of Davila’s BBQ in Seguin mentioned to me that he had an unadvertised special of a pork belly taco. So, I had to get one, as well as the carnitas taco that arrived with mango salsa and the short rib taco with a spicy salsa. All three could make your toes curl in delight.
Davila’s, which has been in business since 1959, has two restaurants in Seguin as well as the truck. And the flavors it served up may well justify a road trip.
Pork belly was part of another fascinating dish: menudo-dusted calamari, pork belly and hominy, served in a jumbo cup with a slice of lime. This was one of three dishes offered at Tapa Tapa, a relatively new San Antonio truck run by Culinary Institute-trained Rudolfo Martinez. Shrimp ceviche and watermelon-mint Pop Rocks (remember those?) were the other two. I started with the ceviche, which I liked so much that I had to return for the calamari, which was, indeed, dusted with a powdered form of menudo. Go figure, and go get some.
In addition to his truck, Martinez is working with the owners of Tin Can Tacos and Wheelie Gourmet, both fixtures at Boardwalk on Bulverde. One of the owners involved in those trucks, Manny Olivarez, said diners should expect a few changes in the next month or more.
The current truck that houses Wheelie Gourmet, a Mediterranean food vendor, is becoming the Purple Cow, which will offer ice cream and gourmet desserts. A truck truck is being customized for Wheelie Gourmet.
The group is also working on its first restaurant, Counter Culture, which will open in late August at the Spectrum Athletic Club, 21044 U.S. 281.
“It will feature a lot of things you’ve never seen in San Antonio,” Olivarez said. “But it will not be so eccentric as to scare people away. We have to remember who we’re serving. It will be health conscious, and it will be in keeping with our Mediterranean-Latin menus.”
Melissa Rogers brought her Kake Deva truck to the gathering. The bright pink truck with eyelashes over the headlights, dubbed the Big Pinkie by kids who loves its ice cream and candy novelties, can usually be found driving through Kitty Hawk, down Toepperwein and into Converse.
Younger fans like most anything sweet that Rogers sells as well as the cucumbers with Lucas flavoring of chile and lime, while their parents enjoy the nostalgia that comes with certain items she has, whether it’s a Big Dipper ice cream cone or a Fudge Bomb Pop of bananas and chocolate. “Anything with Super Mario Brothers sells,” she says. “People love the Betty Boop candies, too. So many people tell me, ‘I have a sister who collects anything Betty Boop.'”
When Rogers isn’t driving the truck, she also makes and decorates cakes for special orders, ranging in style from wedding cakes to a cake decorated to look like an XBox. (Click here for more on Kake Deva.)
Both the Kake Deva and Boardwalk regular Saweet Cupcakes offered cupcakes to the crowds, but there wasn’t real duplication as their flavors were different.
Duplication can be good, though. If you wanted to sample various approaches to pulled pork, you could wander from K-Hill to the Smoke Shack to Davila’s BBQ. Or you could spend the day sampling from as many booths as you can. The choice is yours. Enjoy.
The Throw Down and Music Festival continues 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Boardwalk on Bulverde, 14732 Bulverde Road. Click here for more information.