The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 26, 2012

Fresh Off the Back of the Truck: Introducing The South Lake Union Food Truck Project

Filed under: Food, Seattle — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 12:04 am

In the past six months that I’ve been working over in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, one of the things I’ve found to rant about several times here on this Blog is a distinct lack of choices for lunch on any given day.  Although the situation has improved somewhat over the past few months, in terms of fixed location restaurants (and a food truck or two that parks in the same spot daily I’m still finding that the options within reasonable walking distance  and reasonable price range are sufficient to cover about three decent lunches a week.  On one hand this is a good thing because it’s encouraged me to actually bring my own food to work, which is something I’ve never really been able to get into the habit of doing.  On the other hand, if I forget to bring my own lunch (which happens far more often than not) it makes the daily “What’s for lunch?” dilemma a lot harder than it really needs to be sometimes.

On the other hand, over the past couple of years (and particularly in the last few months) there’s been something of a food truck boom in Seattle, which has brought quite a few of these restaurants on wheels to South Lake Union.  Thanks to the Hipster culture that has elevated these trucks from their old “Roach Coach” status into something that’s now considered trendy, these days it seems that every time you turn around (provided you do so between 11am and 2pm) there’s another one of these things popping up and serving up some sort of vaguely gourmet cuisine you’ve never heard of.  The block across the street from the building I work in is home (for the time being anyway, the land use action signs are already up for someone wanting to turn the place into yet another block of overpriced apartments) to a warehouse belonging to a wholesale florist, which also happens to have several conveniently empty parking lots lying around not being used for most of the day.  In order to make use of these otherwise empty parking spaces, the owners of the property have recently begun to offer the spaces to a variety of different food trucks which show up around 10:30 or so on a daily basis, serve up their wares to the lunchtime crowds, then promptly disappear for parts unknown sometime around 2pm.  Although I have seen as many as eight different trucks in this parking lot at one time (plus several more scattered throughout the neighborhood) most only show up here once or twice a week, so the selection of trucks you find here can and will vary significantly on a daily basis.

That is to say, the whole thing can get just a little bit confusing.

Although I have made the Tacos El Tajin truck that parks daily in front of my building a regular lunch stop, I have only tried a handful of the other trucks in the neighborhood.  To be honest, food trucks can be just a little bit intimidating to someone who isn’t familiar with them.  A surprising number of them look like the types of vans that may or may not have served as FBI stakeout vehicles in a previous life, with little but a hard-to-read menu board and a tiny little window in the side to tell you what exactly is going on in there.  Although it shouldn’t be too hard for most people to look up a website or a Yelp review on their Smartphone, even in a tech-savvy neighborhood like SLU most people aren’t going to be bothered to Google it, and a good number of them are probably going to just forget it and head over to Jimmy John’s for the third time in a week.

Admittedly, on quite a few occasions I’ve found myself being among the ones who are just too confused by the whole thing and head off to find something else (although I think I’d get sick of Jimmy John’s in a hurry if I ate there more than once a week or so),  but especially given the shortage of good fixed location lunch spots in the neighborhood, I’ve been thinking it’s time to give the food trucks a closer look.  Drawing a bit of inspiration from the brave souls over at MSG150 who have made it their mission to try out every restaurant in the International District and report on the results, I intend to spend the next couple of weeks trying out some of the food trucks and blogging about the experience.  For a lot of these trucks, the information available on the Internet tends to be lacking, and although there is a website devoted to covering the Seattle food truck scene, it seems to be purely informational, and doesn’t provide much information beyond the basics of when and where trucks are going to be found.  I’d like to go beyond this and get into a bit more detail.  Here are some of the criteria I plan to follow for this project:

  • For the duration of this project (initially I am planning on 2 weeks / 10 days), I intend to try out a different food truck for lunch each day. 
  • I do not intend to spend more than $10 on any given day.  This means that if a “Typical” meal for a given food truck costs more than that, chances are I’m going to just skip it.
  • I will try to provide as much info on each truck as possible.
  • Technically, hot dog carts (of which there are a few in the neighborhood) are fair game, although I doubt I’ll be getting to any of them, at least initially.
  • I plan to note the number of people in line when ordering, and  time how long it takes to receive food after ordering.  At the same time, note that I will typically also be trying to go early and beat the Noon lunch rush as much as possible.
  • I plan to rate the meal from each truck on criteria of taste, and value, but note that the ratings will largely be subjective.
  • In the interest of trying out new things, I will try to avoid covering the trucks that I already visit regularly (although I may add some of those later.)
  • At the conclusion of the initial two-week run, I may also cover some other trucks on an irregular basis.

If all goes well (and assuming I somehow manage to avoid killing myself with all that street food,) I plan to create a Blog post for each truck that I try out over the course of this project.  On the other hand, it also provides a chance to try out new things.  Maybe I’ll even manage to find enough decent places to cover lunches for four days a week.  Anyway, watch for the start of this next Monday, and if there are any particular recommendations for ones I should try, feel free to let me know.

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