The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

August 1, 2012

South Lake Union Food Truck Project, Day 3: Urban Nomad

Filed under: Food, Seattle — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 9:20 pm

(Update:  Unfortunately, it looks like this truck is out of business.  They still have a physical location in Lower Queen Anne, but the menu bears little resemblance to that of the truck.)

After the previous day’s epic 26-minute wait for food at Kaosamai (I should probably note that I’m writing most of these a couple of days in advance,) I decided I should probably work on getting out a bit earlier to beat the lunch rush.  Our next food truck lunch comes to us from Urban Nomad, a relative newcomer to the neighborhood.

The Basics:

Food Ordered:

  • Roasted Garlic Alfredo with Chicken: $9.50
  • Total (with tip:) $10.50

Speed:

  • Time to order and pay: About 2 minutes
  • Time to receive food after ordering: 3 1/2 minutes

A relative newcomer to the food truck scene (come to think of it, who isn’t a relative newcomer to the food truck scene these days?), Urban Nomad has a name that tells you absolutely nothing about what kind of food you’ll expect to find inside.  For the first few weeks since they opened back in June they’ve been making occasional appearances in the alley behind Lake Union Wholesale Florist, but it was only last week that I got a look at their menu.  Interestingly enough, pasta seems to be practically a foreign substance around these parts, and aside from Mac and Cheese served as a side dish in the Amazon cafe, I can’t recall seeing anyone in the neighborhood serving any pasta dishes.  On the other hand, when you think about it, pasta seems like a natural foodstuff for mobile trucks like this.  The pasta and the sauce can all be prepared in advance to be served quickly while on location.  When you see it, you’re almost surprised that nobody managed to beat them to it.

You’ll also notice that as one of the newer trucks on the block, it’s also one of the nicer looking ones.  With the large number of trucks you see throughout the neighborhood, you tend to see all kinds of different things ranging from the shiny new ones like this, all the way down to the ones that look like they might be old enough to have grandkids.  By the same token, you see all kinds of different ways of showing the menu, ranging from a simple whiteboard with the menu written on it, all the way to the fancy display screens like you see on this truck.  It actually wouldn’t even cost all that much to set up a system like that these days (you can get a reasonably cheap display for a couple hundred bucks and run it off just about any old notebook computer you might have hanging around,) but when you can get just about the same functionality out of a $15 whiteboard and a $5 set of markers, the return on investment seems a bit dubious. Hoping to avoid a repeat of Kaosamai’s epic wait, I set off a few minutes earlier than I did last time, but probably didn’t need to do so.  There were only a handful of people in front of the truck (which was on its first day at what they expect to be a new permanent location just a couple of blocks away from their previous spot,) and I was able to order and pay quickly (aside from a minor hitch or two with their iPad-based payment system for taking cards,) and the food was ready in under four minutes.

I ordered the Roasted Garlic Alfredo pasta, which was served with options of chicken, shrimp or portabella mushrooms (I went for the chicken.)  At $9.50, this is pushing the upper limits of my $10 limit, and in fact when I add the tip it puts me over the limit again, which means that I’m only 1 for 3 on staying under the limit so far.  At least there isn’t any additional sales tax on top of it.  For that $9.50, you get a portion size that seems just a bit on the small side in comparison to some of the other trucks in the neighborhood that I’ve been to.  Not that you’ll be going hungry or anything like that (in fact, some of the other places’ portions tend to approaching the “too much food” threshold) but you probably wouldn’t have to look too hard to find more food for less money.  As for the food itself, I can’t say that it was anything special or anything like that, but it was reasonably well done.  To be honest, when I ordered the Alfredo pasta I expected to find Fettuccine in there instead of the Rigatoni I was served, but I suppose if I had actually read the menu I would have known that.  Either way, pasta is pasta regardless of what shape it happens to be in, so this doesn’t really matter anyway.  As far as Alfredo sauces go, I’d have to say that the one here was fairly decent compared to some I’ve had, albeit a little on the thin side.   On the other hand, it is also backed up by a generous amount of shaved (as opposed to grated or powdered) Parmesan cheese on top, which when combined with the sauce  does make up for the thinness a bit, and also provides some nice melted cheese action as well.  The chicken, on the other hand, was nothing special (and for all I could tell might have even been the pre-cooked stuff you can get in bags at Costco), and the Alfredo sauce when combined with the cheese is probably substantial enough that the chicken probably could have been omitted with little to no ill effect.  Interestingly enough, I think my gold standard for this type of pasta dish comes from the excellent Fettuccine Alfredo served in the dining rooms aboard Princess cruise ships (a sentiment that seems to be shared among a number of other cruisers as well.)  Also, for those so inclined, there are also vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu as well, although I don’t have much reason to try out either of these (although I could see the mushroom option for some pastas being good under the right circumstances.)

All in all, not a bad place for a lunch, especially given the dearth of pasta to be found elsewhere in the neighborhood.  That said, I do have to point out once again that the prices seem to be a bit on the high side for a food truck meal, and the portion sizes are a bit on the small side.  Nonetheless, if you take this into effect and don’t mind a bit of a splurge for lunch, chances are you won’t be disappointed here.

Urban Nomad Menu

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