The Great Food Truck Race

The last week has seen many adventures, but I can only post about so many things at once!  Last weekend was full of friends and a wedding and the beach.  This weekend (so far) has been full of food.

I was on the hunt for food trucks.  And not just any food trucks.  Food trucks from the Food Network show “The Great Food Truck Race.”

I had watched parts of both previous seasons, so I knew the basics of what was going down when I saw on Twitter that the Food Network was coming to Nashville.

In short, a number of trucks start on the West Coast.  They make their way across the country, selling in different cities, and the truck that makes the least amount of money doesn’t get to go to the next city.   In addition to selling, in each city Tyler Florence gives the teams some sort of challenge, and the winner of the challenge gets some advantage in the sales (a head start, extra money for groceries, etc).  At some point in the two days of sales in the city, Tyler also calls them with a “speed bump” – something crazy they have to do that may make or break the weekend — they can only sell vegan items or they have to sell everything for a dollar, etc.

I didn’t have visions of grandeur — getting on television, bumping into Tyler Florence, etc — but I did want to try the fare from the trucks if possible.

The key to food truck success is mastering social media.  While the four food trucks still in the competition can’t tweet (I assume they can’t, since they don’t), everyone else can.  And there were plenty of tweets floating around the past few days with the hashtag “greatfoodtruckrace” or “gftr”.

My friends and I were going to an event last night called “Brew at the Zoo” (more about that later), and we thought maybe the winners of the challenge would be there– that would be a great advantage, selling to a hungry captive (drinking) audience.  But no such luck.

They were supposed to be at one of the farmer’s markets this morning, so I headed out to buy some vegetables and see if I could run into them there.  No go.

They were rumored to be the food truck gathering that occurs every Saturday and Sunday in a local park.  So I headed there for lunch.  Nope.

But while I was there, I decided to get lunch at one of the local trucks that was there- Wrappers Delight.  I got a Grilled Chicken Caesar wrap that was fantastic.  So it wasn’t a wasted trip.

It seemed that the trucks had disappeared.  There were reports of two of them going to a small town south of here, but other than that, Twitter was relatively silent.  Later in the afternoon, there were reports that the Korean BBQ truck was going to show up in East Nashville.  That’s a bit of a trek for me, but I thought it would be worth it if I could find some friends to go with me.  Then reports came that a second truck, an Italian one, was going to be nearby as well.

Everyone was busy, so I was debating about going alone… knowing I’d probably regret it if I didn’t go at all.

Then my friend Manda texted that she was getting out of work early!  My dear friend Manda, who loves restaurants and eating as much as me, who agrees with me that we need to start a Nashville food blog, who was the first person I thought of when I was looking for a companion for this adventure.

So we set out, along with our friend Andrea, on the hunt to find the Food Network.

We saw the Italian truck first — Nonna’s Kitchenette – it had no line and the girl working the window called out to us.  But it looked like they were offering a good dessert, so we decided to check out the Korean BBQ truck for dinner and return to  Nonna’s for dessert.

Down the street was some sort of festival with music and beer, and the Korean BBQ truck — Seoul Sausage — was in a prime location.  We had to wait in line for awhile, but we were hoping it would be worth it.

I got the “Flaming Fried Balls,” which were balls of spicy pork, rice, cheese, and a kimchi garlic jalapeno aioli.  I was worried about it being too spicy for me, so I got a strawberry lemonade too.

The strawberry lemonade was definitely a rip-off — for $3, it was basically colored water.  There was a vague taste of strawberry, but little to no taste of lemonade.  It made me wish the competition wasn’t just based on sales but was also based on reviews, because they would definitely get a thumbs down on that.

But luckily, the fried rice balls made up for it.  They had a bit of a kick, but not what I was expecting at all.  They reminded me of Roman supplia great little snack you can find at many pizzerie in Rome.  They were a bit overpriced, but I was expecting all the food trucks to be a bit pricey since the competition was based on profit.

Manda also got a “K-Pop Star,” which was a Cherry Coke float with pop rocks.  She loved it.  Before he put the pop rocks in, she stirred it around, so the whole thing started to overflow– during that hilarity, I noticed the boom microphone for the first time.  I saw the camera just after that, so hopefully the whole thing was captured on film and will make it into the show. : )

It was fun to talk to him — he was hilarious — so it’ll be neat to see him on the show.

Here are the flaming fried balls:

The aioli was awesome.  I may have scraped the extra off the cardboard with my finger.

Andrea had the East Side Korean BBQ burger and said it was fantastic.

They interviewed a girl that ordered right in front of us and a cute family behind us.  The Food Network lady did ask Manda how she heard about the truck, and she gave me credit – and then when the lady asked me, I told her I had followed the race on Twitter.  Apparently that wasn’t exciting enough to merit an interview.  I do wish I could have told her the lemonade wasn’t good.

We decided to head over to Nonna’s Kitchenette for dessert.  They didn’t have much of a crowd, so we walked right up to the window and ordered.   Manda and I both got the Italian waffle cookie ice cream sandwich.  Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Unfortunately, it was overpriced and badly executed.  The “waffle cookies,” which were essentially pizzelles, were really delicious. But it was impossible to eat.   I was glad the cameras weren’t on us while I ate it, because I essentially just had to force it into my mouth and get it all over my face, while it dripped and fell on my shoe.

Yummy… but it would have been far yummier if I could have had it in a bowl with a spoon — and maybe some Nutella spread on top?

We stood around a little after eating, because Manda was telling me a story, and the cameras filmed us standing there for awhile.  They were parked in a pretty lousy location (a gas station parking lot, down the street from the main buzz of the festival), so they weren’t getting any foot traffic other than the people who went to find them because of Twitter.  Of course, that’s a huge part of the food truck network, which is why judging their success solely on profit isn’t such a bad idea.  Food trucks depend on social networking.  Seoul Sausage not only had a good location, they were mentioned all over Twitter all afternoon.  One of the trucks was never mentioned — I still don’t know where they were today, and I was following them all pretty closely.  So in my mind, it’s pretty clear who is going home and who is winning.

I just saw on Twitter that these food trucks aren’t allowed in metro parks — which explains why I struck out so often this morning.  That seems odd to me, but they are working on statutes for food trucks in the city right now, so that might be part of it.  It’ll be interesting to see where they end up tomorrow.  There are so many better places to be than a gas station parking lot in East Nashville.

The lady with the orange purse placed a large order to go (luckily, she ordered the meatball sliders and not the ice cream sandwiches), so it created a bit of “drama” for the cameras.  Hence the close up shot of the girls discussing this large order.

I’m really happy we went — I’m really glad that Manda was up for the adventure, and that Andrea came along too!  I wish the other trucks the best — Mamma’s Grizzlies was downtown tonight, so hopefully they found some crowds.  And Pop a Waffle was nowhere to be found.  So unless the “speed bump” (which Twitter says will occur tomorrow) throws a wrench in Seoul Sausage’s success, I think there’s already a clear cut winner this weekend.

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One thought on “The Great Food Truck Race

  1. Amy says:

    Your food posts always make my mouth water. This sounds so fun! Glad you got to go…and this is a nice inside scoop on whether competition food is tasty as well as exotic.

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