Street Eats and Food Truck Finder, photo by David B. Moore

Street Eats

Written by Marilyn Hawkes, Shelby Moore, Craig Outhier Category: Food Reviews Issue: November 2017
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It’s a delicious reality of dining: Some of the finest meals you’ll ever have will be ones you eat on your feet – or on the street, as the case may be. From taco trucks to sandwich counters to hot dog carts, get your hands dirty with our guide to the Valley’s best street-inspired comfort food. And bring an extra napkin or two. You’ll need them.

What Are Street Eats?

 

STREET FOOD SPOTLIGHT

photo by Steve Craft
Cat Bunnag of Glai Baan; photo by Steve Craft

Cat Bunnag & Dan Robinson
Glai Baan Thai Street Food

In mid-September, Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag and her boyfriend, Dan Robinson, opened Glai Baan, a Thai street food restaurant across from Binkley’s in Central Phoenix. Sort of like a food truck, but with a full bar. Bunnag walked us through her wok.

What is your culinary background?
I’ve been working in restaurants for 15 years, since I came here [from Thailand]. I lived in Florida and Maine and moved here three years ago. I cook food at home and I do some parties, but this is my first restaurant. When I was growing up in Bangkok, my family owned four restaurants, but not street food. This type of food in Thailand is strictly on the street.

What kind of Thai street food do you serve?
Sticky rice and grilled pork on a skewer, marinated in coconut milk, soy sauce, cilantro root, sugar and oyster sauce. Beef salad – grilled New York strip with fish sauce and lime juice and a little bit of sugar and tossed with mint, Thai basil, cilantro, scallions and red onions. [We also make] a papaya salad with local tomatoes and Chinese long beans. In Thailand, when we go to bars and get hungry, this is what we eat.

What does Glai Baan mean?
In Thai, it means “far from home.”

Glai Baan
2333 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix
602-595-5881

 

CALLE DE DELISH
The Great Food Streets of PHX
1000 N. Alma School Rd.

Restaurants
Chou’s Kitchen, Original Cuisine, Shaanxi Biang Biang, Chengdu Delight

Like in any big city, the best food streets usually stretch across the middle, or run from end to end. Most of ours here in Phoenix do. But the Mesa and Chandler drag of Alma School Road is totally specialized, owning bragging rights to the most celebrated Asian restaurants and chefs in Phoenix.

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

Paradise Melts; photo by David B. Moore
Paradise Melts; photo by David B. Moore

Paradise Melts
paradisemelts.com

Mike Baum, owner of Paradise Melts, gives his sandwiches a boffo upgrade by wrapping them in Persian sesame sourdough flatbread and stuffing them with topnotch ingredients like pulled pork, slow-cooked brisket and white meat chicken mixed with a variety of melted cheeses, sauces and pickled vegetables. The flatbread, crunchy and browned on the outside, makes for a welcome alternative to bread. To be fair, they also griddle a stellar grilled cheese on locally sourced sourdough bread. All sandwiches come with house-made chips and pickles.
Must try dishes: BBQ brisket melter ($11), beef brisket, cheddar cheese and tangy Tennessee-Asian barbecue sauce; El Cubano ($11), featuring Sriracha-garlic braised pulled pork and Dijonnaise sauce; The Hot Chick ($10, pictured), with Frank’s Red Hot and Monterey Jack.
Best place to find the truck: Roaming the Valley. Check website for schedule.

 

CALLE DE DELISH
The Great Food Streets of PHX
1700 W. Mcdowell Rd.

Restaurants
Tacos Chiwas, El Pollo Correteado, Asadero Toro, La Reyna Bakery, Cahuamanta El Yaqui, Ollie Vaughn’s, Tortas Paquime, Giant Coffee

McDowell’s East Phoenix footprint has become fertile ground for new restaurants like Tacos Chiwas and Tortas Paquime. Meanwhile, its western half boasts a wide variety of the Valley’s best heritage-style Mexican food, from textbook Sonoran carne asada at Asadero Toro to an enormous selection of expertly made Mexican pastries at La Reyna Bakery.

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

United Lunchadores; photo by David B. Moore
United Lunchadores; photo by David B. Moore

United Lunchadores
unitedlunchadores.com

There’s nothing better than a fresh flour tortilla smothered in melted cheese with a little salsa, unless of course you add marinated chicken breast, carne asada, potatoes, grilled onions or sweet Thai chile sauce. You can get all of that and more at United Lunchadores, a gourmet food truck established in 2011 by veteran chef Tim Cobb and his wife, Kim. Daily specials run the gamut from tortas to tostadas and all orders come with house-made corn chips and charred tomato salsa.
Must try dishes: All Thai’d Up ($9) citrus marinated chicken breast with sweet Thai chile sauce; Chicken Dilla ($8.50, pictured) with pico de gallo and Monterey Jack.
Best place to find the truck: Gilbert Farmers Market

 

Southern Rail; photo by Chris Loomis
Southern Rail; photo by Chris Loomis

5 Best Valley Patios
Anathema to Valley diners during our scorching-hot summers, restaurant patios become things of true culinary grace in the fall – “street eats” in the metaphorical sense. Our favorites:

Southern Rail
Panoramic views of Camelback Road, plus weekly Jambalaya Nights every Sunday through April. 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-200-0085, southernrailaz.com

32 Shea
Dog-friendly + Buddha garden + miniature free library = outdoor dining contentment at this North Phoenix neighborhood diner. 10626 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, 602-867-7432, 32shea.com

CIBO
Pizza snobs will never reach consensus on the Valley’s best pie, but they’ll agree on one thing: This art district pizzeria’s patio is impeccable. 603 N. Fifth Ave., Phoenix, 602-441-2697, cibophoenix.com

House of Tricks
For romance and fine dining, the off-Mill restaurant’s tree-draped patio achieves sylvan perfection.
114 E. Seventh St., Tempe, 480-968-1114, houseoftricks.com
 
O.H.S.O.
Arcadia/Paradise Valley
Both locations are puppy- and baby-watching jackpots. But beware those overwhelming, table-jockeying weekend crowds. ohsobrewery.com

STREET STARS
Street Tacos

Phoenix
Taqueria Los Yaquis
Parked at a bustling Central Phoenix watering hole called Charlie’s, this mobile kitchen/tent set-up is a well-oiled machine. Partiers, neighborhood families and GCU students alike know where to find the area’s best street tacos. Open until 4 a.m. F-Sa. 727 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix

Scottsdale
Mr. Mesquite
A new location exists in North Scottsdale, but this walk-up window in Old Town is the original, serving mesquite-grilled, no-frills tacos to the town’s youngest and rowdiest bar crowd. Late-nighters rejoice: It’s open until 4 a.m. F-Su. 7345 E. Shoeman Ln., 480-758-4859

East Valley
Backyard Taco
Backyard is the Mr. Mesquite of the East Valley, a fast-casual restaurant serving simple carne asada and pollo asado to quieter crowds in Mesa and Gilbert. 1524 E. University Dr., Mesa, 480-464-8226, backyardtaco.com

West Valley
Tacos Tijuana
Parking-lot-tacos at their best. The al pastor is made the old- fashioned way – shaved off a vertical spit onto tortillas pressed and griddled on-site, just how it should be. 6710 W. Thunderbird Rd., Peoria, 623-888-1343

 

CALLE DE DELISH
The Great Food Streets of PHX
3600 E. Indian School Rd.

Restaurants
Restaurant Progress, Clever Koi, Lux Central, Crudo, The Stand, Chicago Hamburger Co., Beckett’s Table

The Seventh Street food corridor gets most of the press, but for our money, Indian School is better. Just up the road from Arcadia Lite trailblazer La Grande Orange, a west-stretching vein of culinary riches begins with New Italian-style restaurant and cocktail haven Crudo, along with old guard burger spot Chicago Hamburger Co. and new-jack burger spot The Stand.

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

Satay Hut; photo by David B. Moore
Satay Hut; photo by David B. Moore

Satay Hut
satayhutaz.com

Satay Hut specializes in Dutch-Indonesian cuisine using the family recipes of owners Rik and Mayme Micola von Furstenrecht. The satay – marinated, skewered and grilled pork, beef, chicken or tofu – rests on a bed of white rice next to a crisp lettuce salad with crunchy fresh cucumbers, bean sprouts, green beans and bell peppers, a slice of hard-boiled egg, a side of spicy peanut sauce and sweet and spicy cucumbers. Servings are generous.
Must try dishes: Satay meal ($9, pictured) with two skewers and all of the above accoutrements; Bali burger ($10), ground beef patty with sweet Indonesian sweet soy sauce and topped with peanut sauce on a brioche bun.
Best place to find the truck: Roaming the Valley. Check website for locations.

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

The Great Pho King Food Truck; photo by David B. Moore
The Great Pho King Food Truck; photo by David B. Moore

The Great Pho King Food Truck
phokinghungry.com

Haters gonna hate, but you really can get good pho (pronounced “fuh,” we need to note) off a food truck. The Great Pho King Food Truck dishes out substantial servings of pho ($10), albeit in Styrofoam cups, brimming with rice noodles, shredded meat and chicken, Thai basil-scented broth, bean sprouts, green onions and an occasional jalapeño that anyone would be hard-pressed to finish in one pass. They also serve burritos, pot stickers and stir-fry dishes, with and without meat.
Must try dishes: Chicken pho ($10); spicy beef stir-fry ($11, pictured) loaded with fresh vegetables with a mound of jasmine rice.
Best place to find the truck: Roaming the Valley. Check website for locations.

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

Island Loco; photo by David B. Moore
Island Loco; photo by David B. Moore

Island Loco
islandloco.com

If you’re craving island life while stranded in the desert, chase down Island Loco to get your fix. Billed as fusion cuisine, Island Loco makes tacos and burritos filled with succulent kalua pork or teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef tacos and plate lunches with meats and a scoop of sticky white rice. All entrees come with a choice of Asian slaw, Hawaiian mac salad or mixed greens with garlic-sesame dressing.
Must try dishes: Mixed plate lunch, with three meats, rice and a side dish ($11); Fusion taco combo ($8.50, pictured) one chicken taco with black bean corn salsa and one pork taco with queso blanco.
Best place to find the truck: Specializes in private events and semi-regular “public lunches.” Check website for details.

 

STREET FOOD SPOTLIGHT

photo by Steve Craft
Tim Cobb of United Lunchadores; photo by Steve Craft

Tim & Kim Cobb
United Lunchadores

The Cobbs run United Lunchadores quesadilla truck and its brick-and-mortar counterpart Taco and Dilla Parlor in Phoenix. They also founded Food Truck Familia, a food truck consulting and booking agency. We talked trucks with Tim.

What inspired you to start the truck in 2011?
We tried to do a restaurant with some other people, and it didn’t work out. I really didn’t want to go work for anybody, and we had been thinking about a food truck for a while.

What are some of the struggles of owning a food truck?
You’re dealing with everything that can go wrong in a restaurant and everything that can go wrong with a vehicle. Also, you don’t have a place to store anything, so you’re probably shopping at least once a day to make it through service.

Can you offer any advice to new food truckers?
It’s not like in the movies or TV shows. It’s hard, and you’re not going to go someplace and open the window and have a line of customers. You have to try hard to get customers and keep them. Get a good, solid, simple menu that has no more than five items that you can execute within two minutes.

 

CALLE DE DELISH
The Great Food Streets of PHX
700 W. Camelback Rd.

Restaurants
Ta’Carbon, Pho Thanh, Taqueria Los Yaquis, Shake Shack, The Parlor, Snoh, Noble Eatery, The Gladly, Pizzeria Bianco, Tratto,

Covering significant ground in the West Valley, where it cradles such top taco spots as Ta’Carbon and Taqueria Los Yaquis, as well as pho-favorite Pho Thanh, Camelback gets upscale quickly as it moves east, eventually hosting a Houston’s, two Shake Shacks, a relocated Noble Eatery, and some of the most exciting Italian grub (The Parlor, Tratto, Pizzeria Bianco) in town.

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

Q Up! Barbecue; photo by David B. Moore
Q Up! Barbecue; photo by David B. Moore

Q Up! Barbecue
qupbbq.com

If you’re hankering for some down and dirty Texas barbecue, check out Q Up! Barbecue, a family-run
operation based in Phoenix and headed by Devin Clough, a two-time first-place barbecue winner at the Great American Foodie Fest in Las Vegas. Q Up! specializes in meats slow-smoked on the truck over mesquite and oak and then slathered with Q Up!’s tangy barbecue sauce. They offer two- and three-meat plates with sides (slaw, truck-made tortilla chips, fresh-cut fries or mac and cheese), sandwiches, nachos, tacos and loaded french fries.
Must try dishes: Three-meat plate ($14), brisket, pork and spicy sausage, with a side; Gangsta grilled cheese sandwich ($9), brisket with “bacony” mac and cheese; BBQ Nachos ($9, pictured) with smoked pork shoulder.
Best place to find Q Up! Barbecue: Most Fridays, lunch outside Arizona Dept. of Corrections, 1601 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix.

 

STREET STARS
Hot dogs/Sonoran dogs

Phoenix
Lupita’s Hot Dogs
Perversely, bacon is rarely the star of your average Sonoran dog. But it is at this North Phoenix cart – thick, crispy and bacon-forward, if you will. Lupita’s is a dinner-only affair: opens 6 p.m. nightly. 16618 N. 32nd St., 602-296-5645

Scottsdale
Simon’s Hot Dogs
What’s a Colombian hot dog, you ask? At this Old Town dog shack, it means a signature wiener topped with pineapple, tangy Simon’s sauce and crushed potato chips. 4280 N. Drinkwater Blvd., 480-426-9218, simonshotdogs.net

East Valley
Ted’s Hot Dogs
Ten restaurant locations. Nine in New York. One in Tempe, Arizona. This is your classic East Coast dog, charbroiled and smothered with toppings both classic (chili) and crazy (mac and cheese). 1755 E. Broadway Rd., 480-968-6678,
tedshotdogs.com

West Valley
El Caprichoso
Behold: the Valley’s gold standard in Sonoran Dogs, which come off a hot grill under a big tent. Where Lupita’s excels in bacon, Caprichoso nails the rest, including a steamy, pillowy, grilled bun. It can’t be beat. 2826 N. 35th Ave., Phoenix, 602-561-3723

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

Waffle Crush; photo by David B. Moore
Waffle Crush; photo by David B. Moore

Waffle Crush
mywafflecrush.com

Move over, plain old waffles with butter and syrup, and make way for Liège waffles, made from yeast-risen dough dotted with Belgian pearl sugar for a crisp exterior and a soft, but slightly chewy, center. You can build your own with a choice of spreads and fillings (think Nutella), fruits and toppings that include cinnamon sugar, cream cheese frosting or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. For the undecided, Waffle Crush also has a menu of sweet and savory waffles.
Must try dishes: Cinna-Sugar ($4.25); Mellow ($7.75) filled with milk chocolate, topped with Biscoff cookie butter, marshmallows and fresh whipped cream; Berry ($7.75, pictured) with Biscoff, strawberries and ice cream.
Best place to find the truck: Gilbert Farmers Market (Saturday) and Gilbert Farmers Market at Power Ranch (Wednesday)

 

CALLE DE DELISH
The Great Food Streets of PHX
Fufth Ave.

Restaurants
Citizen Public House, FnB, Counter Intuitive, Cowboy Ciao, Super Chunk Sweets & Treats, New Wave Market, Mr. Mesquite

There’s a concentration of culinary talent along and around the Fifth Avenue shops in Old Town – but is the area stuck in its ways? Hardly. FnB, closing in on a decade of business in Phoenix, is as exciting as ever. Super Chunk just opened a market and lunch operation, too, and Counter Intuitive continues its reign as Scottsdale’s undisputed king of cocktails and bar snacks.

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

American Poutine Co.; photo by David B. Moore
American Poutine Co.; photo by David B. Moore

American Poutine Co.
americanpoutine.com

French fry connoisseurs may turn up their noses at poutine, but for our money, smothering freshly-cut, twice-fried russet potatoes in rich brown gravy and then topping them with squeaky cheese curds is a textbook “product upgrade.” With two trucks serving the Valley, “Arizona’s original poutinerie” also pumps out hand-cut french fries with bacon, pulled pork, Philly cheesesteak, chili, garlic, vegetables and cheese sauce, or you can build your own concoction. And yes, they serve ketchup.
Must try dishes: Original poutine ($9); pulled pork poutine ($11); the Veggie Works ($9, pictured).
Best place to find the truck: Food Truck Friday West; and Queen Creek Feastival

 

STREET FOOD SPOTLIGHT

photo by Steve Craft; Wade Simpson of Bistro on Wheels
photo by Steve Craft; Wade Simpson of Bistro on Wheels

Wade Simpson
Chef Wade’s Bistro on Wheels

Chef Wade Simpson rolled out his food truck in September 2014 after more than a decade as executive chef at Paradise Valley Country Club. He’s a food trucker by day and chef/caterer at night, available for upscale wine dinners, weddings and other events.

Why did you start a food truck rather than open a restaurant?
To work for myself, and to be quite honest, I couldn’t afford a brick-and-mortar restaurant. My capital needs were much less to start a food truck. I’m a truck and trailer operation.

Most trucks focus on one kind of food, but your menu changes constantly. Is that challenging?
Well, I’m never bored. If you have the same menu all the time – and this is what has been the downfall for many chefs in restaurants – you lose interest in what you’re doing, and that’s one of the keys to cooking. I need to have some variety.

What’s your most popular dish?
Truffle mushroom mac and cheese.

What’s the key to a successful food truck business?
Never give up.

bistroonwheels.com

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

Big Red Pizza Wagon; photo by David B. Moore
Big Red Pizza Wagon; photo by David B. Moore

Big Red Pizza Wagon
facebook.com/bigredpizzawagon

When you think about eating pizza from a food truck, you probably don’t envision the wood-fire oven actually being on the truck. Think again. Big Red Pizza Wagon is a full-service mobile pizza kitchen featuring a 6,500-pound pizza oven that’s housed in a transcontinental shipping container riding on a diesel truck. Big Red offers five 11-inch, wood-fired, handmade Neapolitan pizzas using locally sourced meats and cheeses. The crispy pizza loaded with cheese cooks in less than 90 seconds.
Must try dishes: Spicy meats, with salami and pepperoni ($10); artisan cheese with mozzarella and pecorino ($8); pesto cheese ($10, pictured).
Best place to find the truck: Food Truck Friday West

 

FOOD TRUCK FAVES

Burgers Amore; photo by David B. Moore
Burgers Amore; photo by David B. Moore

Burgers Amore
burgersamore.com

For a fresh, made-to-order burger on the run, Greg Colella’s Burgers Amore has you covered like a challah roll. The burger mavens grill 1/3-pound juicy beef, turkey, veggie and pork burgers as well as killer chicken breast sandwiches all worthy of at least three napkins. You can order from the regular menu or create your own ($6) with options like blue cheese and chipotle sauce, and for $1 more, you can smother your burger with grilled mushrooms and guacamole. They offer potatoes four ways: french fries, sweet potato fries, curly fries and tater tots ($3 each).
Must try dishes:  Classic Amore Burger ($6); BBQ Cowboy Burger ($7, pictured); and The Roby Buffalo Chicken ($6).
Best place to find the truck: Roaming the Valley. Check website for locations.

 

STREET STARS
Asian Grub

Phoenix
New Hong Kong Restaurant
Known for its stir-fries and whole roasted duck, this greasy spoon restaurant in Arcadia Lite-Lite serves the kind of Cantonese staples you might find on a street corner in Guangzhou. 2328 E. Indian School Rd., 602-954-9118, newhongkongphx.com

Scottsdale/North Valley
Nee House
Sadly, Scottsdale and the North Valley have few excellent Chinese restaurants. But Nee House does a little bit of everything – Cantonese, Sichuan and Mandarin – at a high level. 13843 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, 602-992-3338

East Valley
Asian Cafe Express
Restaurant takeout gets a well-needed overhaul if you order wisely at this Cantonese favorite on Mesa’s legendary Dobson strip. Salt and pepper squid, chile-salt chicken wings and seafood stir-fry are what they’re known for, but even their version of clichéd, Americanized orange chicken has a cult following. 1911 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-668-5910, asiancafeexpress.com

West Valley
Great Wall Cuisine
At lunchtime, the Valley’s best-known name in dim sum will get you in and out of their restaurant fast. Great pork ribs. 3446 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-973-1112

 

 

 

 

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