The Food Trucks at Coachella 2012
By now, I would hope that food trucks would be ubiquitous in the collective psyche of American food lovers. The trail blazing pioneers in cultural centers like New York, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco, have inspired other amazing trucks around the country to rise and take the opportunity to share their tasty creations with the masses.
What better place to do this than at one of the largest music and arts festivals in the world, Coachella. I had the opportunity to attend Coachella this year after having missed the last 7 since my first visit in 2004. I came for At the Drive-In, but I stayed for the food trucks. I did some research before embarking on my trip, and found that a handful of the most well-established food trucks would be attending, including: The Greasy Weiner, Border Grill, KoolHaus, Kogi, The Gravy Train and the “om-nom” inducing, Cod Save the Queen. A Sex Pistols inspired fish and chips truck?! Count me in!
I’m getting ahead of myself though. My father and I scouted the food area for a bit before figuring out which trucks we’d really like to visit. I know it sounds out of character for me, but it would’ve been a bit much to sample all 9 or 10 trucks. So we narrowed it down to The Gravy Train, Kogi, and Cod Save the Queen.
The Gravy Train Poutinerie hails from the streets of Los Angeles and serves up some of the best poutine south of Montreal. From their concise menu, we chose the Veggie Poutine, strange-sounding choice for me right? It consisted of hand cut fries, fresh cheese curds, creamy garlic gravy, grilled onions and sautéed mushrooms. If that’s considered a veggie dish, I’m in! With a little added hot sauce, it was the perfect pre-dinner snack. It was a chilly evening, so the whole package was a warming delight. The fries held up surprisingly well under the flood of gravy and cheese curds. While I would have liked a bit more of a garlicky kick, poutine beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, I was sitting in the middle of the desert eating poutine, there wasn’t much to complain about.
Later that evening, we made our way to the opposite side of the festival. The Gravy Train was located near the main stage where we were serenaded by the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Pulp and Bon Iver. Another Los Angeles truck, Cod Save the Queen, was at the opposite end of the Polo Grounds, near the dance stage. You couldn’t ask for a more different atmosphere, as the thumping bass and extraterrestrial light show added a sort of Euro feel to our fish and chips experience, which was amazing by the way. This truck had a great system in place where they have two people standing out front to take your order, which basically nullifies the worst part of the food truck experience, waiting in line.
Our order was taken swiftly and in no time we were holding a piping hot, freshly fried basket of fish and chips. A little malt vinegar and a squeeze of lemon sealed the deal and we were instantly thrown across the pond as we savored our succulent seafood. It was fried so delicately that it crinkled at the slightest touch. Flaky and almost sweet, it was hands down the best fish and chips I’ve ever had in the US, even rivaling our friends in the UK. It was so good that I feel that if, god forbid, some terrible calamity befell Her Majesty, this cod could literally save her. Way to live up to your name guys.
On the final day of the festival after having seen one of my all-time favorite bands, At the Drive-In, we sought out a truck that, thus far, had been unreachable due to a never-ending line of hungry Korean taco hunters. If we haven’t made this point clear in the past, if you see a line, there’s probably a reason, so Kogi had been on my short list since we arrived at Coachella.
We decided to forgo our front row seats for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg in exchange for some Mexic-asian feasting. While Snoop and Dre put on an impressive show, even managing to resurrect Tupac and Nate Dogg, the call of Kogi was too much to resist. It’s a good thing we left when we did, because we were immediately handed a sign reading “End of the Line”, which was promptly handed to the next person who walked up, and the next and the next, until one of the Kogi staff had to come out and put a stop to it. They must be doing well if they don’t mind turning hungry hipsters away!
We made it to the window and ordered two short rib tacos and a spicy pork taco. Both were very simple, sitting on two flour tortillas and each was packed with flavor. They didn’t need to slather ladles of sauce over them, the meat was seasoned so well and was tender as could be. Our favorite was the spicy pork, laced with Asian spices, it was almost like a Korean chicharron.
It really elevated Coachella to have all these food trucks serving up fresh cuisine to compliment the myriad musical acts performing over the three-day festival. I’m planning on attending Lollapalooza in August, where I’m told the food is even better, so stay tuned for that later this summer. Until then keep on truckin’!