An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 10, 2014
12:54 PMThe Connecticut Table
Best Gourmet Food Trucks in Connecticut, a Sampling (Festival July 19, 20)
Douglas P. Clement/Connecticut Magazine
The Everything Burger and sea salt fries from the Munchies food truck.
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One of the hottest trends on the Connecticut dining scene is food trucks going gourmet, with everything from Angus beef burgers to lobster rolls, tacos and even cupcakes—and that delicious bounty is being celebrated July 19 and 20 at the 1st Annual Connecticut Food Truck Festival, taking place both days from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the North Haven Fairgrounds on Washington Avenue (Route 5) in North Haven. The goal of the event is to raise funds for local food banks.
The cost is $5 per person, which is good for both days and also covers parking; those 17 and younger are admitted for free. Blog posts about the festival say 50 trucks are expected; there will also be music, entertainment and lots of family activities. The best source of updates is the festival's Facebook page, and those with questions, or seeking information on exhibiting at the food truck festival, should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In part to preview the festival, Connecticut Magazine assembled this sampling of more than 15 of the best gourmet food trucks in Connecticut (which appears in print in our August issue.) Enjoy!
The last time we bumped into the Lobster Craft truck it was outside the Greenwich Public Library at lunchtime and there was a line of hungry customers waiting. What did they know? Capt. William Michael Harden is a licensed lobster fisherman who knows his way around a crustacean. He purchased a truck in 2012 and began rolling, literally, across the state from a base in Norwalk, serving lobster rolls with fresh, hot-buttered lobster meat and a pinch of Lobster Craft’s 12-ingredient proprietary seasoning blend, all on a lightly toasted split-top bun. The “Fan favorite” is the “L.B.L.T.”, or lobster roll with bacon, lettuce and tomato, and topped with a little mayo and fresh hot lobster. (See the blog post on Lobster Craft from our friends at OnNomCT.)
After a bit of a search, we found the Munchies truck set up behind a medical office building near the waterfront in New London—and, wow, was our effort rewarded. Aiman Saad, whose “day job” is being a chef de cuisine at Mohegan Sun casino, operates the gourmet truck as a side venture with his wife, Manal. Their mission is to give people restaurant quality “fast food” on the go. The Munchie Burger Deluxe (right) (fried egg, bacon, cheese, pickles, red onions, tomato, iceberg lettuce, ketchup and mustard, mayonnaise) is melt-in-your-mouth amazing, and the hand-cut sea salt fries are a work of art gilded by the connoisseur’s touch of being served with garlic-pepper mayonnaise (or ketchup). Munchies travels the state (check its Facebook page) and is at the big Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market every Sunday in season. The catering side of the gourmet food truck business features a menu that includes eggplant bruschetta to mini pepper-and-garlic-chicken skewers, mini Munchie burgers, Philly cheese steak and sausage-meatball sliders, and beer-battered onion rings.
The childhood classic goes chic in this mobile extension of the beloved New Haven fromagerie and bistro Caseus. The Caseus truck offers decadent (and gigantic) grilled cheeses. They blend six different cheeses and allow hungry patrons to top them with everything from tomato to grilled red onion and Berkshire pulled pork to guacamole. Or opt for the grilled cheese of the day for something truly extraordinary. There are soup and salads available individually or in a combo. And for the really brave: You can name your own Caseus sandwich provided you’re able to eat (and keep down) 10 of your specialty sandwiches in an hour. (Above left, The Drop Box Combo, a grilled cheese with tomato, bacon and arugula served with whole grain dijon and pickles.)
Based out of East Haven, this sweet-tooth truck is the mobile satellite location of Sugar Bakery. The brainchild of mother-daughter team Carol Vollono and Brenda DePonte, it is an Italian cupcake paradise that can fulfill even the most intense sugar craving. The truck offers a daily selection of 36 creative cupcake flavors, featuring the 24 best-selling while the remaining 12flavors rotate. Highlights include the Peanut Butter Sundae, Chocolate Covered Cherry, and summer seasonal favorites such as Peach Cobbler, Orange Creamsicle and Watermelon. This truck is a favorite addition to many Connecticut weddings. It’s easy to see/taste why.
If you ever find yourself with a carload of screaming kids on the way to Quassy Amusement Park, be sure to pull over along Route 64 and treat yourself to a delicious taco that will surely keep you going as you’re relentlessly dragged around the park. Woodbury native Christopher (Haig) Leonard is serving up something new out of his El Camión food truck—California-style tacos with fresh ingredients and an even fresher taste. For now, the menu is limited to a variety of three tacos and two quesadillas, but the fish tacos (left) are a definite must-try. After being marinated in coconut and lime, the swai fish is battered in cornmeal and fried until it’s “crispy, crunchy.” Then it’s served with a tangy, sweet fresh mango salsa and topped with shaved red and green cabbage and a drizzle of light vinaigrette, sour cream and a splash of lime. For an extra kick, he adds a bit of sriracha chili sauce, but customers are welcome to choose from a variety of sauces displayed on the truck’s window ledge for that extra spiciness—one of which is Leonard’s own chipotle sauce that’s “smoky hot.” Now in his third year of serving tacos out of El Camión (Spanish for “the truck”), Leonard plans to open his own restaurant in the near future, but for now, he will continue to serve from his food truck. “The truck is not going anywhere—it’s where it all started,” says Leonard.
As they say in The Godfather: “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” So how can you not try the cannoli? Opened in 1988, Meriano’s Bakery Shoppe has been squeezing out tasty cannoli and Italian pastries for over 25 years and now they serve desserts on wheels. So what makes these cannolis so delicious? We’d love to tell you, but Andrea Meriano declined to share the secret family recipe. She did say all the pastries are made from whole ingredients without additional artificial flavoring. “It’s a simple recipe that we’ve been using for 30 years but it’s phenomenal,” says Meriano. Even with a variety of wild flavors like Creamsicle andS’mores, the traditional cannoli remains the top seller. A portion of the proceeds is donated to the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale, and as the website indicates, the Cannoli Truck is “cruising to get closer to free.”
“Life ain’t easy, take it cheesy.” So says Melt Mobile, which brings gourmet grilled cheese to Stamford in new—and crazy delicious—ways. Case in point: The Insanewich, a grilled 6 oz. Angus burger with bacon, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and Melt sauce between two Originals, each of which are a blend of Tillamook cheddar, Gruyère and Monterey Jack on country white bread. If that’s too much, try the Svelt Melt, which features low-fat Jarlsberg, oven-roasted turkey, Roma tomato and honey mustard on a 7-grain bread, and clocks in at 350 calories. And not only does Melt Mobile taste good, it does good, donating 2 percent of proceeds to The Umbrella Club, which supports children in need. (Photo courtesy of OmNomCT; see the blog post including Melt Mobile.)