Food Truckin – Napa Style
The food truck phenomenon has become oh so trendy in cities across the U.S., including Napa.
By Evy Warshawski
For a few shekels, varieties of satisfying fare – served from made-to-order, moveable kitchens –provide quick, healthy and on-the-go alternatives to sit-down restaurant. Best of all, the food is conceived and delivered by health-conscious entrepreneurs, as individual and innovative as the food itself.
Recently, I made a pilgrimage to four trucks, over four days, for lunch – my favorite meal of the day!
Crossroad Chicken is a family affair run by partners (and brothers), Kevin and Colin Simonson.
At age 13, Kevin read the Joy of Cooking and began washing dishes in restaurants during high school. Fast
forward through 30 years of acquiring gastronomical expertise working in various catering positions and wineries, and you’ll now find him in what he calls his “midlife crisis vehicle,” complete with a wood-fired oven – cozily situated inside the truck!
The always-changing, eclectic menu reflects the Simonson’s philosophy of using seasonal, healthy ingredients. I chose one of their most popular menu items – a hot chicken mozzarella sandwich on French roll, with a side of basil-lemon aioli and greens. Big enough to share, my lunch was fresh and tasty, plus, I couldn’t resist trying one of the bite-sized, chocolate cheesecakes – smooth, creamy and sinfully delicious –made by Sandy Hausser (Kevin’s wife).
“I like food,” said Kevin, who has operated the truck for two years. I’ve pretty much put everything I have into this, but I’m doing what I love. That’s the most important thing to me.”
Crossroad Chicken is open weekdays for lunch and is parked in the former JV’s lot, facing First Street. Check the website daily for times, menu updates and catering
information at crossroadchix.com.
Tacos La Esperanza
For super low prices, quick service, and an impressive variety of “lo real” authentic Mexican plates, visit Tacos La Esperanza; most often parked on Soscol between McKinstry and Vallejo during lunch and dinner hours.
Fish tacos are a specialty, but other protein choices include steak, spicy or fried pork, tripe, shrimp, chicken, chorizo and, for the more adventurous (with stronger stomachs), beef head, pork stomach and tongue.
I ate a perfect-for-me sized, soft shell, steak taco, made spicy with onions and cilantro, wrapped in two corn tortillas. My partner enjoyed the tongue burrito with avocado (instead of guacamole), rice, cheese, and salsa. Fresh lime slices accompanied our steaming hot, take-out dinners.
It’s best to call before you go (707-246-4908) to confirm hours of operation and location. TLE has received consistently favorable online reviews from Yelp, Chowhound and Dishtip, where you’ll find color photos of classic Esperanza dishes to whet your appetite.
Phat Salads & Wraps
You really won’t get fat at Phat Salads and Wraps, where fresh and healthy are the key ingredients in breakfast/lunch offerings served Mondays -Saturdays. The colorfully decorated truck is most often found on N. California Blvd. (near Healthquest Fitness Center), but call ahead to make sure Phat’s is open on the day/time you choose to go (707-363-9658). Menus can be previewed at http://www.phatsalads.com.
Proprietor and chef, Gia Sempronio, began Phat’s , complete with customized mobile kitchen, in 2007 with the goal of providing a more nutritious alternative to the traditional catering truck that stopped at offices and construction sites.
On Tuesdays, Phat’s parks at Napa Valley College for lunch, and the line was long with students and staff when I visited. Service is friendly and reasonably phast. “Toss it” or “Wrap it” is Phat’s slogan, so I ordered “The New Yorker” salad, tossed. Mixed in light gorgonzola- vinaigrette dressing, this lunchtime treat included a chopped mixture of avocado, crispy fried onions and romaine lettuce, plus cubed chicken. Portions are generous and yes, fresh!
“The best thing about running the truck,” said Sempronio, “is that it’s mine – from concept to service, it has been all my own vision, and I am proud and grateful at the end of each day.” Her least favorite: “Repairs and maintenance on the mechanical side ; they are never ending.”
The newest truck on the block, Pastranomy, parks in the lot on the corner of Clinton and Main, weekdays, 11:30pm – 3:30pm. It’s a veritable “meals on wheels” for authentic and traditional deli fare, with a large (and fun) menu for its small, portable kitchen!
A sampling includes: chicken matzo ball soup; pastrami, lean brisket corned beef, Reuben and turkey sandwiches on your choice of breads; all-beef, Kosher-style hot dogs; and a variety of tempting desserts (brownies and cheesecake to name a few). And, of course, you’ll find the traditional sides of salads and that infamous dill pickle.
My personal favorite is the corned beef sandwich, piled high – and hot – on the best rye to be found in Napa. I can get freshly-made mayonnaise with my order, sans snickers from the counter staff (contrary to New York delis where this is considered blasphemy).
“It’s so much fun to see lots of smiles and grins as our regular customers, and new ones too, bite into those juicy pastrami and Reuben sandwiches,” said Michael Dellar, one of three co-owners. “And, we’re spreading out with more catered events and parties, bringing the Pastranomy experience throughout the Valley.”
Receive 10% off your order with a 2012 Napa Valley Film Festival, day-of-show, ticket stub. For information and all things deli, visit pastranomy.com.