Wine & Food

Snooth User: dmcker

Food trucks & wine: more complexity in matching?

Posted by dmcker, Jan 7, 2012.
Edited Jan 7, 2012

Greg DP's series of articles on matching wines to fastfood has been entertaining for me, and I assume others. It was always a private challenge of mine, I thought, until he went public with it. I grew up on the West Coast, and though I've gone even further west across the Pacific since then, I still visit that part of the States most, and have sentiments and lifestyle appetites more specific to that locale's culture than NYC or Boston or other places on the East Coast where I've spent some time.

'Fast Food' in California still doesn't have to be crap food, if you know the area, or know someone who knows the area you're visiting. Now that 'someone' may also be on the web (including Twitter). I loved the holes-in-the-wall spots for Mexican and other takeout when I was younger (Johnny's in Ventura is the first of what became many). Now I still get a treat from taco trucks and other food trucks when I'm traveling through CA. Los Angeles has been a center for taco (and other food) truck culture, but I've also had great tacos off trucks in San Fran, Oakland and elsewhere.


Greg, if you ever do make it over to CA for your West Coast Snooth group tasting, or on your usual rushed trips to CA wine regions, would be interesting if you could take time out to visit a taco or other food truck or two, and then we could see an article on your take on how to match wines to taco trucks! Of course, that extra element of complexity I mentioned in the title centers around the fact that sometimes you're driving to the truck--or if walking from the office for lunch, may not have access to wine or may face city ordinances limiting alcoholic beverages in certain eating spaces. Nonetheless, I've managed some workarounds other than just taking the stuff home, and I'm sure others have, too. And I know barbera and gsm blends, SB, chard, riesling, bubbly and even txacoli work well with all sorts of tacos! Won't go here into all the beers that do, too, starting backwhen with Sierra Nevada ales and the aforementioned Johnny's fare, sitting down at surfer's point watching the rides...

So when I was talking to someone a couple days ago about those taco trucks, she asked me to turn her on to some in LA (which seems a center of this culture which has since spread all over the place, not only in CA but to many other states as well). Below is what I sent her earlier today, and I thought I'd share:


Here's probably more than you might want to know about Taco Trucks in LA right now. All quick reads, tho, and (I think) quite interesting. The first one is where I got those photos.  

They seem to be going mainstream, so you've got Huff Post, Women's Wear Daily, of course the likes of Yelp and even reality show planners all over it; thus also the inevitable LA Times story about how they're making a turn towards the darkside of commercialism...

Oh yeah, and a nationwide Google Map!      

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 7, 2012.

Hmmm, was a second photo at the bottom of my OP that was there a moment ago, but now seems to have vanished into the ether. If it's not there when I check again later, will post again....

Oh, now I see it over to the right under the boxes. Chris or Mark, any fixes?

Reply by GregT, Jan 7, 2012.

D - I haven't seen the articles but I'm not a fan of "fast food" if it means something from one of the chains - Wendy's, KFC, etc.  Was in a Taco Bell about five years ago to use a restroom on the interstate and was in a Macs about 20 years ago for the same reason and that's about enough for my lifetime.

However, I agree that fast food doesn't have to be crap.  There are a lot of food trucks here in NYC too - it's not a west coast thing as far as I know, esp since there have been a couple in the Village for about 10 years now, and there are also the stands in Chinatown that I'm quite fond of.  There's a good dumpling truck that shows up in the area from time to time and since my wife doesn't like those, when she's not around I have those with sherry.  We have a bunch of halal vendors and those wines usually go with a Syrah or something Spanish for some reason, although I'm certain that there are other pairings that would be as good or better.

Nice pic tho!

Reply by dmcker, Jan 7, 2012.

The food trucks have been in LA for decades (and generic lunch trucks there and all-over-the-place-elsewhere from before my birth, though those I view as a different animal), and there are even kebab trucks in several parts of Tokyo the past decade. However the upscale-gourmetist aims of the trucks (some with chefs of serious pedigree) are relatively new and the taco-truck culture definitely has blossomed from LA across the country over the past decade or more, if you look at that Google map. And some of the recent tractor/trailer semi rigs are hugely ridiculous, not at all like the chicken-noodle-soup purveyors down on Wall St.

I've had more chain fastfood then you have, though not all that often, and I quickly wanted to make it better with wine. GregDP's articles are not only cute, but realistically more. I certainly agree with you that the chains are to be avoided except in emergencies. Unfortunately they seem to have genocided the old one-or-two-off mom&pop burger stands, so aside from the holes in the wall I mentioned, you now end up with some hit or miss kebab/falafel stands, etc. These taco trucks in LA and increasingly elsewhere have been a nice option...  ;-)

Reply by GregT, Jan 8, 2012.

Genocide is now a verb!  Awesome usage!

It's true tho, that there used to be mom and pop burger stands and now they really don't exist.  There's a new trend to replace those - article in Food and Wine recently talked about that trend, but I remember going to get a burger and they'd actually cook it for you.  I suppose things like Five Guys are trying to recreate that - don't know. 

I really don't know where the upscale food truck thing started, all I know is that many ethnic enclaves have always had some decent street food - side by side of course with things you wouldn't want to put in your mouth! Back in the 1980s there was a place in Indianapolis that used to have the best ribs they'd do over those metal barrels - I ran my car off the road one snowy evening eating their rib tips. 

I think the economic situation has made it attractive for some people to cook in places that you'd not really expect. There's a guy here in Bkn who started selling pulled pork and ribs a few blocks away. You have to get them hot because I don't know about his sanitation and I'm sure he's not licensed, but they're good.

Reply by dmcker, Jan 9, 2012.

Perhaps the other Greg could do a matching article for some of the best trucks around Manhattan and Brooklyn--one for each borough?

Reply by dmcker, Jan 10, 2012.

So Foxall, no good foodtrucks in Oakland? Find that hard to believe... ;-)

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 11, 2012.

Ahh, I was just about to respond!  Okay, we have a great taco truck... well, there are bunches in Oakland.  One kind of up near the port, a few blocks from my office.  If it was the other way, you could go to the Dashe/JC Cellars tasting room and get a proper libation to pair with it.

We also have a taco bicycle guy--I'll look for a photo tomorrow.  There's a guy who pulls a wood fired oven behind his pickup  and makes pizzas on the street that are really good, called Fist of Flour.  There are bunches of others, but I haven't had a lot of time to check them out.  510 Burgers and Guerilla Grub set up near my old office (I transferred this week, so that's a big loss.) Streatery makes oxtail stew and similarly upscale stuff out of a groovy truck. Definitely things you could pair with something good and red.

I will take it as a homework assignment to check out more.  As in NYC, they are not always welcomed by the city and the restaurant community that have to pay rent, so the permitting process is slow. Nonetheless, they are flourishing.

I recommend you all get HBO and watch the new series "Luck," starting later this month.  There's a scene that will warm dmcker's heart, courtesy of my friend/college roommate, who did the set decorating for the show.  (He's working on Season 2 right now.)  The director wanted more street life in a scene done in downtown LA.  He suggested they build a couple of restaurant facades and put tables on the sidewalks and put the extras there.  Jim felt that would take too long and be too expensive, plus the extras would have to look right for the restaurants, and so on.  So he suggested hiring food trucks and having people lined up at those and eating on the sidewalk.  Huge hit, although they had to make it clear that the food trucks in the set were NOT craft services, i.e., the catered meal for the crew.  But he got good deals, and the food trucks were willing to give those because they got some free advertising on what is likely to be a HUGE show.  Of course, he got to pick the food trucks he wanted to try out.  Other perk of his job:  Watch the scenes with Dennis Farina at his "home."  My friend got to sail in that thing from San Diego to LA twice. 

The best street food story has to be GregT's from the first "drink Greg's wine" post, when he saw the naked woman at the falafel stand.  Funny and random and just why living in a big city is worthwhile.


Reply by outthere, Jan 11, 2012.

There's a taco truck on every street corner in Santa Rosa and beyond. Then there are the tamale vendors with their push carts. The upscale food trucks made an appearance this past summer but most of them are down for the winter months. The taco trucks run every day of the year. In the evenings they park in a corner lot, set up tables, music etc and itk's a party atmosphere. Crazy stuff.


Reply by smithdaj54, Jan 12, 2012.

All sorts of food carts here in Portland.  Have to say I haven't considered wine pairing.  Not the easiest thing to do with food carts, as you are usually on the go.  And there's that whole not drinking in public part.  A food cart is your best friend after a night out, 2:30 in the morning.  Would be interesting though to try the food pairing.  My favorite food cart is called the Pink Taco.  Usually get fish tacos (I know), but maybe pair that with a nice Riesling or Rose in summer, yum!

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 12, 2012.

Well, with so much information to start with it looks like I'm going to have to look into these taco trucks on my next visist to CA.  And ortland, the food wagon capitol of the world. When in Portland I spend an inordinate amount of time dining on the fare offered by places like the Lunch Box, the Schnitzel place, and the Sausage dude. It really is one of the high point of my visits and worth an indepth look!

Thanks for the inspiration!

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 25, 2012.

Lots of good mobile food going on in san fran... ck out the link here for one example:  el huarache loco.. there are many, many others serving up top of the line grub... BYOB, stealthly :-)  

BTW, I love this show.. watch it all the time.  People pick their faves, and the other two have to go have a meal there.  Then they all get together and rate it.  Eating establishments range from mobile food, sandwich shops, to top of the line, 4 star establishments:

Reply by dmcker, Jan 25, 2012.

Thanks for the link, NG. Interesting viewing. So are you going to be one of the guests on the show at some point?

BTW, you might want to check out the restaurant winelist review thread that GregDP started back when. I suggested a place in Berkeley that you might want to compete with Foxall over, in going after subsidies from Snooth...  ;-)

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 25, 2012.

@ Dmcker-  Ha!  I actually started filling out the application to be on the show, but then chickened out.  With my luck, I'd pick a place I love, and the others would not, or have a bad experience.

I've thought about which establishment I'd pick... being that I haven't been EVERYWHERE, I would prolly pick my current fav, Hurley's in Yountville.

I am now going to find the place in Berkeley you mentioned... wonder if I've been there?

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 25, 2012.

@Dmcker - are you talking about Chez Panisse?  Yes, I have been there... mostly for lunch. Very good. Especially after soaking in the redwood hottubs at  :-) :-)

Reply by dmcker, Apr 6, 2012.

Well Greg, if you're too busy to chase down a taco truck when next in the Bay Area, you could always tap an order into the TacoCopter app, pour a drink and wait for delivery to wherever you are!

Gotta love the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial imagination, though I'm a little skeptical about the LobsterCopter ('the taco of the east') venture for back east, for which no details are yet available. Hey, at least the Tshirts are probably real.

Only a little time before the NapaCopter starts up.  I'm kinda afraid of the fruitbombs a PasoCopter might drop, though....

Reply by GregT, Apr 6, 2012.

Pretty brilliant idea D!  I imagine they probably wouldn't want to deliver pizza that way but if they get that down, Domino's has no reason not to make it in 30 minutes or less.

BTW - they have these awards that were started a few years ago - the "Vendy" awards, in which they give awards to the most popular food trucks/stands.  I suppose they should be separate categories as the stands have been here since time immemorial, usually selling only a couple things like arepas, Chinese dumplings, etc., whereas the trucks these days tend to be far more ambitious.

Not all that far from my house is this place, which has been home to a collection of vendors for quite a while now:

Reply by dmcker, Apr 6, 2012.

Lots of 404 errors so couldn't see any actual food at that RedHook site, but looks like a spot for an enterprising wine entrpreneur to set up his Argentina and Spain wine offerings truck on a weekend, eh?   ;-)

Reply by shsim, Apr 6, 2012.

Plenty of foodtrucks in San Diego! Recent had Super Q bbq pulled pork sandwich with their mac and cheese! It was right outside a local brewery of course.

There is a Polish one that stops outside Fifty Seven degrees (local wine store) Thursday evening and they have a third friday food truck extravanganza every month! Although I am not a good fan of their place, the idea of a whole bunch of food truck at one place and wine to go with is great! :D

if you guys are ever in San Diego!


Reply by EMark, Apr 9, 2012.

Danger, Will Robinson, danger.

Slight issue with the TacoCopter concept.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 9, 2012.

Frankly I thought it was an April Fool's post when I first saw it, but then chased down its source to the second half of March. Guess the jury's still out on whether they can put it together, though they've certainly proven they can create buzz. The technology is there, but can they package it right (not just in paper or what have you)? Or is it just a guerilla marketing piece of theater?   ;-)

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