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Restaurants on wheels: A guide to Pierce County’s food trucks

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on Aug. 1, 2014 at 12:00 am | No Comments »
September 9, 2014 3:14 pm
Ande Dunn and Darrin Shaw were happy to split a "Bad Ass Burger" from Budha Bear Bagels when the truck appeared last month at Food Truck Fest in Tacoma's Wright Park.
Ande Dunn and Darrin Shaw were happy to split a “Bad Ass Burger” from Budha Bear Bagels when the truck appeared last month at Food Truck Fest in Tacoma’s Wright Park.

A diner complaint I hear too often: “We don’t have a food truck community.”

Or do we, and you just don’t know where to find it?

That’s where I come in, your handy newspaper restaurant critic.

I traversed every pocket of Pierce County, cross-referenced with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, hunted down social media, and relied on readers to assemble my most comprehensive list to date of food trucks based in Pierce County. The list is current as of today, but an unfortunate consequence of businesses that operate on wheels is that they might be serving today, but could easily roll out of town tomorrow. My advice: Call first, or check social media before trekking across the county.

In all, I found nearly 30 trucks serving — and licensed — in Pierce County that I’ve categorized into three groups. The first is the region’s oldest category of mobile dining: taco trucks serving traditional taqueria eats. The second is a list of trucks with semipermanent locations or regular serving spots. The third is a list of what I call “floater trucks.” Those are for-hire trucks you’ll occasionally encounter at public gatherings or festivals, but are trucks without permanent homes.

After all that traveling – and eating – I might’ve missed a truck or two. That’s where you come in. Have a Pierce County truck you want to tell me about? Call me at 253-597-8270 or email sue.kidd@thenewstribune.com and I’ll update this story with your additions.

TACO TRUCKS

These trucks keep regular hours at permanent locations. You’ll find taqueria-style menus of fast-food Mexican: tacos, enchiladas, burritos and torta sandwiches, with prices rarely above $8-$9.

A taco plate from El Taco Super Bas.
A taco plate from El Taco Super Bas.

El Taco Super Bas

El Super Taco Bus
A giant white bus painted with the words “Welcome to El Super Taco Bas” anchors the far corner of the parking lot in front of Thrift City on East 72nd Street. Seating choices are generous, with about a dozen inside the bus and picnic tables for another dozen out front. Diners take note: That stretch of 72nd previously was home to three taco trucks, but one departed and another converted to a stand-alone taqueria.

Order: Tacos with carnitas, which is pork shoulder that has been slow-roasted, then griddled just before serving. Tacos are dressed with onions and cilantro.

Where: 904 72nd St. E., Tacoma; 253-830-5843

A taco plate from Los 3 Hermanos on 6th. Order the asada.
A taco plate from Los 3 Hermanos on 6th. Order the asada.

Los 3 Hermanos Taqueria on 6th

Los 3 Hermanos 6th
Parking can be tricky and limited here, so be careful when you enter the gas station parking lot where Los 3 Hermanos operates. There’s only one picnic table out front. The truck operates at a gas station a few blocks from its previous home across from Pao’s Donuts.

Do ask for the salsa: verde comes with a nip of heat; the red sauce heavy on smoke.

Order: Asada tacos plate with rice and beans. Like its sister truck on 12th, this taqueria treats its griddled steak well.

Where: 610 N. Mildred, Tacoma; 206-850-4649

A torta sandwich, with carnitas, at Los 3 Hermanos on 12th.
A torta sandwich, with carnitas, at Los 3 Hermanos on 12th.

Los 3 Hermanos Taqueria on 12th

Los 3 Hermanos 12th St
Even the seating area comes with a steering wheel at Los 3 Hermanos. Adjacent to the taco truck is a big van that’s had its seats ripped out and replaced with bench seating for indoor dining. Picnic tables outside also offer seating. Find Los 3 Hermanos in the parking lot of a convenience store. A sister truck operates near Sixth and Mildred.

Order: Tortas sandwich, a griddled bun smeared with beans on one side and mayo on the other, finished with your choice of meat, lettuce, tomatoes and sliced avocado.

Where: 2728 S. 12th St., Tacoma; 253-886-0213

Want salsa? Find four bottles on every table at Ricos Tacos.
Want hot sauce? Find four bottles on every table at Ricos Tacos.

Ricos Tacos

Rico's Tacos
Call Ricos the little truck that could. A truck accident shuttered this restaurant in 2012, but it came back swinging after two months of repairs. The truck lists one of the larger menus in the region, including breakfast items and a menu for children. There’s seating under a tent shelter and a serve-yourself station for lime wedges and pickled carrots and jalapenos.

Order: Look at the whiteboard for the day’s special, usually less than $5. Stick with something simple, such as tacos.

Where: 5015 S. Center St.,Tacoma; 253-202-8197

A taco plate with pickled carrots from Sonia's on 6th.
A taco plate with pickled carrots from Sonia’s on 6th.

Sonia’s Tacos

Sonias truck
Considering the size and comfort of its indoor seating, this truck is nearly as good as a brick-and-mortar taqueria. Located in the heart of the Sixth Avenue dining neighborhood, Sonia’s Tacos has a kitchen on its truck and has an adjacent building with indoor seating. Look for the serve-yourself salsa bar inside the dining room. Order outside from the truck; or order at a window inside the dining room.

Order: The best lengua I’ve had in the region. Order the lengua tacos with rice and beans.

Where: 2516 Sixth Ave., Tacoma.

Fish tacos at La Fondita are made with grilled tilapia.
Fish tacos at La Fondita are made with grilled tilapia.

Taqueria La Fondita

La Fondita taco truck
The craters are so deep, it might feel as if you’re off-roading your way through the gravel lot adjacent to Taqueria La Fondita. This truck has a partially enclosed seating area that’s seen better days. Beware of rickety stairs leading up to the truck. But it has the best pickled carrots in town, and condiments are doled out generously.

Order: This truck makes the best carnitas torta sandwich in town. Don’t miss the grilled-fish tacos.

Where: 3737 S. G St., Tacoma; 253-472-2577

A torta, with carnitas, from Las Torres.
A torta, with carnitas, from Las Torres.

Taqueria Las Torres

Las Torres Purdy Use This PHOTO
You’ll have to pay a toll to get to this truck in Purdy. It’s parked in the lot of a Westbay Auto Parts Store in a small shopping center. The truck comes with seating for just a few, one table has an umbrella. Friendly service at this truck.

Order: A carnitas torta.
Where: 14008 Purdy Drive N.W., Gig Harbor

A carnitas taco trio from Taqueria Los Pinos.
A carnitas taco trio from Taqueria Los Pinos.

Taqueria Los Pinos

Taqueria Los Pinos Taco Truck
This truck sits in a lot that has hosted several taco trucks over the years. It’s at an intersection I like to call Cardiac Arrest Corner, due to its proximity to Ezell’s Fried Chicken and the Fish House. Good thing St. Joe’s is across the street. Beware – this truck does not keep regular hours. It’s also the only taco truck I’ve encountered that is cash only.

Order: Keep it simple – a taco will do.
Where: 1901 Martin Luther King Jr., Way, Tacoma

A trio of tacos from Tortas Las Tortugas on River Road in Puyallup.
A taco duo from Tortas Las Tortugas on River Road in Puyallup.

Tortas Las Tortugas

Tortas Las Tortugas
This truck can be easy to miss, which is why the truck’s yellow blinking light — a taco beacon — is so helpful. This truck on River Road operates in the parking lot of Bull’s Eye, a shooting-supply store. Service can be quite slow if only one worker is on hand; seating is limited to a few stools.

Order: Something simple, such as a chicken taco.

Where: 819 River Road, Puyallup; 253-306-8801

A carnitas torta from Los Amigos.
A carnitas torta from Los Amigos.

Taqueria Los Amigos

Los Amigos Puyallup bus
My favorite taco truck in the region is behind a gas station/convenience store on busy Meridian in South Hill. Find seating inside the truck during colder months and picnic tables outside when it’s warm. A beer garden for diners 21 and older is operated by the convenience store next door.

Order: Anything with carnitas, but especially the torta made with the griddled pork. Sandwiches always have the correct ratio of bread to ingredients.

Where: 11802 E. Meridian, Puyallup; 253-848-0176

FIXED LOCATION TRUCKS

These trucks serve different styles of food at semi-permanent locations.

A burger and fries from Barrel No. 51.
A burger and fries from Barrel No. 51.

Barrel No. 51

Barrel No 51 truck
What pairs well with beer? Burgers and pulled pork. This mobile truck is one of the region’s longest running and has an occasionally changing menu of sandwiches, burgers and sometimes slow-smoked ribs and other barbecue items.

Order: The pulled-pork sandwich or any burger are safe bets, especially when paired with a pint of beer from the brewery where it operates, Narrows Brewing.

Where: 6-10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays at Narrows Brewing, 9007 S. 19th St., Tacoma; 253-468-3965 or visit on.fb.me/1Ah4G6I

A smoked salmon bagel from Budha Bear Bagel.
A smoked salmon bagel from Budha Bear Bagel.

Budha Bear Bagels

Budha Bagel truck
Budha Bear Bagels — a tough-to-miss, orange-and-blue truck with a cartoon bear on the side — is the project of Puyallup residents Kat and David Chavis. They started serving at the University of Washington Tacoma campus last October but left earlier this summer. They now can be found serving bagel sandwiches at farmers markets and special events. They say they’ll serve only kettle-boiled bagels. They buy theirs from the Seattle Bagel Bakery.

Order: The smoked salmon bagel with capers, red onions and a hefty portion of lox.

Where: Thursdays at the Tacoma Broadway Farmers Market and Saturdays at the Puyallup Farmers Market; 253-228-5914 or facebook.com/BudhaBearBagelsCafe.

A gyro sandwich, with fries, from Finnwick's Kitchen.
A gyro sandwich, with fries, from Finnwick’s Kitchen.

Finnwick’s Kitchen

Finnwick's Kitchen
The neon-yellow Greek-street-eats truck is an outpost of the region’s oldest Greek restaurant, It’s Greek To Me. That restaurant founded by Tacoma native Jim Wick has operated for more than 20 years near Sixth and Sprague. Wick’s latest venture offers portable Greek sandwiches. Surprising find: fresh-baked pizza with a yeasty crust; and a 10-minute baking time.

Order: Gyro sandwich with fries and a soda. The gyro is ground beef and lamb slices tucked into a warmed pita and finished with tomato, lettuce, onion and tzatziki.

Where: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays outside the Old Post Office Building in downtown Tacoma, 1102 A St., Tacoma; 253-272-1375 or facebook.com/Finnwickskitchen.

Josefina’s Burrito Boy

Josefinas
If there’s a father of the food truck community in Pierce County, it’s Rodolfo Garcia, owner of Josefina’s Mexican Restaurant in Tacoma. More than 20 years ago, he started his first food truck, Josefina’s Burrito Boy, to provide a mobile kitchen for Josefina’s catering operations. He became the envy of competing caterers because of his ability to roll up to an event and immediately serve, with no setup or takedown. Two decades later, he has two taco trucks for catered events, but also drops by festivals and farmers markets, offering a menu of taqueria-style burritos, tacos and combination plates.

Order: A burrito, naturally.

Where: Tuesdays at the Lakewood Farmers Market; Wednesdays at the Steilacoom Farmers Market; Thursdays at the Tacoma Broadway Farmers Market; and Saturdays at the Puyallup Farmers Market; 253-474-7374 or josefinas-mexicanfood.com.

A big boy plate from Lumpia World.
A big boy plate from Lumpia World.

Lumpia World

Lumpia World truck

This Filipino food truck has a rare reverse-order story. It opened as a mobile truck followed years later by a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Lumpia World built a reputation for its namesake, fried lumpia (the Filipino cousins of Chinese egg rolls). The truck also serves a mashup of Filipino and Japanese food. The truck has been a longtime Pierce County staple; its restaurant is in Federal Way.

Order: Lemongrass chicken lumpia, ginger pork lumpia, and the banana lumpia — the best dessert lumpia you’ll ever eat.

Where: Every Thursday at the Tacoma Broadway Farmers Market; 253-874-5867 or lumpiaworld.com.

A Tijuana dog from Mobile Food Command Center.
A Tijuana dog from Mobile Food Command Center.

Mobile Food Command Center

 It looks like a SWAT van, and there’s a good reason for that. The food truck from X Group Restaurants, owners of Tacoma’s Asado and Masa restaurants, previously spent its life as a command unit for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Now the truck dishes up tacos, burgers and nachos. Think of it as a miniversion of Masa, with the same flavors, but translated into portable food.

Order: Bacon-wrapped hot dog, aka the Tijuana dog, smothered in queso and pico de gallo. Tacos come in servings of three — get the asada.

Where: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays at Sterino Farms Produce Market, 52nd St. E., Puyallup; 253-254-0560 or facebook.com/mobilefoodcommandcenter.

A trio of burgers are packed into a box at Out and About burgers.
A trio of burgers are packed into a box at Out and About burgers.

Out and About Burgers

out and about
For years, this burger trailer has kept the same South Hill location. Out and About serves an abbreviated menu of burgers, fries and onion rings. Order on one side of the trailer, then drive around to pick up on the other. The trailer is located in the gravel lot in front of the U-Haul. I’m a fan of how this truck prepares its food to go: burgers are wrapped up in a box, not a bag.

Order: The double cheeseburger is a safe bet, but the BMC will appeal to purists. The simple burger comes with two patties and cheese on a bun. That’s it.

Where: Serving lunch and dinner daily at 14212 Meridian Ave. E, Puyallup; 253-677-1974 or outandaboutburgers.com.

The artichoke pesto chicken pie from Pizzahood.
The artichoke pesto chicken pie from Pizzahood.

Pizzahood

Pizzahood exterior
Pizzahood has to be the hottest mobile restaurant in the area. You can feel the heat radiate from this truck that’s outfitted with a wood-fueled pizza oven. Stacked adjacent to the oven is fruitwood that constantly fuels the oven that churns out pizza quickly. Pies come in two sizes — small or large, priced $7.99-$14.99. Find this truck in the parking lot of a gas station with a car wash. The truck is right next to a vacuum station, so you can double up and clean your car while you wait for your pie. Limited seating.

Order: Applewood bacon and sausage, finished with a dusting of dried herbs and a thick blanket of mozzarella.

Where: Serving lunch and dinner Mondays-Saturdays at 1504 E Main Ave., Puyallup; 253-200-1203 or woodpizzahood.com.

FLOATER TRUCKS

Diners will find these Pierce County trucks at special events or occasionally roaming. These trucks currently do not have permanent homes or regular scheduled stops. Two are so new, they don’t yet have licensing.

A fried fish sandwich from Big Boys.
A fried fish sandwich from Big Boys.

Big Boy’s Filipino Food Truck

Big Boys Truck
This food truck from Nate Daep and Melanie Querubin previously served its portable Filipino sandwiches and fried lumpia in an industrial neighborhood in Sumner, but in recent months the truck has been traveling to Seattle or serving at local festivals.

Contact: 206-436-9424 or facebook.com/BigBoysFilipinoFoodTruck.

The Cake Mobile by Celebrity Cake Studio

Cakemobile Celebrity Cake Studio
Longtime pastry professional Odette D’Aniello, owner of Tacoma’s Celebrity Cake Studio, is the operator of this truck. Find it serving huge slices of cake at various public events. The truck also is known to set up cake decorating activities for children.

Contact: 253-627-4773 or facebook.com/celebritycakestudio.

Da-Van That Know “THE MAN”

Da Van That Know The Man van photo from Facebook
Find this brand-new barbecue truck at special events. The truck’s name is an homage to “The Man,” the regionally famous spicy barbecue sauce served at restaurants owned by the Porter family. The Tacoma Porter’s Place closed in 2012 when owner Alton Porter died. Da-Van owner Terry Hayes previously worked with Porter, as well as Martin Dowd from Dowd’s Barbecue.

Contact: 253-961-9576 or on.fb.me/1oopDaJ.

Fleischkuechle

Fleischkuechle truck
This truck has served its Russian-German hybrid fried meat pies for 20 years outside the fairgrounds in Puyallup. Sisters-in-law Pat Jorgensen and Pat Tuthill sold the truck in 2011 to family friends Virginia “Ginny” Vrieze and her son Ben Vrieze, who now tour the truck to special events across the region. Find the flaky pies Aug. 7-10 at Pierce County Fair and Sept. 5-21 at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.

Contact: 253-677-1759 or on.fb.me/WHqFok.

Gibson’s Frozen Yogurt Truck

Gibson's Frozen Yogurt Truck
This frozen dessert truck from the owners of Gibson’s Frozen Yogurt — with locations in the Stadium and Westgate neighborhoods — rolls up at public festivals outfitted with at least a half dozen choices of frozen yogurt and a toppings bar. Find the truck Aug. 8-9 at Fircrest Fun Days and Aug. 22-23 at the Vintage Motorcycle Festival at LeMay-America’s Car Museum.

Contact: 253-444-5777 or facebook.com/GibsonsFrozenYogurtTruck.

House of Donuts Truck

This truck is an outpost of the longtime Lakewood doughnut bakery, House of Donuts. The truck can be found at festivals and other public events serving doughnuts and coffee.

Contact: 253-588-2647 or facebook.com/OriginalHouseOfDonuts.

Kerry’s Caribbean Takeout

This new truck serves at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but is in search of a regular home in Pierce County and is currently working on licensing. The truck from Kerry Ramroop has a promising sounding menu of jerk dishes, curries and something not often seen around here: paratha roti, the flaky flatbread with Indian origins.

Contact: 650-400-1087 or facebook.com/kerryscaribbean.takeout.

Lizzie Lou’s Comfort Food

goeats_mobilefood
Tacoma native Warnessa Victorian recently started her food truck and affiliated cafe in Fife. The self-taught cook serves a short menu of sandwiches at her lunch counter, Lizzie Lou’s Too, inside Tacoma’s Destination Harley (do not miss her whipped banana pudding). Her food truck is roaming events only and features a different menu from her Tacoma cafe. Victorian calls her truck menu “soul food with an Asian base.” Her favorite dish is her Lizzie-yakisoba, yakisoba with andouille sausage, blackened chicken and southern spices. She operates the truck with her son and daughter-in-law.

Contact: 253-592-4077 or facebook.com/lizzielousfood.

Neptune’s Galley

Locals will find Becky Vanausdal serving seafood and fry bread around Kitsap County for now, but she’s working on permanent Pierce County licensing and intends to serve in Purdy. Vanausdal previously operated a Purdy seafood business with her husband. Neptune’s Galley incorporates Pacific Northwest cultural foods with regional American twists, such as fry bread topped Philly cheesesteak style.

Contact: 253-225-3730 or facebook.com/northwestneptune

R.J.’s Fresh and Fast

This truck merges burgers and Indian food — the cuisines of its brick-and-mortar restaurants R.J.’s Burgers and Little India Express, both in the food court at Freighthouse Square. The restaurants are operated by brothers Raj and Roger Singh, with Raj’s wife Rajinder Kaur. The truck has a hybrid menu of curries and burgers — and even a burger with Indian spicing. R.J.’s is in search of a permanent location, but find it roaming at public events until then.

Contact: 253-572-2575, 206-313-5824 or on.fb.me/UstQhV

Rolling Crust

This rolling pizza mobile has served occasionally at Narrows Brewing and Tacoma Brewing Company.

Contact: 253-792-0120 or on.fb.me/1npGJoH.

MOBILE DINING HOW-TO

1. Call first or check social media for locations. Trucks move or lose their spaces often. Half of my research time for this project was driving around aimlessly looking for trucks. Pity me.

2. Dine earlier, not later. The later in the day, the higher the chances you’ll find a sold-out truck.

3. Consider attending a food truck festival to get acquainted with the area’s trucks. The next truck festival is Moveable Feast, Sept. 13 at Cheney Stadium. Check facebook.com/tacomafoodtruck for information.

4. Scout farmers markets. Markets in Tacoma, Puyallup, Lakewood and Steilacoom feature multiple mobile food businesses.

5. Bring friends. More diners means more plates from which to graze.

6. Cards or cash? Most take plastic, but bring cash just in case.

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