It's been some time since I've seen a food truck in my work neighborhood. The Curbside Cafe was sold off so its owners could embrace a new opportunity. The Silver Platter, who dominated the area last summer, revamped their menu, relocated to the county, and has since run out of steam. The GrrChe truck made an isolated appearance back in the spring. Even IcedGems, a regular Friday lunchtime fixture, has been scarce.
Regular readers know that I love the novelty and creativity of the food truck experience. The small, mobile nature of the venture usually means a low overhead and lots of creative freedom. You can usually count on a fairly decent meal of out-of-the-ordinary food for a fairly decent price.
Even with the apparent disappearance of the food trucks from my neighborhood, the food truck scene in Baltimore remains strong. A fleet of trucks can be seen in Midtown, Fells Point, Hopkins, Charles Village, and many other neighborhoods throughout the city. And there are still (with increasing frequency) the food truck rallies know as The Gathering.
Last night's Gathering was in Hampden in the parking lot of HeartWares at Keswick and 34th just a few blocks down from The Avenue. Many of the regulars were there, including The Gypsy Queen Cafe, Miss Shriley's, and the aforementioned IcedGems and GrrChe. But missing (and I did miss them) were SouperFreaks and Dangerously Delicious (I had my heart set on a mini SMOG pie, an item they only sell from the truck).
The gentle downward slope of the parking lot and the buildings that surround it looked to be the perfect location, offering the promise of protection from the still-hot sun of Baltimore's early evening. Alas, this was not the case. The sun shone directly into the space, and the surrounding buildings only served to cut off the air flow. Even so, it was a highly enjoyable food event.
With me again was a fellow foodie from work, and a couple of co-workers from her department. Our first stop was Miss Shirley's for their famous cheesy grits with bacon. They looked as good as always, although I did not partake this time.
First stop - the never disappointing Miss Shirley's
Cheesy grits with bacon
Next, we did a circuit to see what was there and plan the evening's eating. This is really the best approach to the food truck rally, especially a large one. As we wandered through, I stopped to chat with some of the vendors to try to find out why no one was in Harbor East anymore. Mostly, I heard good news about expanding operations and trying to reach more neighborhoods. IcedGems has expanded their circuit and now has a bi-weekly schedule throughout Baltimore. My favorite GrrChe also spoke of expanding operations to include additional trucks to reach a larger audience. All this is very good news. And despite the growing Bagby restaurant complex on Fleet Street, there is still room for these smaller lunch vendors to do business on an ad hoc basis so long as they park around the corner and out of sight on Central. (The Curbside Cafe did this for over a year, and we have been looking for someone to assume this space since they closed up shop.)
Last night's gathering was smaller than expected, and we navigated the space fairly quickly. We saw several newcomers, including the humorously-named Kommie Pig, selling sausages and pulled pork. We decided on fish tacos from Woody's Taco Island and an order of crabby fries from The Cruisin Cafe.
The Kommie Pig
Woody's Taco Island
Woody's Taco Island
The tacos consisted of fried tilapia, a mild cheddar cheese, cabbage slaw, fresh salsa, and a ranch-type cream sauce. They were light and flavorful and the perfect eating for a hot summer night.
Woody's famous fish tacos
The crabby fries were not so strong. The fries were fairly run of the mill, tasting like standard McCain's restaurant frozen fries tossed in the deep fat fryer. The crab topping, however, was good classic Baltimore cuisine. The traditional cream cheese and mayonnaise base had a generous amount of crab meat and a moderate dusting of Old Bay that was detectable but not overpowering. We mostly used the fries as a delivery vehicle for the topping. Once that was gone, we were done.
The Cruisin Cafe
Crabby Fries - fries covered in Maryland crab dip
A welcome addition to the food truck scene was a mobile clothing reseller Go-Go's Retread Threads, a vintage clothing shop in a revamped school bus. I loved this concept and braved the stifling heat of the bus to check it out. My co-workers did not share my fascination and remained outside. The seats of the bus were replaced with racks of neatly hung clothing with small shelves of shoes running along both sides and strings of lights hanging from the roof. While I found many souvenirs of my misspent youth, I exercised restraint.
Go-Go's Retread Threads
It was definitely all three
There was also a young entrepreneur selling cold beverages and raising money for The Guinea Pig Fund. When I purchased a bottle of water from him, before he gave me my change, he asked if I would like to contribute to the fund. I let him know I would donate a dollar to the fund. He thanked me and then explained that The Guinea Pig Fund was his effort to raise enough money to buy a pet guinea pig, which was why he was at The Gathering. I was so impressed with this that I asked if I could take his picture.
The Guinea Pig Fund
The Gathering food truck rallies continue to be an enjoyable evening out. Damien Bohager continues to contribute to the Baltimore dining scene with his ongoing support of the food truck community through the arrangements of these regular gatherings. I am looking forward to the next one.
Adult beverages, provided by event organizer Damian Bohager
The Jolly Pig
My distinguished colleagues and a shot of my IcedGem in their simple paper bag packaging that I later sat on
The side of the Kommie Pig
The Gypsy Queen Cafe
Lest we forget we are in Baltimore......
This is a caramel-covered donut with bacon. It also comes with whipped creme. I did not go there.