Registry Tampa Bay

By and large, I have no truck with food trucks. The reasons are many, but I’ll cite two: The food is not often very good and is very often over-priced. (Shouldn’t meals handed through a window be less expensive than similar meals served in a restaurant?) Let me stress that this has been my personal experience, of which I’ve had very little.

Nonetheless, my colleagues at Registry Tampa Bay lobbied me enough that I wondered if I’d lapsed into myopia. Was I missing out?

I could find no reliable clearing house of information for the local food-truck scene, but with the help of my colleagues I managed to piece together a couple of St. Pete destinations, where I sampled the fare of four trucks.

This won’t be the usual one-on-one, apples-to-apples Food Fight. Rather, I’ll describe the experiences overall and at the end pick my favorite among the four.

ST. PETE SOCIAL FOOD TRUCK LOT

Tucked between automotive shops on 49th Street North at 46th Avenue, the cramped space included two food trucks and a mobile tattoo parlor. I was the only one there at 6 p.m. on a Thursday, dinner hour. I wasn’t enamored of the scene — and didn’t need a tattoo — so I decided to pick between barbecue and Puerto Rican. I chose the latter: Ruta 116.

Energetic Latin music emanated from that trailer, competing with the languid country music at the barbecue truck. Mixed with traffic noise, it made for sonic mashup that I could’ve done without.

Ruta 116

The proprietor looked surprised to see a customer. He essentially ordered for me. (I don’t think he had the stuff on hand to make everything on the menu.)

I got deep-fried pork chunks, mamposteao (a mix of yellow rice, red beans and bits of ham) and corn fritters ($15.99) and brought the box back to the FFF Lab™.

The pork chunks were very deeply deep-fried, so much so that their texture approached that of jerky. I appreciated their flavor, but my jaws got too much of a workout.

The fritters, rather bland, came in little tubes. The best thing in the box was the mamposteao, all the ingredients melding beautifully. Pickled onions added some zing, but the portion was skimpy.

3 DAUGHTERS FOOD TRUCK RALLY

If three trucks constitutes a rally, well, alrighty then. We arrived at the popular microbrewery complex in the Warehouse Arts District last Friday at dusk. A decent-sized crowd had gathered in a small midway. Among them were a lot of young people, including quite a few dads holding babies. A heartening sight.

I grabbed a couple of 16-ounce cups of 3 Daughters Beach Blonde Ale ($13.08 total). My favorite local beer, it’s better on draft than in the can. Bonnie and I shared a table with another couple, who just happened to be seniors.

First, we hit:

Johnny Nevada’s Tamales

Rather than tamales, we opted for soft tacos ($24.13 with tax). Of the three on order, the proprietor steered us toward one in particular. “You could get one of each, but you’ll wish you’d gotten short rib on all three,” he said emphatically. I didn’t bring up how that would be impossible to know, but instead said, “Sold.”

Double-ply flour tortillas encased a generous portion of the reddish brown meat. It tasted as advertised — richly seasoned, splendidly tender.

The beef could’ve used some more company, though. The chopped onions and cilantro on top proved too meager, and after a while I was eating just shredded beef and tortilla.

I’d happily have another trio of these tacos — and try the others, as well. If they cost less.

Cipolla Rossa Wood-Fired Pizza

 

I didn’t bring along my FFF™ Tape Measure, but this Margherita pie ($15) looked to be a 14-incher.

It came on a checkered paper atop a Styrofoam plate. The pizza met wood-fired criteria; chewy crust, charred on the edges; basil leaves; well-melded cheese and red sauce, which tilted toward sweet.

As I took my bites, I mused, “I’d rather be eating this in a pizza restaurant than on a picnic table.” That is some seriously flawed thinking, I know, but of the four meals I had, this one seemed the least food-truck-ish. Maybe it was the lack of a pizza box.

Go Stuff Urself (GSU)

The most colorful truck on the lot (pictured at top) — and the busiest — offered stuffed burgers. Now there, my friends, is an idea.

I ordered the Franco Avocado ($14.90) — Black Angus beef gorged with fresh avocado, bacon, red onion, melted cheese blend, tomato and lettuce served on a Brioche bun grilled with garlic butter and topped with cheddar cheese. Phew. I regretted not bringing along my FFF™ Defibrillator.

The GSU burger came neatly halved in a simple cardboard container. I took a hefty bite. How to describe it? Let me apply an adjective I’m generally loath to use:

Awesome! The beef was succulent and lovingly grilled. The myriad ingredients blended into a decadent whole that made me forget about calorie counts and cholesterol. I expected an unholy mess when I ordered, but this awesome burger held together and was easy to eat.

I was well full from consuming tacos and pizza but kept chomping away like a dead-eyed shark, finishing my half and then the rest of Bonnie’s.

I was going to announce my favorite dish among the four food truck offerings …

But I just did.

 

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