Looking for new spots to try? Lori Fredrich will be dishing out her top five picks in 20 different dining categories throughout the month of October.
While I love a relaxed dinner at a full-service restaurant, there’s also a certain charm about grabbing a quick bite from a local food truck to eat al fresco or take back to the office. And I’ve grown increasingly impressed by the quality of fare that’s being served by mobile operations in recent years.
It's definitely tough to narrow down the list of great food trucks to only five, I’ve given it my best effort. In the end, these five showcase not only the diversity of cuisines you can find on local food trucks, but also the quality and ingenuity of their intrepid entrepreneurial owners.
1. Trouble Makers Cocina
Trouble Makers might be a newer food truck, but the chefs behind the concept have years of collective experience and it shows. While I've not eaten everything that this truck offers, the food that I have sampled has been above reproach.
Classic tacos are spot on with fillings like chicken tinga, carnitas and carne asada – which is notably flavorful and not at all dry or rubbery – and toppings that are fresh and bright. The same holds true for their loaded fries, which come beautifully topped with delicious meats, plenty of cheese, pickled red onions and jalapenos, cilantro, Mexican crema and flavorful guajillo chipotle aioli. Meanwhile, their bowls of esquites are not only generous but full-flavored with just the right amount of kick.
So, ultimately, when they say they serve up "Mad Mexican Food," what they mean is that it's mad good.
2. Heirloom MKE
If one truck has become a perennial favorite of mine it's Heirloom, a local food truck specializing in locally sourced, seasonal dishes.
You’ll find casual offerings like their delicious burger, an amazing fried chicken sandwich and some of the best battered cheese curds in the land. But don’t sleep on their other offerings including handmade burrata; mussels steamed with cream and herbs; braised beef ribs; soup in the cooler months; and specials... especially the specials. They're always mouthwatering.
3. Don Pastor
When it comes to taco trucks in Milwaukee, there are many worth patronizing. But when it comes to al pastor, the flavorful pineapple-scented pork at Don Pastor is some of the best I've found. It's tender, beautifully marinated and cooked on a trompo, a technique which is not only traditional but ensures tender, beautifully flavored meat.
And yet, this food truck's riches do not end with tacos. Don Pastor's menu features a wide range of offerings from quesadillas and burritos to their one-of-a-kind pizza birria (you just have to try it). But I'm a sucker for their amazing tortas. They're filled with flavorful meat, refried beans, queso, lettuce, tomato, avocado and crema, and they're so good I find myself craving them at the most inopportune times.
Most days of the week you'll find Don Pastor parked at the intersection of Center and Pierce Streets in Riverwest.
4. Hot Box Pizza
If you're looking for craveable food truck fare, you've definitely got choices. Among them is Hot Box, a truck that specializes in pizza, as well as other dishes prepared in their mobile wood-fired oven.
Their pizza is delicious, and if you love the idea of smoked mac & cheese, you will not be disappointed. But I literally can't stop thinking about their smoked chicken drumsticks, which are dry rubbed and smoked low and slow for 12 hours, then quick fried and tossed in garlic butter. Amazing.
5. Tostada by Maranta
If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking out the deliciously fresh tostadas from this new Bronzeville-based mobile trailer, today is as good a time as any. The trailer is usually parked in front of Maranta Plant Shop on King Drive; but you’ll also find it out and about at various events, including both the Tosa and Shorewood farmers markets on weekends.
As for their menu, you can choose from vegan or meat-based tostadas, all made with local, seasonal ingredients. When I can get it, I'm a big fan of the crispy pork belly in chile de arbol sauce, which is paired with refried black beans, queso fresco, mojo sauce and sour cream; but newer selections like their grilled mojo chicken tostada look pretty promising. If they're serving up their lavender horchata, be sure to give it a try; it’s delicious.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.