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The Five Best New Food Trucks in Houston 2014

Armed with only a truck and a dream (well, and a batch of recipes), these food entrepreneurs continue to fan out across Houston.

Even before it opens for the afternoon, the food truck starts to draw a crowd. Even on a Wednesday at 2 p.m. Even in the rain. Even in Montrose, where there's a restaurant on nearly every block.

The crowd is an odd mix of people. There are families with babies in strollers and older kids enjoying a lunch outing now that school is over for the summer. Professionals in starched shirts and khaki pants hunch over picnic tables waiting for a bite to eat. The regulars, the sometimes-gritty, sometimes-preppy clientele of the West Alabama Ice House, are there, too, nursing Lone Stars and getting antsy as the smell of french fries starts to waft over the patio.

Then Kathryn bursts through the door, a ball of energy no matter how many hours she and her sister Karen have been standing over hot fryers or prepping and chopping vegetables. She places potted orchids around the truck — a little something pretty on a run-down block of Westheimer — then hops back inside, closes the door and opens the window.

Doug Le is seeing gourmet doughnuts outside his new truck, Doughmaker Doughnuts.
Photo by Yuri Peña
Doug Le is seeing gourmet doughnuts outside his new truck, Doughmaker Doughnuts.
Garrett Blinn of Buttz Gourmet Food Truck is just as wild about his pulled pork sandwiches as the rest of Houston is.
Photo by Yuri Peña
Garrett Blinn of Buttz Gourmet Food Truck is just as wild about his pulled pork sandwiches as the rest of Houston is.

Way Good Food Truck is ready for business.

It's one of hundreds of new food trucks that have opened in Houston in the past year or so. Though it sometimes seems like the golden era of the Houston food truck is over now that so many popular mobile kitchens have gone brick-and-mortar, the number of trucks roaming the city is continuing to grow, true to Houston's reputation as a car- and truck-centric city.

Karen and Kathryn Fergus opened Way Good Food Truck for the same reason many people choose to go mobile — it's cheaper and easier than starting a full-fledged restaurant. And that fact, more than anything else, means the food-truck craze isn't going to die down anytime soon. There's something alluring about not only being on the road, but also being your own boss, doing things your way. It's a bohemian attitude, built on nonconformity and a desire for independence.

Working on a food truck is hard, as Karen and Kathryn and any other food-truck owner will tell you. Getting a new truck off the ground involves a lot of "fake it till you make it" attitude, a lot of arduous work and very little sleep.

"We joke to each other that we're so tired and so beat down, but I don't want to portray that to anyone who comes to the window," Kathryn says, brushing the hair out of her face and smiling wide for the customers. "I don't want anyone to think that this damn truck is winning."

The Fergus sisters are among the many brave (and, as they'll tell you, crazy) individuals striking out on their own with only a truck and a dream. For some, achieving success on the truck is enough. Others won't stop until they've got a restaurant or two with their name on it.

Here are a few of those crazy folks cooking up magic on the mean streets of Houston.

Bringing in the Dough

Before he opened Doughmaker Doughnuts this past March, Doug Le was already a food-truck veteran. After putting in time working the front-of-house at Post Oak Grill, Ruggles, PF Chang's and Soma Sushi, Le found himself on Oh My Gogi, a Korean/Mexican fusion food truck, which he helped manage as the fledgling company was finding its wheels. After that, he helped open and managed the Waffle Bus for about two years. And then he came to a realization.

"After putting in so much time, I figured it's time to do my own thing," Le says. "I was there all the time, so I might as well be making all the money."

The idea behind Doughmaker Doughnuts was simple. Le traveled to major cities on the east and west coasts to see what kinds of food trucks were making it big in New York and Los Angeles. And when he returned to Houston, he noticed we were missing something: doughnuts.

"The possibilities are endless with doughnuts," Le says. "Anything you can imagine, you can put on a doughnut."

But while coming up with a concept might have been a piece of cake, getting the truck from the idea phase to being operational was trickier. As most food-truck owners will tell you, the City of Houston doesn't always make it simple to acquire all the proper permits. Le admits he naively thought the whole process would take only two or three months.

"Of course, the money ran out," Le says. "And I thought doughnuts would be simple and streamlined, that it would be a simple, easy truck to get up and running. But it was a long, painful process that took about six or seven months. The first couple of months were cool because I was on vacation going to doughnut shops. About five months in, I was so ready to work again."

Now Le is probably wishing he didn't have to work so much. It's up to him, as the owner and chef of the truck, to develop and test new recipes and to operate the truck any time it's out and about. It's the first business the young entrepreneur has ever owned, and though he was expecting long hours going into it, he wasn't expecting the slow liftoff Doughmaker Doughnuts has been experiencing.

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4 comments
Julie T Vu
Julie T Vu

Too many words.. No pictures of food.

JJTexans
JJTexans

"There's been talk of more restaurants or more trucks, but for now, Houston is happy just to have the trusty Modular and its hustle sprouts back."


The people of Houston should not be happy with $9 "hustle" sprouts at Goro & Gun.  What the hell do they cook it with, truffle oil?  The only "hustling" going on is hard earned money from our pockets.  I love the restaurant concept and what it means to downtown, but there's definitely a disconnect between the product they offer and the prices they charge.  Go to a real "izakaya" in other cities with a Japanese community and see how much food $50 gets you and compare to what you can get at a place like Goro & Gun.  Granted, the Modular truck's prices are much more reasonable and it's not fair for me to put all this on just one establishment.  This disturbing trend of "hipster" pricing at restaurants (aka overpriced) is starting to take over this city by storm.


The shift to the chef driven restaurant concept in Houston, as well as other cities is both a gift and a curse.  It's definitely a good thing to raise the bar on food quality which causes the competition to do the same, even with the expected increase in pricing.  However, this does not give them carte blanche to charge extortionate prices on their food.  Sorry Underbelly, but at your prices I would much rather spend it at a Thomas Keller restaurant or get your "inspired Creole" items at a spot on Bellaire Blvd. or Long Point Rd. for a fraction of the price (albeit at a lesser quality but with more authenticity).  

rasclot123
rasclot123

When will this food truck fad end?  Food trucks used to be cheap and pulled up to construction sites.  Now they are serving 8$ smoothies and 6$ tacos at some lame art show.

 
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