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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.

"The other trucks I worked on were slammed right from the get-go," Le says. "They opened right when the food trucks were taking off. This one is taking a little time. It's not quite there yet."

Even though it's a somewhat difficult ­climate for food trucks in Houston at the ­moment because so many are opening simul­taneously, Le feels confident in his product. He makes five or six varieties of doughnuts every day, including honey orange blossom pistachio, blueberry lemon zest, cinnamon sugar and maple bacon, along with a rotation of a few special ones. Recently he debuted a fried-chicken-topped doughnut. As strange as it sounds, it sold out almost immediately.

In spite of the success of his whimsical doughnuts, Le isn't certain about his future. He thinks any food trucks opening in Houston now — several years after the initial boom — need to be pretty special to set themselves apart. And they need to go into business for the customers, not for the money.

Joshua Martinez has resurrected the Modular with a new paint job and new menu items but the same badass attitude.
Photo by Yuri Peña
Joshua Martinez has resurrected the Modular with a new paint job and new menu items but the same badass attitude.
Charles Avants (left) and LJ Wiley will be the first to tell you: They're nuts about tacos! (And soon, barbecue as well.)
Photo by Yuri Peña
Charles Avants (left) and LJ Wiley will be the first to tell you: They're nuts about tacos! (And soon, barbecue as well.)

"I'm not doing this to become rich," Le says. "I like the independence of it and being creative and for the first time in my life not working for anyone else. This is my passion. I enjoy making customers happy and seeing their eyes light up when they see the doughnuts. That just makes my day."

I Like Big Buttz (And I Cannot Lie)

The truck is just so damned cute. That's not something you say often about a food truck, particularly in Houston, where the designs are generally either expensive, custom-made wraps or rudimentary paint jobs that resemble a child's drawings. There have been verbal competitions for the ugliest truck, and a few folks will claim to have the most aesthetically pleasing. Buttz Gourmet Food Truck takes the cake for cutest, though. And most entertaining.

Garrett Blinn opened the gourmet pulled-pork food truck at the beginning of April, and though the truck itself is a definite success with built-in games, a smoker and an adorable piggy mascot, Blinn almost called it quits on the whole operation.

The truck was built in San Antonio by Cruising Kitchens, a company that specializes in outfitting food trucks. They also help owners out by providing a food-truck park right next door to the body shop where the vehicles are built. Once the truck is finished, the owner has a week to try it out at the food park.

"After that week, I was ready to jump off the ledge," Blinn says. "I was like, 'I made a terrible mistake. I don't know how to do this. I bit off way more than I could chew.' The other food-truck owners laughed at me and said they'd been there, too. It was eye-opening."

Blinn has the experience to make it work, though. He's a classically trained chef who attended culinary school at the Art Institute of Houston before getting into the corporate side of the industry. He eventually became a medical-device salesman with the plan of working for ten years, making a lot of money and then returning to his true passion — cooking.

He came up with the concept for Buttz while sitting on a ski lift in Colorado last December. The image of the pig and the concept popped into his head, and by April, he was selling pulled-pork sandwiches out of a swanky truck in Texas. And yes, he's aware that pulled pork is not a Texas thing.

"I'm a Texan through and through even though I lived in Colorado," Blinn says in his own defense. "You're never not a Texan, even when you don't live in Texas. I feel like a dirty damned traitor for doing pulled pork instead of brisket, but I just didn't think the whole ­fusion thing with brisket would fly. You start messing with Texan barbecue, and people get angry."

Instead of messing with Texas, Blinn messes with just about everything else, smoking and pulling pork to make gourmet fusion barbecue sandwiches on Slow Dough bread. There's the Foufou Butt sandwich, with brie, arugula, Dijon mustard and truffle oil, and the Banh Mi Butt, with fish sauce, pickled daikon slaw and cilantro lime mayo. The sandwiches may be tributes to specific cultures, but pork butt, it seems, is universal.

And as for the truck itself, Blinn wasn't willing to cut any corners there, either. He started with the idea of an open exhibition kitchen, then figured out how to translate that to a mobile kitchen.

"I set out to have the nicest truck," he says. "One thing I noticed is that a lot of them are a little run-down and scary-looking. I want to build a business. I don't just want to have one truck. So I built the largest exhibition window of any truck. I wanted to show people that folks who run food trucks don't run roach coaches. We operate clean trucks. And I'm slightly claustrophobic, so there's that."

It was particularly important to Blinn to build a good brand because he hopes to expand, to open more trucks and maybe even a brick-and-mortar location. It's still early in the truck's life, but it's never too soon to start getting his name — and the Buttz name — out there.

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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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