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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.

"If I'm still cooking on that truck in five years, I think I'm doing something wrong," Blinn says. "I'm working harder than I ever worked when I was working for somebody else, but I'm working hard because I want to work hard. If I make a mistake, I deal with it. I'm my own boss. That is truly freedom."

The Comeback Kid

The original tagline was "Bringing the restaurant to a parking lot near you." That was three years ago. Then the gourmet food trailer closed to make way for an actual restaurant. It still sat in a parking lot, but it was quickly overshadowed by the brick-and-mortar space on Main Street to which its owners devoted all their time. And though it was missed, there was no shortage of trucks in Houston. People moved on.

Sisters Kathryn (left) and Karen Fergus are willing to work as hard as necessary in order to be their own bosses.
Photo by Yuri Peña
Sisters Kathryn (left) and Karen Fergus are willing to work as hard as necessary in order to be their own bosses.

Then, late last year, Joshua Martinez, owner of Goro & Gun, got antsy. He wanted to get out of the restaurant and back on the streets of Houston. He wanted to bring the once-popular Modular food truck back from the dead.

It started with a whole new truck because the original trailer was too far gone. It's one of the smallest food trucks in town, but, as Martinez says, "We can produce quite a hell of a lot of food." And it's also one of the best-looking trucks in town, thanks to some local talent.

"We were looking at how we would make the truck stand out again," Martinez says. "We had made a name for ourselves, but now there were a plethora of food trucks out there with these really fancy wraps. I've never been one to budget $3,000 to $5,000 for a wrap, so I wanted to think of a way to tie in the things that I like."

One of the things Martinez likes is Houston, and perhaps Houston's most recognizable graffiti artist is Daniel Anguilu, who has painted murals at the Houston Bahá'í Center and the Lawndale Art Center. Though he didn't know the artist, Martinez sent him a message on Facebook and convinced Anguilu to pay the naked truck a visit.

"So he came and looked at the truck and was like, 'There's no end or beginning. I've never done a mural where there's no end or beginning. It's a constant.' So that made him very excited, and in turn made me excited."

In December, the new Modular hit the streets again with Martinez at the helm and a rotating crew of local chefs pitching in to cook up restaurant-quality food like lobster risotto, shrimp and kimchi grits, or the famous "hustle sprouts" at affordable prices. The menu is largely the product of Martinez's whims — if he tastes something he likes somewhere and thinks he can do it better, he sets out to do so. If he wakes up in the middle of the night with inspiration, he experiments the next day. In this way, he hopes to keep from being pigeonholed as a specific type of truck.

"Long ago, when we first came out, we got dubbed Asian fusion," Martinez says. "So that week, Lyle Bento and I were like, 'Fuck that, let's change our menu.' So we went all Italian for a month."

It's this attitude that has also put Martinez at the forefront of battles with the city over food-truck and food-park permitting. You'll frequently find him at City Council meetings serving as a voice for other restaurateurs and food-truck owners. He's passionate about feeding people, and he doesn't want any stupid regulations — and some of them are truly stupid — to stand in his way.

"Cooking on a food truck is very guerrilla-style," he says. "You get to sail the seas of Houston and plop yourselves down and feed people. If we don't like a spot, we move on."

After a year working off the truck and behind the scenes at Goro & Gun, Martinez is thrilled to be back on the streets selling the type of food that first helped him make a name for himself in Houston. As for what's next?

"We'll just keep on truckin' through the summer and see what happens," Martinez says.

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.

Truckin' Nuts

"We're nuts about tacos!" Charles Avants yells over the phone before chuckling heartily and hanging up. His business partner, LJ Wiley, shakes his head and laughs.

"It was not my idea," Wiley says. "I thought it was crazy. But Charles thought it was a good idea. I just followed him."

Wiley and Avants are co-owners of Taco Nuts, a gourmet taco truck that opened about a year ago — a risky move in a town saturated with tacos. Wiley is a chef with more than 15 years in the industry, working everywhere from the Gristmill in Gruene to Brennan's of Houston to a few restaurants he helped open in China. Avants is a former military man who retired and found success as a restaurateur in the Galleria area. They met when ­Wiley was serving as chef of Avants's now-closed Big Cafe back in 1996.

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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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