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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.

"It's something we talked about for a long time," Avants says. "LJ was traveling the world getting his global education with some of the best chefs in the world. Then, after his second tour in New York, I said, 'Are you ready to start a food-truck company?' And he said, 'I'm ready now.'

Then Avants made a claim that would probably shock other food-truck owners. The process of getting the truck from conception to materialization, Avants says, was "a whole lotta fun." It took the duo only about three months to get the truck up and running, and they encountered little pushback from the city.

"We just finished our one-year anniversary, and looking at the numbers, we've really exceeded our expectations," Avants says. "We've bought a second truck to copy that model, and we're working on a commissary kitchen."

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.

Avants attributes the success to a good business model in part, but also to Wiley's prowess in the kitchen. Wiley already had a handle on Mexican food from working at Yelapa, a Houston Mexican restaurant that closed in 2011.

"I guess it's just simple, straightforward food," Wiley says, selling himself short to anyone who's tried the Dr Pepper-braised brisket taco or the fried-egg- and Frito-stuffed burrito. "We have six or seven items on the menu. It's fun. It's colorful. We just try to do the best we can to raise the bar on tacos. Make them a little different, higher-end. You could call it gourmet."

In spite of the 'gourmet' designation, Wiley insists he's not trying to elevate any of his customers' palates, even though he has worked in some of the best restaurants in the country. In China, he learned that you have to cook for your audience, not yourself — a lesson that no doubt helped Taco Nuts achieve success so quickly.

"People want what they want," Wiley says, "and we give it to them."

Next the duo will give people barbecue on their new truck, Barbecue Nuts, which they hope will open sometime in July. When asked which of the two trucks he'll be on, Wiley says simply, "Yes." He and Avants are working on hiring help, though, and Wiley imagines there's no shortage of chefs eager to jump on board a food truck.

"You can get a food truck and learn and make mistakes," Wiley says. "I think it's a fantastic place for people to grow their culinary skills and for beginners to come up and find a style or a place."

Sister Act

Karen is the chef and Kathryn is the marketing person, but they're both so much more than that, taking on the roles of the dishwashers, the maintenance, the prep cooks and the auto mechanics. Sometimes they spend up to 18 hours a day together in that small truck working toward a mutual dream. It's a good thing the sisters get along — for the most part.

"She's fucking badass," Karen, 16 years older than Kathryn, says of her sister. "She's smarter than I am. I have all the faith in the world in Kathryn. I know how smart she is and how motivated and just what an amazing person she is."

"You're witnessing us regrouping with a love apology so we don't kill each other," Kathryn says, laughing.

The two opened Way Good Food Truck together back in January after the owner of Papou Jerry's, the Greek food truck that had been parked in front of the West Alabama Ice House for years, decided he was done with the business. At the same time, Karen, a chef trained in California, was growing tired of working at Brasil, her brother's restaurant. She wanted to start a catering business but wasn't sure how to get her foot in the door. Things fell into place, and the sisters ended up as partners on a truck with a built-in clientele at the icehouse. Now all they needed was the food.

Going from idea to finished product — a Tiffany blue truck with a simple menu of gourmet bar food — wasn't an arduous process, Kathryn says, but figuring out how to keep the operation running smoothly has taken some adjusting. Even so, the business has exceeded Kathryn's predictions of where it should be in the four months since it opened.

"Being here, it's a nice symbiotic relationship with the icehouse," Kathryn says. "They give us customers, and we allow people not to have to leave to get food. So it's kind of a balance between being the concession stand for the icehouse and doing 'gastropub food' because we're at a bar and still doing stuff we're proud of and that's representative of what we can do."

What they can do is pretty damn good. Pulled-pork nachos with house-smoked pork feature each ingredient prominently and well. Nothing from the excellent juicy meat to the fried-to-order chips is an afterthought. Risotto balls are the size of your fist and oozing with melted fontina cheese and truffle oil. Hamburgers are a steal at $7.

"My philosophy as a chef has always been to not go with trends," Karen says, admitting that she does sometimes make exceptions for customer requests. "It's knowing what your market is, what you can do quickly and what you can do well."

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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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