Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.
The funky, bright red, Blade Runner-esque Rice Box truck has endured, even after a year when the food truck scene has become “survival of the fittest.” Actually, it’s not just endured—it’s succeeded enough to allow owner John Peterson to start building out a storefront operation in 5 Greenway Plaza. It is just down the way from Greenway Coffee. It should be opening in the coming weeks.
For now, though, you can reliably find the truck in the evenings Tuesday through Saturday across the street from Poison Girl in the Montrose off of Westheimer. At lunchtime during the week, The Rice Box can often be found parked near the main University of Houston campus. The best way to keep up with the truck is to follow their Twitter account.
The consistent locations are a big key to food truck success. If potential customers have to scramble too much to find a truck, they’re likely to give up. It’s a lot easier said than done and represents one of the biggest challenges for food truck owners. It's tough to find a consistent place to park that also garners a sufficient level of business.
Another key to The Rice Box’s success is Peterson having the right vision from the moment he started and never swaying from it. He specializes in fun, unapologetic, Americanized Chinese food—the kind that some of us “of a certain age” grew up with.
You can always count on the General Tso’s Chicken. It comes in the traditional Chinese to-go boxes. It’s the good stuff—twice-fried to get that crispy, extra-thick breading that can stand up to the sauce. Peterson keeps the sauce recipe a secret, but it’s a good bet that soy sauce, chili and ginger and responsible for the unctuous flavor. It’s all laden upon a bed of white rice and garnished with a big, guilt-reducing broccoli floret.
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Make sure to also get an order of the fried dumplings. The dark, thin sauce spiked with rice vinegar is intense and makes the crispy exterior and mild cabbage come alive in an electrifying way.
Just look for the big, red truck with the Chinese lantern.
The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies