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The Modular Food Truck Is Back, Better than Ever

With a new paint job and a menu full of hits, this restaurant on wheels is really going places.
With a new paint job and a menu full of hits, this restaurant on wheels is really going places.
Photo courtesy The Modular Unit

Though incredibly popular and well received by critics, The Modular food truck (actually a trailer) had a surprisingly short run. It opened in 2011, helmed by Joshua Martinez and Lyle Bento. At the time, Martinez was fresh off a stint as general manager of Kata Robata, and Bento was an up-and-coming chef who'd recently left Feast. Bento eventually moved to Underbelly, and Martinez made the slow transition from food-truck owner to restaurant owner when he opened Goro & Gun in early 2013. The move was gradual, with the truck still coming out to play at events every now and then, though Martinez was focusing most of his attention on Goro & Gun. Then one day The Modular returned to the commissary, where it remained for far longer than anyone would have liked.

Now that Goro & Gun is thriving, Martinez doesn't need to be there as frequently, so he's brought The Modular back to life, along with help from Mark Parmley and a motley crew of guest chefs. The trailer, which was previously referred to as the "Tin Can" due to some unfortunate metal siding, has been replaced with a truck that's been completely revamped and now features a bright new paint job by Houston graffiti artist Daniel Anguilu. And it's now called the "Goro & Gun Modular Unit," since it incorporates menu items from both eateries.

The menu will change frequently, but that lobster risotto isn't going anywhere.
The menu will change frequently, but that lobster risotto isn't going anywhere.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

It's a vibrant addition to Houston roads and food parks, and the food, so enticing and unusual it was once featured on the Cooking Channel's TV show Eat St., is as wonderful as ever, too. A few old favorites are back (lobster risotto, anyone?), and a few new inventions are sure to keep Houstonians on the hook.

And in March the food truck will be serving more than just Houston.

Martinez has told us that The Modular has been invited to serve the South by Southwest music festival as one of the trucks curated by Austin celebrity chef Paul Qui. The Modular will be in Austin for a few weeks serving up lobster risotto, General Tso sweetbreads and Goro & Gun's famous Hustle Sprouts to crowds of hungry music fans.

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Lobster risotto features perfectly cooked arborio rice and Maine lobster claws.
Lobster risotto features perfectly cooked arborio rice and Maine lobster claws.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

But for now, you can catch The Modular here in town at Mangum Food Park, Liberty Station and Mongoose Versus Cobra (among other places). I recently tracked down the truck at Liberty Station and got my first taste of what the Goro & Gun Modular Unit has to offer.

Martinez suggested I try the sweetbreads and the lobster risotto. Actually, I demanded a plate of lobster risotto, because it looks and smells amazing. And it did not disappoint. The risotto itself is perfectly cooked -- still chewy in the middle but soft enough on the outside to form a nice gooey sauce when mixed with Parmesan. It has large, sweet chunks of Maine lobster mixed in and a whole lobster claw on top. It's simple, filling and a wonderful treat for only $13 at a food truck.

Sweetbreads with a special General Tso glaze.
Sweetbreads with a special General Tso glaze.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg

The sweetbreads are unusual in that Martinez says they purposefully don't trim them completely in order to keep a little bit of that tell-tale offal chew to them -- but in a good way. They're rolled in flour, fried and glazed with a General Tso's sauce that Martinez spent weeks perfecting. They're served on a bed of miso-butter rice dotted with black sesame seeds, and though I usually consider rice an afterthought, this stuff is good enough to make a meal of.

The menu will continue to evolve, and hopefully Martinez and Parmley will bring back some of the classics that made The Modular so popular back in the day (please do the bone marrow again, please!). To find The Modular Unit before it takes off for Austin, and to see if they start cooking up kimchi shrimp and grits again, follow the truck on Twitter.


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