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The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 "Fancy" Food Trucks

The first annual Haute Wheels food truck festival.
The first annual Haute Wheels food truck festival.
Photos by Groovehouse

Talk about an agonizing list to write. Houston food trucks have never been more clever, more inventive or more consistently enjoyable than they are right now. (The most recent sold-out Haute Wheels food truck festival can surely attest to that.) A few years of winnowing out dilettantes since the first "fancy" food trucks started hitting the streets in 2010 has distilled the selection into the best and brightest mobile food units we've ever had to offer.

Some of the "old-timers" are still around, albeit in different iterations: Oh My! Pocket Pies, for example, concentrates more on catering and direct sales to spots like Inversion Coffee House these days. Zilla Street Eats is defunct, but you can find very similar dishes at chef Jason Kerr's new restaurant, Hollister Grill. The Modular has been transformed into Goro & Gun, a downtown ramen shop drawing lots of local attention. And The Eatsie Boys have gone full brick-and-mortar, opening a full-service restaurant of the same name in Montrose.

See also: - A (Very Nearly) Comprehensive Guide to Houston's Food Trucks - Burritos the Size of a Toddler: The 10 Best Food Truck Dishes - Terrorist Attacks, Drugs and Danger: Why City Council Doesn't Want Food Trucks Downtown

But the big guns like H-Town StrEATs, Phamily Bites and Bernie's Burger Bus have never left the road, and are still trucking today. Bernie's has done so well for itself, in fact, that owner Justin Turner now has a fleet of bright yellow school buses roaming the city.

Meanwhile, promising new faces are cropping up every day: Look for trucks such as Craft Infusion, Miso Yummy and Fraiche to dominate this list next year, if their food stays as fun and fresh as it is right now. And while we have far, far, far more than 10 terrific food trucks in this city, here are the 10 best (give or take a few) on the streets today.

Note: For purposes of this post, we've separated classic food/taco trucks like Tacos Tierra Caliente, El Ultimo and Taconmadre from the fancier fusion-style trucks that are a newer phenomenon. Look for our top 10 classic food trucks post next week.

Breakfast sandwich from the BBA Mobile.
Breakfast sandwich from the BBA Mobile.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

10. Breakfast Burritos Anonymous

A breakfast food truck was exactly what we needed. And in a city dominated by breakfast tacos, it's kind of refreshing to see a breakfast burrito place step in to fill that vacuum. The BBA Mobile, as it's often referred to, is usually parked outside Inversion Coffee House bright and early in the mornings. Besides just burritos -- which you can customize with a huge list of ingredients, including healthy options such as turkey sausage and egg whites -- the BBA Mobile offers other breakfast dishes too. Try the Flapstick, which is essentially a breakfast corn dog: a sausage wrapped in pancake, dipped in syrup. Good thing you've got all day to work that off...

The Swaggy Dog roll from Muishii Makiritos.
The Swaggy Dog roll from Muishii Makiritos.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

9. Muishii Makirritos

Muishii Makirritos is the newest food truck on this list, debuting late last year. But like the BBA Mobile, it filled a niche no other truck yet had: sushi. This isn't serious sushi, but the sort of fun, silly, Americanized rolls with names like Swaggy Dog and fillings like crunchy fried shrimp, crab meat and spicy mayo. The truck also offers terrific Japanese-style karaage fried chicken and -- wait for it -- egg rolls filled with macaroni and cheese.

The Geisha Dog at Happy Endings.
The Geisha Dog at Happy Endings.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

8. Good Dog Food Truck / Happy Endings

These are the two trucks I turn to when I'm in search of a top-notch hot dog, although each truck boasts very distinct offerings. At Good Dog, it's twists on standards like Chicago or Sonoran hot dogs, along with dogs of their own invention. My favorite is the Sunshine Dog, topped with pickled red onions, fresh dill relish, cream cheese and mayonnaise. Happy Endings is run by husband-and-wife team Emily Ng and Ryan Javier. Ng is Chinese and Javier Filipino, and their fusion marriage translates over into fusion cuisine, where the menu careens cheerfully between American, Korean and Japanese ingredients and flavors. Here, hot dogs are topped with bonito, kimchee, cream cheese, scallions and more, such as the Tsunami dog with seaweed and mayonnaise.

 

Kimchi cheese fries and a Korean cheesesteak at Koagie Hots.
Kimchi cheese fries and a Korean cheesesteak at Koagie Hots.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

7. Flip 'n Patties / Koagie Hots

The second (and last, I promise) tie on the list is between my two favorite Asian fusion trucks. Flip 'n Patties features Filipino street food, burgers, the most amazing french fries slathered in mayonnaise and sesame seeds, and karaoke, courtesy of a TV screen and sound system embedded in the truck. Koagie Hots offers hot dogs, just like Good Dog and Happy Endings, and more -- with a Korean twist. The kimchi here is homemade, and is absolutely stunning atop a mound of cheese fries, plus you haven't lived until you've tried a Philly cheesesteak filled with bulgogi.

Grilled cheese sandwich at Ladybird.
Grilled cheese sandwich at Ladybird.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

6. Ladybird

The truck housed in a bright yellow school bus describes itself best: "Ladybird offers tasty, creative food inspired by familiar favorites." This means dishes that range from a chicken tikka taco on homemade flour tortillas topped with pickled red onions, diced radishes and mint chutney to a grilled cheese sandwich with Cheddar and goat cheese sandwiching sour slices of green tomatoes. And being a beet-lover, I'm particularly intrigued by a current side of fried beets that I hope will turn more people onto the sweet, earthy root vegetable.

The Golden Doomba special at The Rice Box.
The Golden Doomba special at The Rice Box.
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall

5. The Rice Box

Would you believe me if I told you that some of the best fried chicken in town comes from a Chinese food truck? Well, believe it -- because the Golden Doomba Special at the Rice Box Truck rivals Frenchy's and The Breakfast Klub with its golden, crunchy, lightly battered drumsticks. That's not all this truck -- usually found outside Poison Girl or Anvil -- does best. Expect old-school Chinese-American cuisine done with attention to quality ingredients and classic flavors, all wrapped up in a cute Chinese take-out box.

The Vandalizer at Phamily Bites.
The Vandalizer at Phamily Bites.
Photo by Mai Pham

4. Phamily Bites

Chef and owner Van Pham is practically the godfather of the current food truck scene, having started Phamily Bites in the spring of 2011 after moving back to Houston from San Fransciso. It was the first Vietnamese food truck in the city and still the best, serving signature items like "The Vandalizer" banh mi filled with bo luc lac (garlic-marinated cubes of filet mignon) and cups of pho out of the bright yellow truck garnished with Pham's sly slogan: "Let's get pho cup'd."

 

The Noches Borracho: Fire-roasted tomato/mezcal compote, Mexican Coke-and-lime-marinated Tri Tip and raw onion/cilantro/lime salsa fresca.
The Noches Borracho: Fire-roasted tomato/mezcal compote, Mexican Coke-and-lime-marinated Tri Tip and raw onion/cilantro/lime salsa fresca.
Photo courtesy of Pi Pizza

3. Pi Pizza

You'd never know Pi Pizza chef and owner Anthony Calleo used to work in commercial real estate, so inventive and intricately balanced are his wildly creative pies. (The head-to-toe tattoos make it tough to believe his former career, too.) You'll typically find Pi Pizza's truck -- named Pythagoras -- parked outside Catbird's in Montrose, but Calleo delivers too. The pizzas he makes fall into two categories: drunk food of the highest order (see the Cheeto-topped 420 slice) or impeccably crafted gourmet pizzas like arugula, Maytag blue cheese and cherries in port wine syrup.

The Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus.
The Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus.
Photo by Mai Pham

2. Bernie's Burger Bus

Looking for the platonic ideal of a hamburger? Look no further than Justin Turner's fleet of buses, named for his beloved grandfather. Winner of the 2012 Houston Press Burger Bracket, Bernie's Burger Bus is the true definition of a gourmet food truck, utilizing the freshest ingredients -- fresh-ground Black Angus beef, freshly made baked buns, and homemade condiments -- to make one of the juiciest, tastiest burgers you'll ever have the pleasure of eating. The school-themed menu features a traditional burger called "The Principal"; the double-patty, Texas-cheddar topped "The Bully"; and the "Study Hall" burger, topped with barbecue sauce and crispy-seared, slow-braised pork belly. Only the truly brave will want to tackle The Detention; just ask for it and you'll see why.

Fried avocado taco at H-Town StrEATs.
Fried avocado taco at H-Town StrEATs.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

1. H-Town StrEATs

On any given day, you'll find the personable Jason Hill and/or Matt Opaleski manning the "ugliest food truck" in Houston, serving dishes like crawfish tacos with Tabasco aioli that taste like they should be much more expensive than $3. In fact, whether it's H-Town's infamous boudin balls with creole mustard, its fried avocado taco with cilantro slaw, its burger with sautéed mushrooms and cheese, or its watermelon agua fresca, pretty much everything that you try at this truly gourmet food truck is going to be a winner. The menu changes often, too, so no need to worry about eating the same old, same old. Even if you followed the truck around like a die-hard disciple, the menu is extensive enough that you'd still be able to enjoy a different meal every day. Food sells out quickly, so try to visit at the beginning of service.



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