People who live north of Houston, including The Woodlands, Spring and Cypress, can no longer say that the good food trucks never come out to them. Now, several are in the area permanently.
Bernie’s Backyard, a food truck park that opened earlier this year at 22314 I-45 North in Spring, has drawn some of Houston’s most notable trucks to its site, including H-Town Streats, Oh My Gogi!, BBQ Godfather and Black Garlic.
Part of the reason is that it’s well-appointed with several conveniences, including some indoor settings. There’s an onsite tavern (hooray for indoor bathrooms, too) as well as a covered pavilion that features a stage for live musicians. The pavilion is also outfitted with roll-down coverings to protect diners from rain and cold wind. There’s plenty of picnic-style bench seating all the way around and parking is never an issue, since there are about 300 spaces.
It’s important to note that Bernie’s Backyard has no relationship with Bernie’s Burger Bus, the popular group of food trucks that has since expanded to two brick-and-mortar locations over the past few years. It also doesn’t have any affiliation with Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate, or even Bernie Lomax from Weekend at Bernie’s.
Bernie’s Backyard is actually named after Bernie Sanberg, the property owner’s dad, who general manager Cliff Evans simply describes as “a hardworking American.”
Evans is no stranger to the food truck business. He owns the Black Garlic food truck, which got a lot of attention during the time it was parked off of 249 near Tomball. The ambitious fare includes porchetta on a grilled pretzel bun, wagyu burgers and deep-fried risotto balls. Evans is hoping his old fans will drive a little farther now for the food as well as to check out the new, paved food truck park that he’s helped bring to life.
Next to Black Garlic is The Naked Fry, another of Evans’s trucks. He says it’s what Black Garlic would sell if it sold junk food. There’s not much that’s actually junky about big cheesesteak sandwiches piled high with thinly sliced rib eye and topped with grilled onions and melted provolone. There’s also an array of outrageous topped fries, like the Buffalo Express with buffalo sauce aioli, crispy chicken, crumbled blue cheese, fried kale and bacon.
Every truck at Bernie’s Backyard has its own unique history and backstory. The owners of H-Town Streats now also run Hugs & Donuts, a popular shop in the Heights. The truck, which was once deemed Houston’s ugliest food truck, has cleaned up and become respectable enough to take home to Mom and Dad. It’s called the H-Town Streats Luv Me Tenders truck and incorporates chicken tenders into — well, just about everything. Among other things, there’s a tenders basket (choose one of five sauces), chicken and waffles and a taco called El Hefe with elote, or Mexican-style street corn. The special was what blew us away, though: a glazed donut from the Heights shop filled with chicken tenders, a fried egg, pepperjack cheese and Sriracha mayo.
Barbecue lovers will be happy to know that well-regarded truck BBQ Godfather has moved on-site as well. Smoked meats are sold by the pound or as part of combination platters. The brisket is made with Black Angus meat and there are also pork spare ribs, turkey, jalapeño sausage and a bevy of side dishes. Get there early to land some burnt ends soaked in meat juices.
Oh My Gogi! is well known in the Rice Village area, as it has parked near the bars there for years, and now it has a second truck at Bernie’s Backyard. The truck was just named Asian Food Truck of the Year by industry web site Mobile Cuisine. It was here that we found something that’s been all the rage in New York for a long time but is rarely seen in Houston: a ramen burger. A burger patty is sandwiched between two “buns” made from round blocks of seasoned ramen noodles. The combo is packed with a lot of umami flavor and topped with cheese, onion, lettuce, cabbage, mayo and Sriracha.
Not every truck at Bernie’s Backyard has been around for years. Rustica truck owner Matt Vernon laughed ruefully when he described his history. “I’m kind of going backwards here.” Most food truck owners aspire to a brick-and-mortar location. In Vernon’s case, he had one, then lost it to fire. He used to run the Lasagna House III location, then a fire at an adjacent business ended up causing the whole shopping center to close down. A fundraiser was held for Lasagna House III employees, and Vernon is building anew by way of his Italian food truck. It, too, sells lasagna, as well as other homespun Italian favorites like bolognese sauce infused with Chianti wine, pesto genovese and chicken penne.
After all of that savory stuff, it’s time for dessert and shaved ice truck Buzzles can take care of a sweet tooth. They offer about a hundred flavors ranging from the tame (black cherry, piña colada) to wild, character-driven flavor combinations. (The “Popeye” is “green bubblegum” flavor while the “Batman” is a mix of black cherry and grape — you know, to make it the color of a Dark Knight.
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No hard liquor is sold, but the tavern has an array of local craft beers, including Lone Pint Yellow Rose and both year-round and seasonal Karbach selections. There’s also a row of churning drink machines that serve up frozen daiquiris, hurricanes and margaritas. Even though all of these are wine-based because of the liquor restriction, a blind taster would likely never know the difference.
Bernie’s Backyard is essentially a culinary amusement park where you can pick, choose, mix and match dishes and drinks to your heart’s content. There are probably 100 dishes to choose from and most of the trucks run specials, too. Keep an eye on Bernie’s Backyard’s Facebook page to keep up with live music acts, karaoke nights, Karbach pint nights and more. It’s hard to imagine getting bored with Bernie’s Backyard anytime soon.
If you’re heading there via I-45 North, do take note that after you take the Spring Stuebner exit, you cannot legally make a right turn onto Booker Road where Bernie’s Backyard is located. Police do watch that area and, yes, you may very well get a ticket. Instead, make a U-turn under the freeway, go around and make the turn correctly. You’ll only lose a minute or two.