The food truck scene in Houston is in flux, to be sure. New trucks have entered the scene as recently as the past month while long-term players have seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. Driving southbound on Montrose, you can even spot this phenomenon in action for yourself. An active truck is almost always out front at Inversion Coffeehouse while further south of Westheimer, the Bang Mi truck sits in a back lot, seemingly abandoned. Just one block south at Montrose and Richmond sits the Eatsie Boys truck, often unused as its owners work on expanding to their upcoming café just across the street in the former Kraftsmen space.
Tackling the ten best food truck items is no easy task. Not only do you have to track the trucks and their ever morphing menus down, but trying to judge and measure a burger against kimchi fries against a cupcake borders on insanity. That's not to mention the obscene calorie count accrued compiling this list.
And when all is said and done, you've gone and made a whole bunch of ardent food truck fans mad when their favorite mobile food slingers don't make the list. So instead of letting someone with a healthy sense of self-preservation or remaining shred of dignity take the challenge, I stepped up.
Honorable Mention: The Cheerleader at Bernie's Burger Bus
Really, any of the outstanding burgers from the fleet of Bernie's Burger Buses could have made this spot -- but I'm a sucker for jalapeños, so The Cheerleader got the nod. Besides, who doesn't want to eat a cheerleader? Bernie's dominated this year's Burger Bracket back in March and the success clearly hasn't hampered their quality. I tackled their monstrous Detention with it's ridiculous bacon grilled cheese sandwich buns last week and am happy to report they've still got it.
Find out which burger ousted Bernie's for a spot in the Top 10 below...
10. Mayo Fries at Flip 'n Patties
Not just another burger truck, Flip 'n Patties specializes in Filipino street food as well. Their Jeepney burger featuring longaniza sausage and an egg on top is killer. My favorite here, though, were the fries. By themselves, the not-too-thick handcut fries can stand with any food truck in Houston bar none. Topped with cilantro, mayo and sesame seeds, they are among the city's best. At just $3 when you order them with a burger ($4 regularly), and plenty large enough to share, they are also a cheapskate's dream.
9. Fajita Taconmadre Burrito at Taconmadre
This big green school bus in Denver Harbor is tough to miss, especially with bright painted signs up and down its exterior advertising everything from breakfast tacos and burritos to more interior Mexican favorites like piratas and gringas tacos, meaty charro beans and burgers. That's right; burgers. In addition to being a neighborhood staple, people from all over Houston have been trekking out to Taconmadre for years to seek refuge in its mega-sized burritos (which are nearly as large as a toddler).
8. The Chicago Dog at Good Dog Hot Dog
Don't mess with a classic, or if you do make sure you're damn good at it. Chicago-style purists might knock the brightly pickled toppings or the fancy homemade condiments, but we all know purists are idiots. Almost everything on a Good Dog is house-made with the exception of the awesome Slow Dough pretzel roll, and the care and quality shows on every dog these guys crank out.
7. The Vandalizer at Phamily Bites
One of the originals in Houston's new wave of food tucks is still one of the best. This once off-menu special was so popular it's now a full-time item. If you have to ask why a banh mi sandwich -- the same humble sandwich available in hundreds of shops across Houston -- made its way to this list, you have never been Vandalized. Super tender chunks of filet mignon scattered with pickled onions and jalapeños make this one of the very best banh mi sandwiches in the city. It's no wonder other Vietnamese trucks have trouble staying open going against these guys.
6. Lengua Tacos at Tacos Tierra Caliente
Probably the taco truck most Inner-Loopers are most familiar with, Tierra Caliente has been posted up at West Alabama Ice House for years. I still remember with dismay the one night I pulled in to grab tacos for dinner to find the trailer gone. Luckily, it was back a few days later, relocated to the parking lot across the street. Crisis averted. Any of the sub-$2 tacos on the menu are among the city's best, but after conferring with taco truck expert Jay Rascoe, the Lengua gets the nod here.
5. Peanut Butter & Jalapeno Jelly Burger at Wicked Whisk
And here is the upset: Bernie's Burger Bus was an odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 spot -- and if not No. 1, then certainly the best burger on the list. Sorry to disappoint, but that title belongs to Wicked Whisk's PB&JJ Burger. I ordered this burger one afternoon while WW was parked at Petrol Station during the craft beer bar's recent kitchen remodel. Within two bites, I declared the burger not only better than Petrol's own massive Rancor Burger, but among the best I'd ever had. With silky-smooth peanut butter and bacon above the patty and spicy jalapeño jelly below, this burger is a beast.
4. General Tso Chicken at the Rice Box Truck
I'm just going to get this out of the way: Some of the very best Chinese food in the city comes from a food truck. I was at a loss as to what to pick when I thought of Rice Box. The Golden Doomba fried chicken special is insanely good. The Kung Pao will make you forget every crummy box of take out you've ever had. But the best item at Rice Box has to be the General Tso's chicken. Perfectly balancing sweet ginger and soy with a fiery pepper burn, the General Tso's is the reason that Rice Box is the only place I ever want to eat Chinese again.
3. Shipley's Doughnut Ice Cream at Eatsie Boys
Shipley's Doughnuts and one of Houston's OG food trucks. I'd be remiss as a Houstonian to leave this off the list. If you haven't had this frozen crack, make no mistake; this isn't vanilla with chunks of old doughnuts in it. This is a glazed doughnut flavored ice cream and it's as amazing as it sounds. Eastie Boys' mad scientist Matt Marcus took dozens of Shipley's doughnuts, mashed them up and distilled the flavor directly into his ice cream. I've demanded that Eastie Boy's upcoming 8th Wonder Brewery make a beer suitable for Shipleys Doughnut Beer Floats. (Please, guys?)
2. Fried Avocado Tacos at H-Town StrEATs
This was my very first Houston food truck dish that wasn't from a taco truck, and it's still one of my very favorites. Crispy, savory breading gives way to the melty, soft goodness of bright green avocado. The original Torchy's trailer in Austin wishes its fried avocados were this good. StrEats -- along with Zilla Street Eats -- has long been one of the most consistent trucks on Houston roads. From top to bottom, their menu is incredible day in and day out. With Zilla seemingly off the roads, the guys at Htown StrEATs and their "ugly truck" are the city's benchmark for doing it well.
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1. The Grizzly Hawaiian at Pi Pizza
I almost went with Pi's amazing Southern Avalanche Mac and Cheese (a bowl of mac and cheese with spicy mayo, pulled pork, jerk cole slaw and sweet-and-spicy pickles), but even the mac and cheese addict in me couldn't justify not putting one of Pi's insane pizzas on the list instead. I used to think pineapple on pizza was a gimmick, like a being a Republican in Boston -- just doing it to prove it can be done. Then I had a Grizzly Hawaiian. The 420 slice is a must-try monstrosity, but the pineapple and bacon-topped Grizzly Hawaiian with honey and mozzarella is savory, sweet and the clear stand-out on a menu of clever and delicious pizza mash-ups.